I have been keeping up with Mark Jacobson's discussion "The Cross- I have a Problem" . It has led me to think about the meaning of the cross and, specifically, what it means to live in the cross. Simultaneously, I have been reading and re-reading Paul's description of the law in Romans 7:7-8 and 7:13:

Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet." But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from the law sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died....Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment, sin might become utterly sinful.

Those things, as well as the "Expectations for Community" for the Young Adult Gathering coming in May, have gotten me thinking: in a community that is so often free-form, how do we know what is utterly sinful? Are we afraid to call sin "sin"? Does "sin" have a place among people who often believe that anything that occurs between consenting adults is fine? How do we, or should we, encourage one another to live in the cross?

 I wanted to live a life of discipleship, so I became a Quaker to be among God's people, those who believing in Jesus' name, have the right to become children of God. Am I in the right place? Because it often feels like the lion's share of the guidance I am receiving for how to live a righteous life amounts to "First, do no harm." By way of background,I was raised Baptist. I have been a member of a liberal meeting for about a year and a half, and began attending a little less than a year before that.

I'd like to hear the thoughts and reflections from Friends on law, discipleship and living in the cross.



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If you see that you, and I, and everyone else are one consciousness in God's (whatever-that's-like!) consciousness, you won't imagine you could hurt someone else without hurting yourself. That's why Jesus listed two commandments as primary, and said that the one about treating each other humanely was "like" the first (about loving God to one's utmost ability.) That takes care of a lot of law, and what's left over is an utter waste of lawbooks...

Jesus introduced us to God via the Sermon on the Mount, telling us in what way we should be "like" God, which came down to treating everyone, "Just" or "Unjust", as best we can. Once you learn that from Jesus, "following" him follows from following the same train of thought he was following...

Crosses are uncomfortable and unhealthy. You don't need to bring your own; one will be provided should you need it. Live in the Kingdom well enough, and no doubt someone will want to hang you up.
Thank you very much for your thoughtful response. I have always heard and subscribed to the interpretation that the "forbidden fruit" was the fruit of the tree of knowledge that God specifically told Adam and Eve not to eat from. I appreciate hearing a different perspective.

In any event, I am not struggling with how man fell as much as how to be sensitive to the divine Spirit that can lift us from our fallen state. Having a consciousness of what living within God's law would look like would make it easier to respond to Christ's promptings to live in unity with God's will. Of course, Christians are not under law but under grace. Nevertheless, I feel like a more-than-passing familiarity with the old covenant may help us to envision what the Christ-spirit will make us into if we let it.

While I know many Friends who do not eat the flesh of animals, they do not seem, as a rule, to be any closer to living in unity with God's will than meat-eating Friends. In fact, they are, on average, less likely to believe that phrases like "God's will" have any meaning. In fact, just as "God's will" doesn't have a meaning, "sin" doesn't seem to have a meaning for many of those vegetarian Friends. So I am not sure that a mass return to vegetarianism would turn back the clock on the Fall.

It may well be that man fell by eating meat, but I believe that, within this fallen state, God has much more to say to us than, "Drop the burger!" What it is that He has to say, and how that message is embodied in a Spirit-led community, is what I joined the RSoF to find out.

As for Paul's understanding of the Law, I find that it resonates with me. I will illustrate why in a rather silly example. Imagine a very small child. He is standing in the kitchen at 5:15 pm. There are freshly baked cookies on the counter. He eats several, even though dinner is usually served at 5:30. He has never been told not to eat cookies before dinner, therefore he doesn't know that it is bad to fill up on sweets before eating a nutritious meal. Imagine that his older brother comes in and sees the cookies. This child has been told that it is bad to eat cookies before dinner. In fact, it is because he has been told this that he is tempted to eat the cookies and in fact does so. The small child is innocent; he does not know that what he is doing is wrong. The older child has the "Law" (no cookies before supper); because he has broken it "death" increases in him. Now he will have to struggle with the guilt of breaking the rule, and will be tempted to lie to cover it up. The act of eating the cookies is no worse for the older one than for the younger one, but the older one knows that what he did is wrong (sin is recognized as utterly sinful), and was in fact more likely to do what he did because of that knowledge.

As a middle-school teacher, I find that this is no mere notion, but a pretty accurate description of how people behave, adult and child alike. Adults are just better at covering up their transgressions.
Well, as somebody who is preparing to enter law school, I have to agree with the tenor of your first paragraph :-)

However, I believe that most Friends are on the same page about the commandment about loving one another. We may enact it to different degrees but we believe that it is important. However, the first commandment, the one about loving God....now that's tricky.

I agree with you completely that, just as God makes the sun shine on the just and and the unjust, we are to love those who love us and those who don't. However, loving God with all of our hearts and minds and spirits is more than that. It is about letting ourselves be spirit led even in those things that are neutral to others. Should we indulge unhealthy appetites that don't harm others? Not if we are dedicating our lives to God. Should we neglect prayer, study and reflection for light pursuits that do not harm others OR to dedicate our whole self to our fellow beings? Not if we are loving the Lord. I believe that the first commandment is about individual righteousness and God-love, while the second commandment is about uprightness in social relationships. Many Friends only acknowledge the importance of the latter. "As long as it is between consenting adults..." is a common refrain. My struggle is that in my community, right and wrong seem to be defined primarily in relation to the neighbor, whereas I believe that right and wrong should be defined primarily in relation to God. That's why I link the law and discipleship. If we are loving the Lord, love of the neighbor will follow naturally. The reverse is not true.

As for the Cross, I hope it is unhealthy- for my carnal self. I pray for the Lord to kill my ego and anything in my will that is contrary to His.
While not knowing what you specifically consider 'ego' and what you don't, I'm inclined to think you're making a mistaken assumption--that God is hostile to it.

Babies are very inconvenient beings to have around, not out of any intrinsic evil, but simply due to their very immaturity. Egos as we typically see them are up to no good, getting in the way of everything while trying to grab all the credit, then wallowing in blame of self or others. But that's behavior natural to an immature ego, not the sort of thing that can continue once it (reluctantly) has to accept a larger perspective.

God made us, this way. God makes babies, precisely as they are. The wailing and pooping has to go; the baby can't go on being a baby, but being killed isn't the way it becomes something more.

While you're wishing so diligently to please God, I'd like you to consider a poster I saw once: the picture was of a small boy with a wicked smirk upon his little face, and the caption was, "I love him, not because he is good, but because he is my little child."
More, borrowed from a good yoga teacher. (He explains yoga, in his book, as very much like what we'd call a 'sacrament,' ie a physical means, provided by God, which people are given to help bring themselves closer to God. Which turns out to be what 'a yoga' means.)

I think this speaks a little better to your wish to avoid being bogged down in trivial amusements:

"...you get clearer and clearer about what has value to you . . . and you make your efforts in that direction. You spend more time with that which has value, and less time with that which doesn’t, just naturally, intelligently. The experience of peace is high value, one discovers, because then the windows of your mind are clarified, what to do or not do becomes increasingly obvious; life feels like it gets on track once again, and because you are feeling the energy that constitutes you, you start feeling lovely inside. All your drive and ambition should go in the direction of having a clear experience of truth, reality, presence. That’s what yoga is about, I’d say. You’ll then experience yourself being inspired into action and it won’t feel as though you have wasted your life spinning your wheels doing things that were ultimately of no value....

"...Give yourself permission to live and do and be who you are without inhibition. But don’t just mindlessly embody your conditioning. That’s not satisfying. Do your best to get in touch with your authentic truth. You had nothing to do with your existence. You are the All being Itself as you."

[Erich Schiffmann, from an answer to a student's question on his site.]
Thank you for your response, Eleanor. In fact, sex was not really on my mind except as people use the "consenting adults" line to sidestep addressing the im/morality of certain sexual behaviors. I specifically preserved my virginity until my wedding night so that I would not have to address the question for myself, and I make a particular effort to avoid judging the morality of others' sex lives. However, I don't do that because I believe that there aren't moral questions involved. I do it because I have enough of my own sins
"First do no harm" sounds, in fact, like a very good place to start! Particularly no harm to yourself...

Show me this "I" who wants its 'ego' killed-- and I will show you the very beastie in question!

Truly, there is an epidemic of unconscious ego-affliction in the world, and amid Friends as well... which mainly works by blinding people to the assumptions they make about who we are and what is our due place in the world.

Although this is the chief obstacle to our knowing God better, it is not God who hates egos... rather it is egos who reflexively hate God, projecting their own worst traits on him, and therefore being set to fear that God, if they let themselves see God better, would hate them as they sometimes hate themselves... would oppress them as they fear they deserve, and deprive them of the comforts they cling to in lieu of the security they could only find through knowing God truly.

Nothing makes people crazier (in my experience)... than wanting to be who they imagine they ought to be (how God would have made them if He'd known what He was doing!) If you want to dedicate yourself to God without going out and playing with us other kids, fine-- but that didn't turn out to be the way God (or I) wanted me to do it!
I spent 40 minutes composing an elaborate response, which the Internet ate, except for the first part. Probably a sign that it was too elaborate :-)

The gist of the rest was that while Jesus set a higher standard for morality (now looking at someone with lust is the same thing as adultery), he was also clear that responsibility for judgment lay with God, not man. Therefore, we are not called to enforce morality by coercion but should instead encourage one another to ask, "Is this what God wants me to be doing right now?" There is a lot of consenting behavior that would not measure up to that standard. While society must "find a balance," Christians should give themselves to Christ first, last and totally. We should accept a Christ who rules over every aspect of our lives, including dress, discussion and other "private" matters, not like the "professors" who "would have a Christ but not to rule over them."
I am not a fundamentalist. If I believed that every law written in the Bible were essential, I would have become a Jew, not a Christian. However, if I were the same now as I was before I committed myself to Christ, it would be a sign that I was not allowing Him to work in my life. I actually want my entire life to change and, praise God, it has, though not in an instant; I am working out my salvation with fear and trembling. I just wish that I had the explicit encouragement of my community to follow that path, and that we were all doing so together.
Aha! That makes a lot of sense. Thank you, Mark.
Did Jesus in fact set a "higher" standard of morality?--(as in 'more intense, more restrictive')-- or a 'more reflective' one?

One of asking, as you say. To continue asking, rather than setting up 'a law' for ourself and then beating oneself up when that law, inevitably, becomes a stumbling block.

Rather than, "How should I respond to beggars?"-- "How should I respond to this particular human being in front of me at moment X?" How do I get my own pride out of the calculations and just ask, "What's really going on here and what do You want of me?" Rather than a scoreboard of "How long have I gone on refraining from Behavior Y?"-- "What are You prompting me to do right now?" (Schiffmann recommends making that question a practice, for really "minor" decisions, because we don't have all that many "major" decisions to make, and when those do become problematical, you want 'Ask God' to be your first response, not the automatic (in this civilization) 'How should a reasonable person like me figure this out?'
Dear Adria

Have you come across Brian Drayton's Pendle Hill Pamphlet 'Living in the cross'? It is a great resource for some Quaker takes on what it means to live in the cross.

I agree we have to learn to see sin. Sin is clear to me in: a billion hungry in a world with enough food; women carrying backbreaking loads of dirty water just to keep from dying of thirst when millions of others are more concerned about being fashionable; torture and war. It is not just "do no harm" that I understand from the Gospel. I understand a radical call to confront and overturn injustices in God's name. We need each other to be the 'beloved community' in whom we encourage each other to perceive and pray down the many evils of the world. God longs to liberate us, he sounds the resurrection call - are we ready to be led? xx
I think going from "Hate your enemies" (Old Testament) to "Love your enemies" (New Testament) is actually a higher (as in harder to meet) standard, so I'll stick with what I said before.

That said, I very much appreciate the distinction you draw between a "law" about how to respond to beggars and a reflective, Spirit-centered questioning of "How do I respond to this individual?"
I think that makes a lot of sense, and I believe it is a useful orientation.

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