Here's a question that comes up in faith-shifting circles a lot, a question that's usually voiced with deep-seated anxiety:
"How do we know if our new understanding of God is right? What if we were right before and now we're wrong? How can we tell?"
I have a one-word answer:
What is the FRUIT of our theology?
To take a biblical list, does our theology produce in our lives and in the lives of others: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control?
Or does our theology produce in our lives and in the lives of others: fear, exclusion, anxiety, exhaustion, perfectionism, performance, approval-seeking, frustration, shame, addiction?
I remember the day when I realized that I did not truly believe that God loved me like the Bible says he does: unconditionally, passionately, sacrificially.
I gave lip service to those ideas, but my life was all about getting everything right to avoid punishment. I was a gerbil on the wheel of spiritual perfectionism and performance: an overseas missionary, working as hard as I could to stave off the fear that I would never be enough.
I date my faith-shift to the day that a retreat speaker told our group: "God delights in you." And those words rang in me like a gong, and I knew. I knew. I knew.
I didn't know that I was faith-shifting then. I didn't realize that I'd been invited on a whole new journey.
I didn't understand that all the bad fruit in my life--the anxiety, the exhaustion, the judgment of myself and others--was directly connected to the bad theology I'd ingested, that God was primarily wrathful, demanding total obedience immediately, and if I didn't do everything just right, he was going to throw me into a lake of fire and torture me forever.
It wasn't until I'd been coverted by "God delights in you" into truly experiencing God's Love that the bad fruit slowly began dropping away.
And slowly, slowly (because this is fruit, you know) new fruit began to grow.
It's been 15 years since "God delights in you."
And I would not trade the person that I am today, to go back and be who I was before.
Plus, Andy does not want to live with that person ever again, and I don't want to live with the person he was then, either.
We were both miserably being the best we could, and the fruit was just bad.
Our lives were like those apples you get sometimes that look great on the outside, but when you bite into it, it's rotten to the core. (I wrote a whole book about that if you need the deets.)
We both look at our lives now, at the fruit of LOVE, where we have been and where we have come, and there's no turning back, no turning back.
We don't have to be theatened by punishment, threatened by hell, to live a life of Love.
We don't have to be coerced or manipulated into perfectionism and performance.
We have a life full of rest for our souls, a life overflowing with an abundance of peace.
I'm not trying to convince anybody else of anything here on my blog.
I just feel like the blind man that Jesus healed, who ended up in hot water with the religious leaders:
So a second time they called for the man who had been blind and said, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, "Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. There is one thing I do know: I was blind, but now I see!" John 9:24, 25
I don't know what your story is, where your road needs to go, or what your fruit is like.