Love Or Else

By: Brian Robertson

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Back in my younger days, I almost became a Unitarian minister. I was, in fact, accepted at Harvard Divinity School, but things didn’t quite work out so I could go.

I remember a story about Unitarians. After a Unitarian died, he was walking a road and came to a fork in the road at which were two signs. One sign pointed left and said, “To Heaven.” The other sign pointed right and said, “To A Discussion About Heaven.” The Unitarian, it was said, always went right!

I keep that in mind in the past few postings with lots of talk and theory and blustering and preaching and witnessing to the small bit of truth each of us have been granted. That it appears differently to different people is God’s work, not ours.

So, although I don’t mind mixing it up a bit here and there, it’s all fine as long as one doesn’t get distracted.  I do remember what Alan Watts told me — if you say you’re an atheist I’ll argue there is a God. If you claim to believe in God, I’ll argue that it can’t be true!

There is one point that surfaced tonight for me in writing and reading comments and emails that came my way. I’m not sure I can say it well enough, communicate it, but I’ll try.

We are told that we must love the Lord with all our hearts, all our minds and all our souls. The request, of course, is utterly impossible. No one can force love. It is as like the old adage of a salesman I knew who said, “If you can fake sincerity, you got it made!”

But in the same way, if one really does believe that God will send you to hell and label you unsaved unless you make yourself love God, what possibility do you have? God as a judge and sacrificer may sound good on paper, may make some kind of odd sense for a bit of the way. But no one will be “saved” by forcing Love at the point of a gun, the gun being such ludicrous things as blood sacrifice or threats backed up by eternal damnation.

The Christian has one secret weapon on his or her side, however, and it makes all the difference. When one pursues the Beloved, Christ, and one is granted by grace a glimpse at the unlimited and seemingly nonsensical love God has, the only response, the only honest response, is Love of the kind of magnitude and depth Jesus speaks of. Not only is such a love for God natural, it cannot be contained and spills over to our neighbor and to ourselves. We Love simply because we are loved, not threatened into love, but naturally and easily as one would expect. It is not I, but Christ who lives in me, and Christ is loving, active and unbounded. It is love that knows no class or race or sex or bottom line or personal worth and wealth. It is love that encompasses and envelops the very least amongst us, not because we should if we value our own hide, but because, in God, there is no other way to respond.





[Hi Brian,

In speaking about the problem of forcing love, you have drawn attention to a very fine point, and an inherent problem in popular notions of salvation by faith alone. It’s a point that Marcus Borg has developed in his excellent book, The Heart of Christianity.

The point is that forcing oneself to accept and adhere to certain doctrines is a kind of works rather than true faith. If our minds and hearts cannot honestly accept and adhere to some doctrine as true, but we somehow believe we must accept and adhere to it to please God, then it becomes our *work* to act as if we believe it. That’s not faith anymore, except to the extent that we hope God will forgive us for not *really* believing.

Decades ago I was a Christian working hard in that way, and it necessitated practicing some pretty complicated systems of denial and self-deception. Eventually, thanks be to God, I just couldn’t pretend anymore. I had to admit that all I had left was a very deep trust that God knew I was doing the best I could, and I realized that trust was the most basic form of faith and hope in God and, more importantly, it was undeniable evidence that I really loved God. At that moment I was truly saved from sin and set free to live a love affair with God and my fellow creatures. It was a baptism more real and binding than any amount of dunking or sprinkling could ever bestow.



[Namaste, Greetings, & Salutations.
Your site always gives me something to think about. At this point in my journey I feel that the “cause without cause” can only be experiential and not verbalized, that when we talk we can only point to the moon.
How do you convey the bliss that you feel? You get “Amen brother” but somehow you know your joy has not been internalized by who ever you are talking to. I have given up trying to convey it.
Pax Tecum, Sholom, Salaam, Peace and blessings from the
Old man Bob]


[Chuang Tzu said, and I’m paraphrasing badly: “You use a snare to catch rabbits. Once you have the rabbits, you can throw away the snare. You use a net to catch fish, but once you have the fish you no longer need the net. You use words to catch meaning, but once you have the meaning you can drop all the words. Where is the man who can do without words so I can have a word with him?



[Yes, we cannot convey ineffable experience, though our communication can water the seed.



New to your site, I was seeking meaning in my relation to Jesus. I have read Borg and found a kindred spirit that set me free from years of the old cycle of living up to Jesus standards, failing, feeling guilt, and finally stopped trying. How could I “earn” the fruit of the sacrifice of an individual 2000 years ago? It did not sit right with me.

My faith is in the promise of God that love abounds and abides where it is nourished by faith and practiced by day to day living in its presence.

Jesus said to Peter (I paraphrase) “do you love me more than these?” and Peter answered “yes Lord; you know that I love you”. Jesus said to him,”feed my lambs.”Twice more Jesus asked the question and the answer was the same.

Jesus response was the same too. So simple, and yet so profound.
“Feed my lambs, tend my sheep” Take care of the least, the last, and the lost.

Peace be upon you,