May your days be filled with wonder!

Our daughter, Trista, wrote this and agreed to share it on our site.

Christ in Life

Romans 8:38-39   For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present
nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate
us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 3:18-19  …May you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide,
how deep and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourself, though it is so great that you will
never see the end of it or fully know or understand it.

I’ve found that the word “Christian” can procure instant bias and often negative connotations. It is not hard to
understand why. First, it is a religion that appears splintered; the dizzying number of Protestants, Lutherans,
Catholics, some orthodox, some liberal, seems to draw from any attempt at a united front. Second, those who are
not Christians justifiably feel isolated by and withdrawn from an ideology that seems to quite easily condemn them
to an eternity of hell. Third, hypocrisy runs deep; on one hand is the middle class housewife, who adamantly
believes that non-Christians are doomed, yet who gossips about her friends and does not lift a finger to help
those less fortunate than she. On the other hand are the spiritual pillars of the religion, entrenched in as much
scandal and corruption as our elected officials. This image, perpetuated in part by those responsible for
upholding the tenets of their faith, is the problem with Christianity as a religion.

But, here is my challenge: I question that we should even call Christianity a religion, as religion is seen by our
standards today. We view religion as something that we fit into the end of our day right before we go to sleep,
something that tucks nicely into the Sunday time slot between a bacon and egg breakfast and afternoon football.
Religion is something that we motion through, a tradition surrounded by stiff collars and an instant gratification of
feeling righteous and vindicated from our immediate transgressions. This is what religion has become to many,
and this is not Christianity. Christianity is meant to be lived; it is life, not a religion. It is one unifying principle that
connects every living, breathing person to one another. It knows no sects or factions, because it upholds only one
simple truth that has been made available to each of us. That truth is love, unconditional love that God has for us,
and that we may have for each other if we choose to do so. It is a love that can be felt even in the smallest details.
We may feel it as the warmth of the sun on the back of our necks, or in the smile of a stranger. Through all the
debate and differences of opinion on how one should lead life, the answer is simple.  Jesus said, love the Lord
your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest
commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. And beyond that, for though we have
been taught to love our neighbor and hate our enemies, Jesus says, But I tell you: love your enemies and pray for
those who persecute you. We’ve heard to “turn the other cheek” when someone wrongs us, but the unconditional
love that He speaks of goes even further: And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your
cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do
not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. This principle is most evident in His sacrifice. For the
longest time, I did not truly understand how one man’s death could somehow atone for the offenses of humanity.
The answer to my bewilderment is explained by love. God showed us how to achieve that perfect love, with Jesus
as our tangible example. So unconditional was His love for us, that He was willing to die for those very people who
were spitting on him and driving spikes into his hands. He prayed for them, he loved them even as they hated
him. He wanted to take their sins upon himself, was willing to endure hell and torture to give them, us, a chance at
life. That willingness is the absolute manifestation of higher love, a sacrifice so selfless. The point is, the capability
to love in that way is within each of us. God speaks to us: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not
boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always
perseveres…And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. And love acts.
We cannot protect the weak without lifting a finger. We cannot reject evil if we see others around us in pain and
do nothing to ease that pain. We cannot be selfless without, at some point, putting our own needs behind another’
s and inconveniencing ourselves for their improvement. And this cannot occur if we are not walking in love at
every moment of our lives and if we are only concerned with the Lord’s work for an hour on Sunday mornings. So
to the middle class housewife: if you take the love that God had given you and hoard it away, if you take the light
that he has bestowed upon you and cloak it from the world, it will be as if those gifts had never existed in the first
place. You may sit pure and sinless in your own eyes, but you will not be participating in the one true thing that
God bestowed on us and wished for us: His love.

So, is Chrisianity splintered? No, it is connected by that single lifeline, that perfect love for us that He revealed
strikingly in Jesus. What differences in rules and practices that exist among the sects matter little when compared
to this unifying principle. God says, One man considers one day more sacred that another; another man
considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as
special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, because he gives thanks to God; and he who
abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. Christians may differ on certain finer points of the faith,
but the key, the most important cornerstone,  is that each of these diverse ideologies and practices is enacted for
the greater glory of God. We should respect these traditions if they are true to His Word, because their faithful
aim, no matter what the path to that aim, is the glorification of God and the magnification of His love. Another
question: does Christianity easily condemn our brothers and sisters in humanity to an eternity of hell? No, again,
God’s love is not a condemnation. His gift in Jesus, that example of pure love, is in no way a condemnation; it is
an exclamation of good news, a reason to rejoice! Before this act of selfless love, we were mired in our egocentric
ways. The love is now tangible and can be accessed by all of humanity, and we should celebrate the presence of
God’s hope and peace in every person; where we go wrong is when we trust in Christ, but do not proclaim His
perfect love to those around us. Again, hiding our faith from the world is akin to turning our backs on friend and
foe alike. And finally, what of our hypocrisy? Why are we judging others when we too are laden with similar
transgressions? We need to stop treating Christianity as a modern-day religion and start regarding it as a way of
life and a message of love. God did not intend for us to judge others, to only occasionally think of Him, nor did He
intend to have us seated in church with our eyes straying to our watches. He wants us to marvel at his subtle
touch in every aspect of our lives. When the sky is darkened with clouds, He hopes that we will gaze upward and
wonder at the palate of colors He has used to paint the roof of our world. Even when we suffer, He wants us to
praise His name in the knowledge that He loves us and that His plan is continually working around us and through
us. He says, And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings;
because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope. And so,
even our pain can be transformed into a means to become closer to Him, and can be used positively to reinforce
God’s love on earth. In our lives may we forever be striving to convey that love; may we find peace and joy at
every single moment, no matter how small and no matter how difficult; and may we judge no one but rather be
unified as one people with the sole objective to praise Him and to spread His compassion to the lonely, the weak,
the poor, and the lost. May we love selflessly in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments
and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy
Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right
hand and left; through glory and dishonor; bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as imposters;
known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always
rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
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