The answer that makes all the questions moot

by Kristin on July 26, 2011

in Belief, doubt & hope

Photo by katerha

Sometimes, life feels pretty straightforward. You get up, eat, do the work that’s most pressing, care for your family and closest friends, and try to find time for something fun and something for the broader good. Generally, you just do the best you can to make it all happen before it’s time for bed, and the next day you pick up where you left off.

At other times, you can’t see that clean outline, you can only see all of the sub-points and foot notes, the scribbles and convoluted logistics. Every step is weighed down questions: Can I afford to take the time to do that right? Should I sacrifice A or B for the sake of C? Why do I even keep going through the motions with (fill in the blank)? What do my choices say about me? What do I wish they would say?

It’s been a long time since being a Christian has felt straightforward. There are too many debates to weigh in on, so many controversies to dive into or hide from (either choice takes energy). The greater Christian community, in all its permutations, seems impossible to make sense of.

And then there’s the swirl of disappointment and confusion in my own head to sort through. What does God want from me? How can I reconcile my past understandings of God with my new understandings? Why is that non-Christian more compassionate than a whole slew of Christians I’ve encountered? What does it mean to identify with a label that evil people somehow twist to justify heinous acts?

But every so often something simple, straightforward and clear can still find its way through the clutter, like this verse did, today when @Hollenbach tweeted it:

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:8

That sort of breaks it all down, doesn’t it? In a single word, love answers all of those jumbled questions—it even has a way of making the questions themselves rather moot.

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  • Dan Johnson

    “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:8

    That reminds me of a rather argumentative Evangelical Christian who used to comment at my own blog (and at some of my friends’ blogs). He had it exactly backward, though. He stressed often that my friends and I could not possibly know love because we were atheists.

    I’m thinking, perhaps, that he knew much less about love than I do about God.

  • Alise

    Of course, then we get all worked up about what love really is. But ultimately, that’s pretty simple too. I think we know love a lot better than some might have us believe. Someone told me in the church we often get our understanding of love from the Beatles rather than the Bible and I have to wonder why we see them as so different.

  • Genevieve

    “I wanna hold your haaaaand…I wanna hold your haaaaaaaand, I wanna hold your hand…”

    Unless it caused you to sin and you cut it off because The Bible told you to…

    “I wanna hold your stump..I wanna hold your stuuuuump…”

  • http://BlueEyedEnnis Phil Ewing

    Great post. Thanks for clearing out the clutter.

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  • The Modern Gal

    Great post. It’s also good to remember that labels mean nothing to God. He will judge us on who we are, not what someone else thinks of us.

  • Kristin T.

    Dan, an “argumentative Evangelical Christian” commenting on an atheist’s blog?? I find that hard to believe. :) Seriously, though, I think that Bible verse is meant to take us beyond our limited, human ideas about labels—what we call ourselves, who we say we are—to a place where it’s all about how we treat others. Obviously a lot of people have trouble suspending the labels long enough to look at the life being lived.

    Alise, yeah, I thought of that as I was writing the post. I was thinking about where my crazy mind takes me next, right after it rests for a second on “love:” Do I ever love enough? How can I show love in one moment and hate in the next? What does that say about my knowing of God? It was an act of discipline to leave the post where I did, and rest in that simplicity for a while.

    Genevieve, you are kooky, and I like it. :)

    Phil, thanks! Of course, the clutter has a way of accumulating eventually, but as long as we keep up the practice of clearing it out, we’ll be OK.

    The Modern Gal, so true: “labels mean nothing to God.” Our poor human minds are so limited and stuck in our ways, aren’t they?

  • Jane

    Coming to this post rather late because I’ve been on vacation… but I just wanted to say “thank you” for summing up my own Big Questions. I struggle like crazy with the expectations laid on me by the Christian church community, with my disappointment with myself when I don’t live up to those expectations, and with my disappointment with Christians when they’re judgmental and narrow-minded.

    My vacation has made things worse, because naturally I’ve had time to think about my priorities. The doubt and confusion in my mind seem to have multiplied. As you say, every step is weighed down with questions. It’s nice to know that we’re in the same boat together, you and I. Keep writing!

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