There are a lot of options in life, Unity joins forgiveness as not being one of them. From the 15th Chapter of the Gospel of John we read in verse 4(b): As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me; and again in verse 5(b):He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. Furthermore, Jesus prays for us, not the Apostles, in John Chapter 17, verses 20 and 21 as follows: Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

The Religious Society of Friends strives to honor unity but meeting together for worship must not be confused with unity. Many among us have put the cart before the horse. We don’t become one with the God-head by uniting with our fellow friends; we become united with our fellow friends by becoming united with the God-head. We live in a complex world that is going to demand difficult decisions from us both individually and collectively. It is time to put our toys away and seriously consider the ramifications of our daily decisions: from the time we spend in front of tvs, to the food we eat, to the goods we buy. I have tried to do this in my own life but as most of us have found, doing the right thing is inconvenient if not impossible. Jesus said it is impossible for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven (Mat 19:24: And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. ) We have to admit that compared to the rest of the World’s citizens, most Friends in this country are rich and that means we’re in trouble. Fortunately Jesus also said “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). The important thing to note is that it’s “with God” that all things are possible. For this reason I call upon all of us to become Holy, to become one with the God-head and to leave no stone unturned until you hear God say “Well done my good and faithful servant”.

To do this we must be more than a Religious Society. We must be an actual living community, not an organization. All bodies of believers walk a fine line between being the Church, Body or Bride of Christ and an organization. The difference is the presence of God. And when it comes to being blessed with the presence of God, it’s all about unity. We talk about the need for tolerance, respect and understanding, but we can’t be the vessels of God that we are called to be without unity. Tolerance, respect and understanding are not substitutes for unity. In fact it’s only when we are one with the God-head that true tolerance, respect and understanding flow out of us to our neighbor. Because it is only when we are in unity with the God-head that we abide in true Agape Love. The love that allows us to lay down our life for our fellow sinners just as Jesus laid down his life for us while we were still dead in our sins. Anyone can love good people who have their act together, we need to be able to love the drug addict while he’s still a drug addict and not just when he’s overcome his addiction. ( Romans 5:7 & 8: Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.). When we get to that point we will be abiding in the love of God and we will be in unity with Him and all those who have reached that point.

None of us have the right to claim we are only human and can’t attain that level of love. Because we all agree that there is that of God within each of us. We just have to walk in the light that God provides. When we walk in the light we will abide in His love (1 John 1:7: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. ). It is my contention that without abiding in the Love of God and walking in the light He provides, any respect, tolerance or understanding we show towards others is shallow. It smacks of elitism. True love respects others because of the value God has given them. It does more than tolerate others, it embraces them. It more than understands our neighbor, it shares his or her pain (Hebrews 4:15: We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all - all but the sin.). As a religious society, we must urge our members to strive to live in the love of God. If they think they can do so outside of conventional Christian beliefs and/or practices, that’s fine, but as a Society we should insist that each one of us leaves no stone unturned in trying to achieve that goal. Accepting that there is that of God in everyone is not a substitute for becoming Holy. It cannot be accepted as a substitute for seeking the truth. The truth both about God and about ourselves. In a purely Christian context, those who say they don’t believe Jesus died for them are saying that Jesus didn’t die for their neighbor as well and by doing so are denigrating the worth of their neighbor. We can have no greater worth than to be loved by God so much that He sent his only begotten son to die for us (John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. ). Everyone is free to accept this position or not, but no one should reject it until they have left no stone unturned to determine if it is true. While it is generally being accepted by the world and many church members of all Christian denominations that all religions contain truth and are a path to God, I don’t know that any religion can give you the revelation of an individual’s equality and worth as much as a revelation of the truth of this scripture. The problem with most religions, including Christianity, is that those members who claim to believe in their neighbor’s equality only believe it with their minds and not their hearts and it is the heart that is the source of life (Proverbs 4:23: Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flows the springs of life.), the life which attracts and feeds the needy. I suggest that while good people can differ on religious beliefs, they shouldn’t differ on the need to love their neighbor. And I further suggest that God, whether he is asked or not and/or acknowledged or not, will give grace unto us to love the unlovable and forgive the unforgivable All we have to do is not give up trying to do so. We don’t have to believe 100% of any religious doctrine. We just have to believe that we can, and indeed must, love unconditionally, unselfishly. When we do that we will be walking in the light and be in unity with the God-head and all those who are trying to do the same. We will also create an atmosphere of Love that will draw the needy: the financially needy, the physically needy, the morally needy, and the God needy; and that atmosphere of Love will shine forth as a light on a hill.

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Comment by Forrest Curo on 9th mo. 1, 2009 at 5:37pm
The conventional understanding of the 'atonement' doctrine: that God needed to kill someone for our sins so Jesus 'paid' the debt--is utterly nonsensical and contradicts everything Jesus had to say about what God is like. Outside of people who've been taught that God insists on them believing it, I don't think you'll get too many converts to that one.

Again, if you say that Jesus died to help achieve God's purpose for humanity, which includes our reconciling ourselves to God and transcending those spiritually-childish traits we call "sin," I'd agree--but that isn't the same as saying that Jesus took a personal interest in each particular person, and saying so doesn't deny anybody's worth. Our worth is that God breathed himself (the very life of us) into each human being! Jesus did not die to miraculously transmute a bunch of soul-less robots into spiritual beings; he died to help God's children recognize their connection with God. (Among people who haven't recognized that connection, yes, it can be damnably hard to see!)

I'm quibbling about things I disagree with here, while finding a great deal I recognize as solid Truth.

I do think you're putting too much stress on striving, making 'decisions,' the sort of consideration one finds on the old blame/praise treadmill--while I am inclined to believe that God runs a no-fault, harm-reduction sort of universe: Sun and (essential) rain on the Just and the Unjust.

Truly we are headed into muy challenging circumstances, and choices so difficult that most Friends haven't even recognized a need to practice denial of them!

Without taking much of the Bible at all literally, one can get a sense of God's frustration with human cluelessness, of the sheer overwhelming horror of the kind of collective fate that mass heedlessness leads to. And in the world around us, we have only to look, only to take a casual peek between the lines, to see horrible consequences already upon us, worse dangers on the way.

And while we are intensely tempted to 'figure out' ways to 'deal with' these calamities, we miss the key point that making peace with God is the only possible effective defense against them.

And who is to rouse the Society of Friends to this challenge? Who but God?
Comment by James C Schultz on 9th mo. 1, 2009 at 5:58pm
Obviously we disagree about basic things but the important thing is we both agree that only God can move the Society of Friends or anyone to today's challenges.
Comment by Raye on 9th mo. 2, 2009 at 8:03pm
Accepting that there is that of God in everyone is not a substitute for becoming Holy.

This is what stood out to me from thy writing. Thanks so much! It resonates with lessons the Lord has been providing to me this year.

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