Respond to God's Love

Respond to Whose Love? part 4
"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.
Tribal – or class – loyalty might make us balk at some language, but we noticed (in parts 1-3) that when loyalty isn’t at play, as when reading Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, it’s relatively easy to practice the gentle arts of flexibility and charity. I’ve come to understand that whether or not I want to insist that “God” necessarily must imply an entity with awareness and intentions is mostly about my tribal loyalty, just as my grammar pet peeves are.

Can we Unitarian Universalists engage in a process we identify as discerning what God is calling us to do? Can we have conversations about the question, "How do we serve God?" Yes, we can. In talking about serving God, we would be talking about serving life, and good, and the flourishing of all beings, while also reminding ourselves of the finitude and corrigibility of our own conceptions of life, good, and flourishing – which is just what I think Jews, Christians, Moslems, and Hindus are talking about when they speak of serving God.

When we say, as we do in the fourth source of the living tradition we share, that we are called "to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbor as our selves," we are saying that the moments when we have felt the greatest belonging and connection inspire us to want to help our neighbors also feel connected and know they belong – which is what I think it truly means to respond to God’s love, whether or not God is conceived of as a person-like entity, and regardless of how metaphorical that conception is.

If I have a chance to connect with you, whoever you are, then connecting with you is usually more important than separating myself from you. If you and I have each felt mystery, wonder, and beauty come together with peace, compassion, and the softening of ego defenses -- if we have opened our hearts to love -- then we have a shared commonality that transcends both your dogmatic opinions about God and my dogmatic opinions about how wrong your dogmatic opinions are. That shared commonality in the moment matters more than my urge to insist on asserting my tribal identity.

It turns out that I can still oppose mandatory school prayer, support mandatory inclusion of evolution, favor reproductive rights, legal recognition of same-sex marriage, abolition of the death penalty, and public programs to take care of all our people -- and talk about God. I can talk about the impetus of the universe as God’s call for us to improve our understanding, respect our differences, serve life and freedom, and share God’s “preferential option for the poor.”

Willing to employ "God talk" judiciously, I can be more effective than I ever could by a fastidious refusal to invoke the one word that, more clearly than any other, conveys a sense of spacious mystery tugging us toward the better angels of our nature.

Moreover, I find my wholeness and healing growing the more I perform the imaginative exercise of pretending that the world might be whispering to me, calling, inviting me to love if I but listen.

Listen: it is God’s love calling me to respond by loving myself and my neighbor as my self. It is God’s love lifting me up -- as levity lifts a child's balloon. May it be so for all of us.

* * *
This is part 4 of 4 of "Respond to Whose Love?"
See also
Part 1: The Force of Levity
Part 2: The Ontological, The Semantic, The Tribal
Part 3: Separation or Connection?

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