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Written On Our Hearts

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles, who do not posess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts… – Romans 2:13-15
When we are faithful, the Church has good news to share. But we are not always so faithful. Often, the gospel is crowded out by human ideologies. We proclaim a Liberal Jesus or Conservative Jesus, an Evangelical Jesus or Social Justice Jesus. The Church has bought into the false dichotomies of the “culture wars” hook, line and sinker. Our worldviews are often rooted in forms of black-and-white, us-versus-them thinking that has brought us to the brink of self-annihilation.

When we are captured in this way by our surrounding culture, we fail to proclaim the radical truth about who God really is. In Jesus, we encounter a God who is not like us. God is not a Republican or a Democrat. Instead, in Jesus Christ we come face to face with a Being whose love and justice transcend any of our normal catagories. In him, it is always “yes.” God is strong and gentle, loving and just – blessing us with freedom and responsibility.

God is not boxed into our narrow frameworks. The Holy Spirit blows where it will, and it is present in each of us. All we have to do is listen to the gentle whisper that breathes in every heart. God is spirit, and those who worship him will worship him in spirit and in truth. God is not confined to temples or hierarchies or rigid belief systems. Who you are or what you call yourself presents no barrier to this relationship.

God is equally real in the heart of the illegal immigrant and the wealthy Anglo. The Word of God is alive and active in the innermost parts of the gay atheist and the straight Christian fundamentalist. The living witness of God is present in the Occupy activist and the Tea Partier. The Spirit blows where it will, and Jesus does not show partiality.

But will we listen? Are we awake to the Spirit’s promptings in our hearts? Do we see Jesus in the poor and those that the wider culture chooses to ignore? Are we ready to offer up our lives and reputations for those who have the least? Do we recognize the voice of our Shepherd when we hear it?

My greatest joy and challenge is to see how God is active among other “flocks” – groups of people where I would not have expected to find God at work, guiding and blessing. One of my surprise encounters with the God of the Margins has been within the Occupy movement. Occupiers run the gamut of beliefs, from committed Christians to dogmatic atheists, but many are quasi-agnostic, “spiritual-but-not-religious” types. They can sense that there is deep truth out there somewhere, but they haven’t determined yet what to call it, or how to relate to it. These are people of deep moral conviction who have rejected the rote religion of past generations and are seeking out the truth on their own terms.

Since they are involved in the Occupy movement, it is not surprising that most of these folks find expression for their commitment to truth and justice through social activism. They live out the light that they have been shown through their struggles for grassroots democracy and economic equality. Just like the Gentiles who do instinctively what the law requires, many Occupy activists act naturally out of their own interior sense of justice.
In the process, they fulfill the “law” far better than many Christians! Though the Scriptures callus timeand timeagain to work for justice, many Christian congregations and organizations are more focused on preserving their own privilege and comfort. The Church is often the “hearer of the law.” But many of those whom the institution has rejected obey the law that the Lord has written in their hearts.
This “law,” the inward voice of Jesus that calls us to the work of justice and reconciliation in our society, is the Cornerstone that our religious builders have rejected. While we in the Christian Church have kept all sorts of superficial rules and regulations, we have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy and faithfulness. We have strained out a gnat but swallowed a camel!

I want to walk with whomever is listening and obeying the inward promptings of God. Some of these people are Christians, and I praise God for their witness. But God is speaking through many who are outside the gates of the city, wandering in the wilderness following a pillar of cloud and fire whose name they do not know. I want to follow this wild, uncontainable God with them, even if it costs me security and my already tenuous sense of certainty. Will you walk with us?

Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. – Hebrews 13:12-14