Destination Love

By: Woodrow Odom Lucas

Recently, I reconnected with a dear friend of mine to whom I had not spoken in 2 years. In the process of sharing our experiences since we had last talked, she intimated to me that recently, she had a near death experience.  During this near death experience, she said that she met Jesus and experienced what she described as “eternity” in which there was “no time” but rather past, present, and future were all simultaneously occurring.  She intimated that being in the presence of the Lord was beyond any experience of love that she had ever had.  She said that Jesus’ love completed her in a way such that she could not think of anyone else in his presence.  She said that in the “eternity” in which she operated, that Jesus was huge and was the center of all activity.  Her authority in communicating this was mesmerizing as she spoke with a confidence that I have scarcely encountered.  I told her that she seemed “transfigured” and that I believed that she had actually met the Lord.  Ironically, another friend of mine was recently telling me about a book that she was reading called, The Prince of Heaven by Eben Alexander, in which an unbeliever had a near death experience and recounted going to a place of infinite love.  Similarly, Wayne Dyer the spiritual teacher and PBS personality had a woman on one of his telecasts who had a near death experience and spoke of a state of being where worry, anxiety, and fear had absolutely no place and were completely muted by the unconditional love that surrounded and infused her.

As a Universalist, these accounts are very affirming of my conviction that all human beings, from the worst of us to the best of us, are eventually destined to bliss, wholeness, and the unconditional love of God.  Even given the idea of hell that some people who have had near death experiences recount visiting, this hell is surely not eternal and is a place of remediation where much needed lessons are learned.  Revisiting the first near death account of encountering an existential condition wherein Jesus is the center of reality and his love is all consuming makes me think of Phillipians 2:5-11 wherein Paul describes our savior as “being in very nature God” and yet humbling himself to be born as a human being and live a life of sadness and loneliness for the greater redemption of all things.  When one considers how big Jesus is in the afterlife, his humility in deciding to live among a people who in many ways did not value his gifts of love and compassion is dumbfounding.  While Jesus had a considerable following in Israel at times in his ministry, he was a relative unknown compared to historical characters like Julius Cesar or even Herod Antipas.  In fact, Jesus was such an unknown to most people that finding historical confirmation of his life is difficult.

There is something about this earthly and natural realm of existence that creates a profound temptation to devalue things that are important to eternity and value things that in the scheme of the cosmos have very little true significance.  It seems that there is something about this experience of human life that inappropriately puts great weight on relatively meaningless criteria such as worldly accomplishment, worldly notoriety, and material gain and that underestimates the truly eternal significance of love, justice, mercy, compassion, empathy, and gratitude.  This world’s problematic value system can sometimes be frustrating if we forget that one day, one fine day, we will be in the presence of unconditional love and the learning experiences, trials, and difficulties of this life will be over.

Some claim that a worldview that seriously integrates the notion of a beautiful and wondrous afterlife will cause the believer in such a hope to neglect practical matters and to become so spiritually minded that they are “no earthly good.” But in my experience, it is my understanding of a wondrous destiny for us all that motivates me to make this earth better and to make people’s lives better.  The confidence that Jesus truly got the victory over hatred, greed, malice, and contempt on the cross and that in some profound mystery secured the destinies of all human beings in that moment of sacrifice helps me work through discouragement and hold fast to hope.  I truly believe that understanding love as our ultimate destination helps one to advocate for justice with more rather than less fervor because one operates in the unflinching belief that righteousness, equality, and love are not just destined to win, but have in many senses already won.  This kind of awareness helps us to persevere when it seems like circumstances in our earthly journey are untenable.  To know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this earth will one day resemble that wondrous afterlife where fear and hatred have absolutely no place, is so empowering that it will one day make real what is already real to the angels.  Because love has already won, it will surely win.

No matter how bleak things seem in reference to the mass incarceration of the poor or lingering racism or homophobia or worldwide violence or ethnic cleansing we have an existential guarantee that evil and suffering must and will fade to be replaced by the perfect love that is all around us but often times not acknowledged.  The truth is that misery, suffering, and pain are ephemeral and it is joy, love, and peace that are eternal.  The truth is that this earth’s destiny has already been decided and in spite of global warming, over-population, and the unconscionable hoarding of wealth that seem to be defining our reality that this planet’s destiny is ultimately good.  We who stand for love truly cannot fail and those who stand against love will soon be converted.  For our journey is blessed and our destination is love and no worry, pain, anguish, sorrow, bad choice, or adversity can ever change that.

Dear Lucifer

Dear Lucifer,

There was a time when I hated you. There was a time when rage afflicted me as you confused me and my brethren into judging and maligning each other.

Dear Lucifer,

There was a time when I focused all of my malice against you.  For every time I thought of an entire race of people enslaving another entire race of people and calling it your will I saw you in the shadows laughing and mocking.

Dear Lucifer,

There was a time when I wanted to be the one that vanquished you in this generation, for when I thought about a nation stealing the land of other nations and calling it manifest destiny, I saw the imprint of your wicked hands.

But now dear brother, I must admit that I more pity than hate you.  You have exhausted me.  You have been such a little nuisance that now I just don’t have any feeling left for you.  And Lucifer, Beezelbub, Whore of Babylon, Lilleth and whoever else has been attempting to torment me and mine, I forgive you.  I do not think that I have the authority to forgive you on behalf of other people.  But for my part, I truly cancel the debt that you owe to me for all of your misery making.

The truth is Lucifer that I am now truly beginning to realize just how badly Jesus beat you 2000 years ago.  I mean you want to talk about a “Warrior King,” Jesus battled you as you attacked him from the outside through the rejection of the people he came to save and Jesus battled you as you attacked him from within through the nature of the corruption that he received from Mary’s flesh.  Jesus battled you his entire life and then he battled you again to make it to the cross, and then he battled you again on the cross.  And then he descended and battled you again in hellish places of conscious and natural torment.

And now dear brother, I am becoming aware of just how final his victory over you has become.  You see Lucifer, every human soul is destined to become either a Son or Daughter of God.  And while I do not understand it fully, somehow Jesus assured those destinies through his life, sacrifice, death, and resurrection.  And those destinies are locked into the annals of God’s foreknowledge brother.   Yes, for a time, we as human beings play roles of tyrant and victim, betrayer and betrayed, but soon these ideas and identities will fade away beneath the glory of Jesus’ second coming both in the flesh and through all human identity being wrapped up in the mysterious epiphany of love’s all-encompassing power.

Lucifer, Satan, whatever and whoever you are.  However many there are of you.  I am writing you this day to say that I forgive you.  Perhaps not out of love, but more a sort of indifferent pity,  for you will lose as you have already lost.   Perhaps your final destiny is redemption, perhaps it is destruction, but either way dear brother, I do not want you occupying any space in mind more than what is absolutely necessary.  Oh, every now and again, I can see myself listening to the Holy Spirit concerning some wicked scheme that you have plotted against me, or every now and again casting you out of something or binding some principality, or helping someone who you have targeted with malevolent intent, but for the most part brother, I view you as a nuisance and I just don’t want to think about you anymore.

So I forgive you and I forgive all human beings who still in their ignorance serve you both unwittingly and voluntarily.  In truth devil, I have lost interest in you.  A time ago you were an interesting object for my mind and heart, even if it was hatred that I felt for you.  But now, you are so predictably pathetic that I just want to let go of our relationship and so I forgive you.  Again I say that I forgive you and am moved to pray, “Lord God, thank you for the teacher that satan, Lucifer, and the rest of them have been for me.  Thank you for every bit of suffering they have caused me, for in the long run it will only make me stronger.  Now I ask that you saturate my consciousness with yourself.  Lord God I ask that you reveal yourself to me in every dimension and cranny of the human experience.  Lord God, please bless me, like the Navaho Warriors Pray with “beauty before me, with beauty behind me, with beauty above me, with beauty all around me, I will walk in long life, I will walk according to beauty.  It is completed in beauty.  It is completed in beauty. It is completed in beauty. It is completed in beauty.”

Lucifer, I and all of my human brothers and sisters are completed in beauty.  And your madness in believing anything different will soon end either in your redemption or destruction.  I am not partial to either.  Go with God dear brother.  Go with God.

Jubilee Economics

This evening, while surfing the web, I came across a phrase that truly struck me. The phrase was “Jubilee Economics.”  While I have often expressed more left leaning beliefs in reference to defining the kind of economics of which Jesus would approve, this phrase reminded me of the fact that economic equality has always been a “BIBLICAL” idea.   Twice in the book of Acts, the atmosphere of the Church of Acts is described as being a community of unprecedented equality.  In Acts 4:34-35 Luke recounts, “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and laid them down at the apostles feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.”  And earlier in Acts, more specifically in Acts 2:43-47 Luke recounts, “And all that believed were together, and had all things common. And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men as every man had need. And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.  Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord, added to the church daily as should be saved.”

In these two accounts of the Acts church’s equality, we can glean at least 5 characteristics that defined this equality among the church of Acts believers.  Number one, all of the believers had all things common with other believers.  So there was no sense of ownership.  Number two, the Apostles were trusted and trustworthy enough to be the initial beneficiaries of goods in a way in which THERE WAS NO LACK.  Number three, the phrase, “as every man had need” demonstrates THAT NEED MATTERED!! Number four, there was the element of joy in the gladness and singleness of heart of all believers.  Number 5, there was the presence of continual praise.

I think that it is valuable to compare the current “Charismatic Evangelical Community” which claims to be like the church of Acts with the actual Church of Acts fellowship.  To the credit of the modern Charismatic Church there is definitely Joy at Charismatic meetings and Charismatics have a tendency to praise continuously.  But in reference to the other 3 characteristics, the current Charismatic context fails to measure up.  For instance, I have heard several charismatic preachers say that God does not tend to need but that God only rewards faith.  I agree that scripture states unequivocally that “without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  But I assert that this is a different kind of faith than the “sowing of seeds” to big time ministry expecting a self-serving harvest that Charismatics claim moves God’s hand.

In fact, the bible is clear that the distribution of goods and services in the church of Acts community was based on “Need” not how much each person spoke in tongues or paid their tithes.  I truly believe that one of the reasons why the devil brought such fierce persecution to the church of Acts, is that he was petrified of them operating in such a powerful paradigm as “having all things in common. “ Similarly, although one might equate giving to big time ministries to laying goods at the Apostles’ feet, when one considers characteristic number one of “having all things in common,” the modern ministry is nowhere near as trustworthy as the Apostles.  The early church of Acts had an attitude in which they did not view their possessions as belonging to them, but rather they saw them belonging to the group.  The modern day Charismatic Church does not share this attitude, and the evidence of this fact is the reality that in modern times “lack abounds” in Christendom, whereas in the early church, before persecution scattered it abroad, lack was non-existent.

Now in extrapolating the book of Acts community to the modern day, one may claim that these believers “voluntarily” joined to one another economically out of a sense of common faith and so “class equality” is something that one should not strive for on the national stage because not all people can be “trusted” to experience this equality in the same spirit of love and servitude that the Church of Acts did based on their common faith in Jesus.  However, when one “dusts off” books from the Torah to gain a sense of God’s instruction to a nation and one peers into the wisdom of these books for a purpose that does not entail hating other people as a function of their sexual orientation one discovers quite a few references to God’s mandate for economic equality.  Exodus 22:25, Leviticus 25:36, Leviticus 25:37, Deuteronomy 23:19, and Deuteronomy  23:20 are extremely straight forward in forbidding the charging of interest on loans.  In a society in which the ownership of a house and car are most often based on the establishment of credit with interest, one can easily determine how far a supposedly “Judeo-Christian” society has travelled from the kind of justice that God prescribed.

Similarly Leviticus 25 speaks of “resting from one’s labors” every 7 years for “an entire year.”  Can you imagine how evolved society might be in its true understanding of God and humanity if all of us took a “year long sabbatical” from labor every seven years.  Leviticus 25 also speaks of a “Jubilee Year” every 50 years in which liberty is proclaimed throughout the land to all inhabitants.  While I did not have a chance to query the author of the phrase ,”Jubilee economics” as to what he or she meant, I believe that the notions of “liberty and equity” are paramount in the biblically informed understanding of such a phrase.

As we as a nation prepare to vote in this 2012 election and the idea of economic equality is often ignored as an imperative by politicians and pundits alike, I can honestly say that I feel less depressed, forlorn, and hopeless knowing that there are people who share the name “Christian” with me who speak of “Jubilee Economics,” and I am moved to pray, “Lord God please convict all Christians and non-Christians on the earth of the equality of every soul in your sight.  Please convict us all of the reality that all human souls hold equal importance in your eyes and that given that fact enduring inequality of any kind is problematic.  Lord God please reveal  your ways to all of the earth’s inhabitants so that we all may work together for a shared reality of wholeness, holiness, love, mercy, kindness, faith, hope, and peace.”  In Jesus name, I pray.  Amen.