This is the most theological of our segments, but hopefully you find the quotes below accessible and liberating. (Reminder: Always skip to the next passage if you get bored.)
1. What Luther thought of the Crusades and Belief by Force
…What raging and furious people we have been these many years, in that we desired to force others to believe; the Turks with the sword, heretics with fire, the Jews with death, and thus outroot the tares by our own power, as if we were the ones who could reign over hearts and spirits, and make them pious and right, which God’s Word alone must do. But by murder we separate the people from the Word, so that it cannot possibly work upon them and we bring thus with one stroke a double murder upon ourselves, as far as it lies in our power, namely, in that we murder the body for time and the soul for eternity, and afterwards say we did God a service by our actions, and wish to merit something special in heaven.
-Martin Luther, The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther
2. What would you trade for a self-righteous, pharisaical twit?
I was at my father’s funeral, and my brother and I were doing the part where we shake hands with people, and over and over and over again we heard the phrase: “Do you boys know how much your daddy loved you?” And so when I read about God comparing our fathers on earth to His love for us, I jump up and speak in tongues. Because if God loves me the way my father loved me, I’ve got it made!
I was at a family conference a few years ago and I talked about how my father was an alcoholic and how he loved us. After I spoke, we were having the Christian cocktail after-party, where you drink punch and eat cookies, and I was talking and a lady hit me hard on my back. I turned around and said, “Ma’m?”
She said, “Your father did not love you.”
And I said, “What?”
She said, “Your father did not love you. My husband loves our children by staying sober.”
And I said, “Ma’m, I wouldn’t trade 10 of your self-righteous, pharisaical twit of a husband for one of my Father.”
And she went “Humph,” and she walked off and left the conference and if I’d have had a bottle of champagne I’d have celebrated.
-Steve Brown, from this sermon
3. Don’t teach them just another lesson
Teach children the Bible is not about them. The Bible isn’t about them and what they should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done. It’s not a book of rules telling you how to behave so God will love you. It’s not a book of heroes giving you people to copy so God will love you.
The Bible is most of all a story—the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. And in spite of everything, no matter what, whatever it cost him—God won’t ever stop loving his children… “with a wonderful, Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.” (Jesus Storybook Bible)
Are we telling children The Story—or teaching them a lesson?
-Sally Lloyd-Jones, from this post
4. Piety is no Protection
. . . When we have no fear of the Lord and we instead presume to come before the Lord bustling with self-confidence in our own accomplishments, enjoying ourselves in our works, as Luther puts it, our works are deadly sins even if we think they are done with the help of grace. For then our works stand between us and God; they usurp the honor belonging only to God. This is a transgression of the first commandment. The self sets itself as an idol. Piety is no protection.
-Gerharde Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross
5. Where not to start thinking about your spirituality
. . . The trouble with [awe] as a starting point is that it is, by its nature, a rather isolated emotion, marked out by its sudden self-forgetting focus on an object external to us, and by its disconnection from everyday trundling along. If awe is powerful, it tends to be a state we fall out of knackered, after a while, unable to keep up the intensity. If it’s more modest, it tends of its nature to fade away anyway, to peter out on a hilltop where it began. And in neither case is it obvious how awe is supposed to relate to the rest of experience. I think of awe as a kind of National Trust property among feelings: somewhere to visit from time to time, but not a place you can live.
-Francis Spufford, Unapologetic
6. Why Jesus Hired Paul
. . . The risen and ascended Jesus hired Paul on the road to Damascus precisely for the job of rescuing his essential teaching from misunderstanding. There were far too many in the early church (notably, the authorities of the Jerusalem church) who felt themselves called to peddle the exact opposite of what Jesus had in mind. To them, law — or as we might put it more broadly, religion — was a precondition of acceptance into the fellowship of the Gospel. Therefore it was left to Paul — who saw clearly that only faith in the dead and risen Jesus was necessary to salvation — to oppose that view and thus to become the ultimate scripture guide to Jesus’ teaching. I like to imagine that what Jesus actually said to Paul on the Damascus road was not, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” but, “Help! I’m a prisoner in a commandment factory.”
-Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, and Judgment
7. Where righteousness doesn’t come from:
I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.
-Paul, in Galatians 2:21