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Posts Tagged ‘Love of God’

by Jim Gordon

Does it not seem strange that in the christian church world we are told we are to love others, yet when we come to a difference of opinion or a change in views in our beliefs, christians can be the first to throw a stone?

We hear about fairly well-known individuals within the church system say they have changed their views and no longer accept some of the teachings they grew up with in the church. They are not necessarily saying they are walking away from God but they are walking away from many things they have been told about God they no longer accept.

When this happens, usually other christians are the first to judge and condemn these individuals rather than try to accept them and find out exactly what is going on. Their first thought is they are leaving their complete belief and faith in God.

Many times, this is not what the person is saying anyway. Leaving religious teachings of the church is not leaving God. In fact, many times leaving some of these teachings behind is just the beginning of a deeper walk with God.

I grew up in the traditional church setting and I had many good times there. I met a lot of nice people and learned many things about God. The thing is the church as we know it was never what God intended. Church is not a place or an organization, it is the people who love God and love, support and encourage one another.

The church today seems more like a corporation with the CEO and board of directors. I know there are a lot of good people within the church system. They love God and want to live their life for him. Yet for my wife and I, we became disenchanted with the religious system and felt there was a better way for us to live for God, which was outside the walls of religion and the human-led system of church each week.

We felt that since the Spirit lives within us there is no need for a middle-man (pastor) to lead and teach us. If the Spirit of God actually lives within us, why do we so often depend on a human being to lead and teach us?

I certainly do not want to make anyone feel bad if they are still a part of the institutional church. They are like I used to be and feel that was the best way to show love for God and learn about God. I would not tell anyone they should leave the system, although for my wife and I we certainly do believe it was the best thing for us.

Whether you are in the church system, questioning the church system or have left it, the main focus should be to love God and love one another. Doing so fulfills all the law and the prophets (as Matthew 22:35-40 explains). Of course, we know that the law no longer needs to be fulfilled but at the time Jesus taught this he was living under the law. Now that grace has been applied, we no longer live by the law but by love.

Leaving the institutional church or changing and deconstructing your religious views and interpretations do not mean you are leaving God. Rather than jump on board with those who judge and condemn, take a little bit and find out more about what is going on. Then remember we are all at a different place on the path as we follow Jesus. Pray for one another, encourage and support one another but do not beat one another up as we each try to follow Jesus as we feel led.

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By Mike Edwards

Beliefs claimed about God lead to many tuning out God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our understanding of God. I suggest HERE how we can decide what God is really like. One’s interpretation of a Book may be the only reason to think human and godly perfection are different. Why would a Creator not love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others? A loving God couldn’t possibly have anything in common with extremists or terrorists!

We must avoid claiming a good God is determined solely by a Book.  

We can’t prove when the Bible records “God said” that the biblical writers/editors always heard from God correctly. The idea that the entire Bible is inspired or approved by God, without questioning, often leads down the slippery slope of inspired interpretations. We can’t utter “the Bible says so” because our interpretation may be wrong. It is very different to approach the Bible from the perspective that God is uncontrolling but continually seeks to influence for one’s good. 

Jesus when leaving this earth didn’t promise to leave us with a Bible but God’s Spirit in discerning good from evil (Jn. 14:16). Supposed right beliefs or interpretations are less important than simply loving others. Those not growing up in church don’t understand all the fuss. Who thinks literature subject to interpretation, written thousands of years ago, should be read so dogmatically? A fallible Book can lead to listening to different opinions as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. The Bible wouldn’t be God’s main communication anyway, because the majority born into this world never had a copy.

Terrorists seldom are Gandhi-type individuals who seek to treat all like they want to be treated. Doesn’t true religion seek to serve not be served? Terrorism seems driven by power and control. If certain claims about God in any Book are questionable of a morally perfect God (most agree One claiming to be God must be perfect), it is doubtful God inspired such false beliefs.

We must avoid implying a loving God seeks to control freedom of beliefs.

One would think a God who is powerful enough to create, unless a respecter of freedom of beliefs, would annihilate immediately those who choose evil and oppose God. God’s love in the Bible is most frequently compared to that of a human parent. Human or spiritual parents bring children into the world hoping their children freely reciprocate their love for authentic relationships. Forced love is an oxymoron. A good God couldn’t possibly want to control beliefs through fear.

We must intervene with family or whoever when we notice one’s beliefs leads to forcing their religious practices on others or blowing up innocent people. Terrorists don’t just blow themselves up to spread their gospel. Jesus felt His own suffering for something He believed would change lives for the better. A loving God surely respects the freedom of beliefs in this life and after death, encourages men and women to be equally vulnerable to one another, seeks only to convert others from evil actions, and guides through a relationship and not a book written thousands of years ago.

We must avoid claiming a loving God’s view of women hints of inequality.

I am not suggesting all religious extremists are saying Paradise is a lustful adventure for men at the expense of women, but it is important to not be dogmatic that the Bible teaches women are under the authority of men in the God of the Bible eyes. This can encourage dominance on the man’s part. Women and men surely need unselfish partners who have the heart of a servant. Some religious extremists would rather be dead than advocate for that. We must avoid proscribing gender roles which more frequently are used to oppress women than men.

We must avoid suggesting a loving God would torture unbelievers before or after death.

Delayed torture is still torture in the eyes of many. We mustn’t claim Hell is real because biblical scholars don’t agree the traditional understanding of Hell exists in the Bible. Most humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies! The word hell is a substitution not translation for certain Hebrew and Greek words and seems invented over the centuries to scare people into obedience. A loving God respects the right to choose your own personal beliefs in this life, and God wouldn’t torture people after death for such decisions.

Conversion to certain beliefs is never the loving goal.

I believe Christianity or any religion must differentiate themselves from terrorists or extremists. Who doesn’t know it is right to encourage treating others like you want to be treated, but we must avoid attempts to convert others to a set of beliefs associated with our religion. Jesus had no evangelical spiel other than to encourage people to shun evil and do good. Jesus encouraged spirituality for self-interest and the interests of others. Jesus did want us to know God was the kind of Creator or Parent who desired a friendship to encourage such a journey. Attempts to convert suggests a not so hidden agenda. Since Hell doesn’t exist and billions have lived who have never heard of Jesus or the Bible, a loving God would not require certain beliefs for a relationship.

MORE POSTS IN SERIES: I DOUBT GOD REALLY ……

Why I Doubt God Is An Excluder Of Religions

Why I Doubt Heaven Is Closed To Anyone After Death

Why I Doubt Hell Is Real

Why I Doubt God Is A Homophobe

Why I Doubt God Is A Sexist

Why I Doubt God Is A Mysterious, Moral Hypocrite

Why I Doubt God Is A Blood-Thirsty Child (Jesus) Killer

Why I Doubt God Expects Every Word Of The Bible To Be Viewed As Inspired

Why I Doubt God Is An End-Of-The-World Doomsayer

Why I Doubt God Is An Angry Egomaniac

Why I Doubt God Is A “Hidden Agenda” Proselytizer

 

 

 

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by Rocky Glenn

Enjoying the moment is a personal choice a person makes to be present in what they are currently experiencing and to give that specific point in time their full self. It’s a decision to open oneself up to be vulnerable and a realization the moment may or may not go as we desire. How I treat the one standing in front of me at any given time is also how I decide to enjoy the moment. To not live in the moment is live a life distracted. Distractions keep us from being present and enjoying the moments we live. A distraction is anything which keeps a person from giving their full attention to something else.

The Distraction of Regret

All of us experience things in our lives we wish had not happened or we would have handled differently if given another opportunity. These things range from decisions we’ve made which caused unforeseeable, maybe harmful, outcomes to decisions others have made which had adverse, negative, and possibly even devastating, effects on our lives. Regret imprisons us when we live focused on the “what ifs” and “what could have beens” of those decisions. Replaying scenarios repeatedly in the theater of our mind, we fixate on every aspect of those situations reliving the pain, hurt, anger, and sorrow as if it had just happened. If the consequences are of our own making, we feel we deserve whatever negative results have occurred and wallow in the misery of our shame much like the prodigal son in the hog pen. However, when forced to accept another’s decision we believe is simply outrageous or unfair, we respond much like the prodigal’s older brother. I believe his response of anger to the celebration of his brother’s quickly turned to sorrow and regret with the realization he already had access to everything he was working to attain. Resisting the distraction of regret is not refusing to admit sorrow and remorse for what may have happened, it’s a refusal to remain in that moment and let it define who you are. We must let the past make us wiser, stronger, and grateful for what we have lived through and experience. Regret gives way to self-loathing and bitterness and steals you from the life happening right before your eyes.

The Distraction of What’s to Come

The last four to six weeks prior to reflecting on and sharing about enjoying the moment were a trying and frustrating time as I wondered what lie ahead. Since I no longer have the desire to one day be a worship pastor, what does the future hold? I didn’t begin the blog with aspirations I would one day write full-time, but is it now something to consider? Are there opportunities yet to be discovered which would allow more time for ministry and still support the family? Do I even want to be involved in a ministry at all? What exactly does ministry look like now anyway? Is there an opportunity ahead which would allow Shannon and me to spend more time together helping others while providing an income as well? If those opportunities presented themselves would I be willing to take the risks to make them succeed?

All these questions swirling in my head created a cloudy fog I had trouble navigating. Fatigue and restlessness plagued me as I just could not let go of figuring out what the future holds. Questions swirled in my head like a tornado waking up to start the day, sitting at my desk at work, spending time with the family, working out at the gym, and drifting to sleep at night. The distraction of what’s to come kept me from enjoying my everyday life and, no doubt, caused me to miss small moments of awe and wonder which occurred in daily interactions with coworkers, family, and friends.  I was so caught up in determining a destination, I was forgetting to enjoy the journey. While on vacation, in finishing a book I have been struggling to complete since January, I stumbled upon the prayer below from Thomas Merton in the closing pages:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

This prayer changed my thinking and reminded me I don’t need to know what lies or even have an idea of where I’m going. I simply needed to rest in the moment and satisfaction of my desire to please my Father and His full knowledge of my desire and willingness to lead me. It brought me to a point of consciously reminding myself to live and experience whatever moment I find myself in. I can remember very vividly afternoons spent in the ocean with my family thinking, “Nothing matters right now except the fact I am here with them and we are together. What’s for dinner is not important. The drive home in a few days does not matter. What may be happening at work right now is not important. I am here with my family getting battered by waves in the ocean, having water gun fights in the pool, and we are having the time of our lives.” After reading that prayer, making it my own, and making a mental decision to enjoy the moment, I can say this was quite honestly the best vacation we may have possibly ever had.

There’s one final distraction I want to discuss, but, due to the nature of the distraction and how it relates to the churchboy, I will hold it for my next post.

Until then, I leave you with the following reminders:

Regarding Regret: In the Broadway musical Rent, composer Jonathan Larson urges us, “Forget regret, or life is yours to miss,”

Regarding What’s to Come: In Switchfoot’s opening track of their Native Tongue album, we are implored to Let It Happen:

Let it happen, let it happen

Tomorrow knows what tomorrow knows

You can’t make it get here sooner

Let it happen, let it happen

I don’t hold what the future holds

But I know you’re my future

Rocky

More posts in the Enjoying the Moment series:

 

 

 

 

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by Rocky Glenn

As I sit here on the couch working on the next post in the Enjoy The Moment series, What About The Love? from Amy Grant’s 1988 Lead Me On begins to stream on Pandora.   The song gave me pause and brought to the forefront once again the issues we are facing today concerning religion and self-righteousness versus love aren’t anything new but were being spoken about thirty years ago and all the way back to Paul.  Below are the lyrics of the song followed by the words of Paul from Galatians.

“What About The Love”

I went to see my sister, she was staying with a friend
Who had turned into a preacher to save the world from sin
He said “First deny your body, Then learn to submit
Pray to be made worthy, and tithe your ten percent”
I said “Is this all there is, just the letter of the law?”
Something’s wrong.

I went to see my brother on the 32nd floor
Of a building down on Wall Street – You could hear the future’s roar
He said “Here we make decisions, and we trade commodities;
If you tell me where there’s famine, I can make you guarantees”
I said “Is this all there is, Power to be strong?”
Something’s wrong.

Something’s wrong in heaven tonight
You can almost hear them cry
Angels to the left and the right
Saying “What about the love, What about the love, What about the love?”

I went to see my neighbor, he’d been taken to a home
For the weak and the discarded who have no place to go
He said “Here I lack for nothing I am fed and I am clothed,
But at times I miss the freedom I used to know”
I said “Is this all there is When your usefulness is gone?”
Something’s wrong.

I looked into the mirror proud as I could be
And I saw my pointing finger pointing back at me
Saying “Who named you accuser? Who gave you the scales?”
I hung my head in sorrow, I could almost feel the nails
I said “This is how it is to be crucified and judged without love.”

Galatians 5:4-6 from The Message:

I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.

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Rocky

More posts in the Soundtrack of a Churchboy’s Recovery series:

 

 

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by Jordan Hathcock, Guest Blogger
https://welcometothetablesite.wordpress.com/2019/07/30/knowing-souls/

“So let’s get to the point, let’s roll another joint
Let’s head on down the road
There’s somewhere I gotta go
And you don’t know how it feels
No, you don’t know how it feels to be me”. – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

Do we really know “how it feels” to be in someone else’s shoes? Can we really comprehend the magnitude of other people’s experiences? Hard to say, really.  I know for myself; it is not easy trying to empathize and relate to others experiences and dispositions. We all attempt and often fail miserably. Often, our motives are what really play a huge part in how we engage with others and their issues. Coming from the Christian perspective, I think we are on the failing end of making a positive difference in others who are different then us.

It has become a competition in winning the souls of others, instead of building authentic relationships. Numerous of factors come into play of why this is. Not to get to long winded on this blog post, but the biggest driving force is the concept of hell. The Christian tradition has morphed into a factory of “get people of hell in the afterlife” instead of letting people experience “heaven on earth in the here and now”. Fear, greed, and the us vs. them motif is the foundation of this unfortunate state of affairs we are currently experiencing.  When you make a belief system of fear and hate into a thriving institution, the effects are direly devastating.

But, I don’t think all is lost (yes, very optimistic of me I know).  There always has been another spark and remnant that comes out of the evil empire that brings about hopeful change. I would like to quote this verse from the Christian scriptures that brings to light these two contending ideas of winning souls vs. entering in genuine relationships:

To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

The premise I take here (from the many different interpretations and commentary I have found with this scripture verse, and guess what? That’s ok!), Paul was trying to bring about blessings to those he made contact with for the sake of the gospel. It states: “I have become all things to all people…in order to save some”. It has the “winning souls” rhetoric here and to the first century readers that could have been more of a way of getting to a better way of being to escape the oncoming destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D (just a little side note hehe). But, I think how Paul finished up this passage is showing the real intention of “becoming all things to all people” (the true relationship builder): SO THAT I MAY SHARE IN ITS BLESSINGS! This right here is the point of entering in relationships with others.  This is what the Gospel of Christ should bring to ALL PEOPLE.

It about truly knowing people.  When Jesus says: To know God and His Son, this knowing is ginosko and this literally means “a felt knowing”, as in RELATIONAL! No matter who it is–black, white, gay, straight–experiencing the blessings of peace which produces love is what it’s all about. It is going out there and becoming friends with others (I know we can’t do this with everyone, but I think we can fucking do a better job than what we are doing now)! This is what brings us out of the hell we sometimes find ourselves in this life. The Kin-dom reality is about the here and now.  We will never develop and evolve (aka salvation) as a species until we realize that its real relationships that will get us there…

“Self-sufficiency makes God experience impossible! That’s why Jesus showed up in this world as a naked, vulnerable one, a defenseless baby lying in the place where animals eat. Talk about utter relationship! Naked vulnerability means I’m going to let you influence me; I’m going to allow you to change me. The Way of Jesus is an invitation to a Trinitarian way of living, loving, and relating—on earth as it is in the Godhead. We are intrinsically like the Trinity, living in absolute relatedness. To choose to stand outside of this Flow is the deepest and most obvious meaning of sin. We call the Flow love. We really were made for love, and outside of it we die very quickly.”

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By Mike Edwards

I am convinced there are beliefs claimed about God that lead to many tuning out God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our understanding of God. I have written HERE how we can decide what God is really like. One’s interpretation of a Book may be the only reason to think human and godly perfection are different.  Why would a Creator not love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others?

The Bible often does portray God as an angry hothead.

Many Old Testament passages just can’t be rationalized away. The story starts off by God destroying the world minus eight with a Flood. Even if it was a local as opposed to global flood, the metaphor still stinks! There were surely a few people innocent of evil so horrific to escape such actions by God. Who doesn’t think it is wrong to drown just one child in a bathtub? It gets worse by killing babies in Egypt and God supposedly ordering the Israel army to “not spare them: put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys”(I Sam. 15:3). Hundreds of passages seem to advocate evil behaviors in God’s name.

Hundreds of passages also speak of God’s love and mercy. Did the biblical writers think it sacrilegious to not portray God in controlling terms like the others gods at that time? We have every right to question if the writers’ views of God evolved over time. God can handle it. I wish the writers had clearly indicated God was angry at evil as opposed to people. God violent one minute and merciful and loving the next minute sounds like an abusive spouse or parent.

Doesn’t the Bible say “fear God” or else?  

We are often encouraged to fear God as if God thinks such fear and obligatory loves leads to a genuine relationship. God supposedly demands fear for ego reasons or as a sign of reverence. Fearing someone seldom leads to an inspiring relationship with that person. Some scholars suggest “fear God” is better phrased “respect God.” God’s request for respect (glory) is no different than a loving parent’s hope for respect because their love should have their child’s best interest in mind.  

Are humans really holier or more moral than God?

A human parent warns or gets upset with a child’s actions not in their best interest or the welfare of others, but that doesn’t lead to them wanted to annihilate their child. What God or parent doesn’t know sin has its own consequences; God doesn’t seek to pile on the anger. God doesn’t worry that their unimaginable love gives us further license to keep sinning. Acting selfish is natural and doesn’t wait for permission. God seeks to continually assure us of their love so we don’t every give up no matter how demoralized we may feel.

God couldn’t be egotistical!

If God was so worried about their reputation, God certainly would not have given us freedom to contradict their wishes. All the evil in the world suggests God isn’t controlling. God is not more concerned with restoring their honor than expressing a desire for a relationship freely chosen. Many religions today imply their god expects certain beliefs or face immediate extinction. Not the God of the Bible! And what kind of all-powerful God wants to be friends? Abraham (Jm. 2:23) and Moses (Ex. 33:11) are called God’s friend, and Jesus called the disciples His friends (Jn. 15:15). God is our Creator and Friend.

God isn’t possessive of their glory.

What kind of parent wants to be alone in their glory? Jesus says in John 17:22 after speaking on fulfilling his mission with his disciples and then turning his attentions to all who believe: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.”  We cannot be God, but we can strive to be like God. God’s request for glory is not self-infatuation. Imagine a world that glorified God in all they did! There would be no evil or suffering caused by others in the world. There would be no physical or sexual abuse in the world. There would be no parents living out their dreams through their children. There would be no bigotry based on the color of your skin or the gender you were born.  There would be no locking of cars and houses. God gets a bad rap when portrayed as selfish or obsessed with themselves.

Why I Doubt God Is An Excluder Of Religions

Why I Doubt Heaven Is Closed To Anyone After Death

Why I Doubt Hell Is Real

Why I Doubt God Is A Homophobe

Why I Doubt God Is A Sexist

Why I Doubt God Is A Mysterious, Moral Hypocrite

Why I Doubt God Is A Blood-Thirsty Child (Jesus) Killer

Why I Doubt God Expects Every Word Of The Bible To Be Viewed As Inspired

Why I Doubt God Is An End-Of-The-World Doomsayer

 

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by Jordan Hathcock, Guest Blogger
https://welcometothetablesite.wordpress.com

“With the recent rise of progressive “Christianity” in the last few years, it’s no surprise that one of the prevailing themes is social justice. Many denominations have been caught up in the movement forever. But social justice is not the gospel, and saying that it is, is heresy.”

How about that quote? Makes you feel all good and warm inside, right (NOT)? So many things to discuss with the current slam-campaign against the current “social justice” Gospel issue. What gives? Why are we seeing such a surge of warnings and statements against this idea? Look, from the perspective of the Christian tradition, the Gospel has been on the hot seat ever since Jesus presented it–all the way to Paul and Peter/James (Gentile converts vs The Jerusalem Church) and the debates of what all this good news really looks like for the participants of the faith. The same old tale of us vs. them.

We have seen the Gospel in the West, for example, being more of a system of beliefs then a way of how one lives out their life. This stems from numerous factors (both the “religious and secular”)–from the reformation and it’s revolt against the corrupted hierarchy, to the enlightenment and it’s doorway to free thinking. This opened up a whole new way of how we look at the good news of what Jesus came to proclaim. It’s no longer something just a few “religious” people get to enjoy or other “secular” individuals get to reject. We are discovering (and rediscovering) that it was always news that set the captives free (I think any human would agree that we all feel trapped at times)!

The Gospel should always be seen as a way to bridge the gap between the outcast and the conformed, the poor and rich, the black and white, the gay and straight, the man and woman, the transsexual and the heterosexual, the child and adult (Gal. 3:28-get the picture?). We cannot be bamboozled by this notion that the Gospel is just one tight net idea that once examined and believed, no other type of suggestions or behaviors can stem from it. The Gospel is a plethora of creative and innovative ways of being in the time and place we are given.

It’s not just a set of beliefs (atonement theories) to believe in, nor is it one certain type of action within ones culture (social justice). The Gospel involves those ideas and actions, for sure! But, its really just simply good news; which everyone needs nowadays. The purpose of news, which is good, is to propel oneself and his/her social environment to beneficial new heights that have not yet been reached. It’s a reality where all are unified but still diversified. It’s a group effort along with the individuals surge. It’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that (a little D Mob for you hehe).

No matter what illusions we were given with this Gospel message of Jesus, one thing is for sure: It’s good, it’s here and it can be a reality that we all can experience. We don’t have to bring the accusatory spirit when one is deciding to put this beautiful gospel into action. Let social justice be part of this beautiful gospel. Let certain beliefs that come out of this gospel be for those individuals or denominations to have (let their actions speak). Let’s all just relax and mind our own business when it comes to telling and experiencing this Gospel of the Kingdom! LOVE and be peacemakers, for fuck-sakes!? (Matthew 5:9)…

“What if Jesus was not offering his followers an ethical system to follow, but rather was inviting them to enter into a life of love that transcends ethics, a life of liberty that dwells beyond religious laws? The difference between following an ethical system and being consumed by love can be seen in the way that ethical systems seek to provide a way to work out what needs to be done so that it can be carried out. In contrast, love is never constrained, it never sits back, it always seeks to do more than what is demanded of it.” – Peter Rollins

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