I’ll never forget the first time I heard Bruce say that “religion is what you do about what you believe.” A fog lifted for me, and the forlorn word “religion” was released from centuries of misuse. It may seem like a petty thing but, as Chris lamented a couple of weeks ago, some words have been so abused in our day that they cease to enlighten, and instead shut things down; I always appreciate it when that can be undone. So it was a relief to hear that it wasn’t religion’s fault that religion had such a bad name; it was what individual people chose to “do about what they believed” that gave religion such a bad name.
This took the spectre of “intolerance” away from a dreadful, unreachable God (however defined) that dictated the actions of its adherents, and put it squarely on those adherents (of whatever faith). I could comprehend human intolerance, in myself and from others, and work to overcome it or defend against it; God’s intolerance was insurmountable, dooming me to eternal damnation for not toeing some creedal or politically correct line. Fortunately I had Bruce to help cut through some of those clichés (e.g., The Lake of Fire), and I had my walk with Jesus to help me know God’s heart a little better (within my limitations, not His).
Of course, there’s still the question about what we do with “tolerance to the point of indifference,” but that’s a topic for another day.
How all this shakes out for me is that I trust Jesus. I believe He conquered death here thousands of years ago and comes to us now from beyond this realm (e.g., The Last Time I Saw Heaven). The evidence for me is that His presence in my life is as real as that of anyone else I know. Like with all my relationships, I don’t always honor it as well as I would hope, but it is undeniable for me nonetheless. And because of who He is with me – and what that reveals of God – I know that God holds precious each soul that passes through this earthly realm, whatever we do or do not choose to do about it. No human’s intolerance can change that.
And when I read a passage like “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me,” I do not hear Jesus shutting down anyone’s access to God, though sadly it is misused that way. Because of who He is with me, I hear Jesus trying to put into human words the potential of the relationship offered to us (e.g., The Orphanage), and giving us endless opportunities – in this realm and the next, all through eternity – to meet up and walk with Him.