• Jessica Morgan McAtee

How's Your Theology Working?

How we see God affects all else.


How’s Your Theology Working for You?


Theology can be defined as the study of God and God’s relation to the world.


Some people get uncomfortable discussing spirituality. It is often considered taboo along with finances and politics. But to live an open and connected life, we cannot hide parts of who we are. Sharing is a core part of community. To know and be known is a deep human need.


Surely, that absolutely doesn’t mean we are ever justified in being rude, dismissive or condescending to others who disagree with our viewpoints on these topics. There should always be gentleness and respect. In order to be open, there needs to be a certain maturity present. We need to feel safe and not judged, which is another way to say we have to trust those we share this with.


Sadly my old theology did not follow the wisdom of the above paragraph.

Happily my understanding of God changed!


It would serve us all well if we could kindly discuss our deepest issues with mutual respect and understanding ears. Doing our best to see things from someone else’s point of view builds bridges to their heart. It connects us in meaningful ways. We learn and grow. We don’t all drudge through the same sorrows or soar on the same victories.


God’s children come from all backgrounds and traditions.


Individually, why don’t we work to be the kind of person others feel safe sharing with?



Busted

Ironically, how someone’s private theology is working for them is usually public.


Your spouse, coworkers, friends and family already know how your theology is working for you[1]. Our lives reflect our truths as well as our falsehoods.


How we handle suffering, whether we cast blame and how we treat others all point to our core beliefs. One can say they believe in a patient, kind and loving God. But if they aren’t reflecting those same virtues out into the world around them, they are not convincing.


We all know this. This is why it doesn’t sit well with us to see the stereotypical angry nun, slimy televangelist or perverted priest. We throw the word “hypocrite” around, but that is a strong word. While it might be true, I try to give others the benefit of the doubt. Rather than seeing “hypocrites” as folks who are deliberately fooling others with deceit, I think it is best to see them as needing some deep inner healing. Hurting people hurt people.


They’re sick.


People generally have good intentions and don’t want to be considered evil. We all originated from a loving God. This is why it is so heartbreaking when someone who labels themselves a spiritual leader, or even a Christian, lives such an ugly life.


Any spirituality is dead without incremental, meaningful transformation. Everyone can spot a phony “believer.” It is not enough to cognitively “believe”. That is not what the spiritual life is about, it is about renewal.


It moves. It’s a change of life. It’s a metamorphosis.



My favorite Catholic Priest, Richard Rohr puts it this way in his book The Wisdom Pattern:

Nine out of ten people start with this premise: “If I behave correctly, I will one day see God clearly.” Yet the biblical tradition is saying the exact opposite: If we see God clearly, we will behave in a good and human way. Our right behavior does not cumulatively lead to our true being; our true being leads to eventual right behavior.

Let’s bring this down to the non-clergy. If you label yourself a Christ follower, but continually demean and argue with your spouse, something is off. If you aren’t loving your family or neighbors well, something’s wrong. If you say you are a Christian but you cannot lovingly welcome people into your home or celebrate them, alarms sound.


Nobody needs a chronically angry, judgmental, grumpy, vengeful, selfish, hopeless, contemptuous “christian.” Save your breath next time you try to do the obligatory sharing of your faith.


If your negative reputation precedes you, it’s time for a genuine spiritual transformation. Your theology is clearly not working.


I am not condemning you to eternal hell, or casting you outside of God’s love. You are living in a hell already and nobody wants what you have. There is a better way that you're invited into.


Our lives should beam out righteousness, peace and joy in the Spirit[2]if we profess Christianity. That is how we know if we are living in the present kingdom of God. Another obvious twist is that it’s not always the card-carrying Christians[3] who live in this genuine, life-giving life.


Dogmatic folks get uptight about this. Everyone that loves is born of God and knows God.[4]


If our Christianity is all about saying a magic prayer that is our ticket into heaven in the afterlife, it totally misses the point. As Richard Rohr puts it “Somehow, Jesus becomes the great problem-solver and answer-giver for the next world and not primarily the one who teaches us how to live with peace and freedom in this world. It’s fire-insurance religion instead of a banquet right now. That is a big, big difference- an entirely different agenda.”[5]


You're Included As-Is


Everyone is invited into a total life over-haul in the Spirit here on earth. We’re all connected to God whether or not we know it.


It is never too late to start the fulfilling journey.


Transformation takes time. It would be easy if we simply prayed our problems and character flaws away, but that doesn’t usually happen. God partners with us to bring his kingdom to earth. He invites our participation. He is eagerly waiting for us to come home. He is not manipulative, coercive or forceful. We can hold on to our garbage as long as we would like, for now.


But then we will keep getting the same old same old.


Stop trying to cast out Satan when you haven’t even got authority over your sink of dirty dishes.[6]


We can’t smell our own stink.


Usually we are own biggest obstacle. Recently I became aware, through Enneagram work, how much fear has permeated my life. It was a bondage that I didn’t even realize I was suffering from. It was dictating parts of my life and I was allowing it unconsciously. I was literally terrified to stay home alone at night, something I said I’d “never” do. Our summer home is way out in the woods and the silence and darkness paralyzed me. When this was brought to my attention, I knew it had to go.


Facing those fears required courage and discomfort. With brave baby steps, I have made great progress and found freedom from those fears. I can now stay alone with power and love and a sound mind. I stay vigilant for other places that fear has crept in so that they too can be cleaned out. For me, spending time in solitude, prayer and meditation has revealed much.


When we are willing, we can ask for wisdom and direction. When we are sincerely ready for a change, God will be right there with open arms ready to walk us through it.


Surrender


Freedom is an incremental process[7]. Perfection is not the goal. Moving in the right direction in partnership with the Spirit is.


It can also be messy and painful as we revisit our pasts and examine our souls. Admitting our shadows and offering our catastrophes to God will allow the purifying fire to consume them. Our attitudes will align with Christ because he is in us and we in him.[8]


Living in the light is bright.[9]We can experience this in daily life. When we begin one healthy practice, it motivates us to expand to more healthy ones. We may begin eating better, which motivates us to become a bit more active, which leads to better sleep which leads to happier mornings and kindness to coworkers. A wholistic and healthy life is contagious and it expands through all parts of our own lives. Sometimes it organically spreads to those around us.


They way we live impacts others more than what we profess.


Active faith continues to grow throughout all of our separate life-departments. That is, as we are willing to surrender them. Our healthy spirituality is visible in our relationships, health, finances, work, charity, recreation, personal-growth and physical environment.


A healthy theology is a beacon of hope that everyone can see.

Shine on,

Jessica

[1] An idea from The Shack Revisited by Baxter Kruger [2] Romans 14:17 [3] A phrase I borrow from Brad Jersak in A More Christ-like God [4] 1 John 4:7 [5] In The Wisdom Pattern, By Richard Rohr [6] A paraphrase from something Joyce Meyer once said [7] The Shack, by Paul Young [8] John 14:20 [9] Matthew 5:16

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