A Universal Pattern by Richard Rohr

I wanted to share today’s meditation by Richard Rohr, just as he wrote it, as I think it is so important.

Christ is before all things, and in Christ all things hold together. —Colossians 1:17

Anything called “Good News” needs to reveal a universal pattern that can be relied upon, and not just clannish patterns that might be occasionally true. This is probably why Christianity’s break with ethnic Judaism was inevitable, although never intended by either Jesus or Paul, and why by the early second century Christians were already calling themselves “catholics” or “the universals.” They believed God is leading all of history somewhere larger and broader and better for all of humanity. Yet, after Jesus and Paul—except for occasional theologians like Gregory of Nyssa, Athanasius, Maximus the Confessor, and Francis of Assisi—the most widely accepted version of Christianity had little to do with the cosmos, creation, nature, or even history. Our beliefs did not generally talk about the future, except in terms of judgment and apocalypse. This is no way to guide history forward. It is certainly no way to give humanity hope, purpose, direction, or joy.

Christianity puts itself in a limited and precarious position when it is tied to any culture-bound Jesus or an expression of faith that does not include the Eternal Christ. Without a universal story line that offers grace and caring for all of creation, Jesus is kept small and seemingly inept. God’s care must be toward all creatures, or God ends up not being very caring at all, making things like water, trees, animals, and history itself accidental, trivial, or disposable. But grace is not a late arrival, appearing only two thousand years ago when Jesus came, or when a few lucky humans read his words in the Bible. God’s grace cannot be a random problem-solver doled out to the few and the virtuous—or it is hardly grace at all! (See Ephesians 2:7-10 if you want the radical meaning of grace summed up in three succinct verses.)

For me, a true comprehension of the full Christ Mystery is the key to the foundational reform of the Christian religion. Understanding the expansive reality of Christ will move us beyond any attempts to corral or capture God into our exclusive group. As the New Testament dramatically puts it, “Before the world was made, we have been chosen in Christ . . . claimed as God’s own, and chosen from the very beginning” (Ephesians 1:4, 11) “so that God could bring everything together, in heaven and on earth, as a plan for the fullness of times” (1:10). If all of this is true, we have a theological basis for a very natural religion that includes everybody. The problem was solved from the beginning.

2 thoughts on “A Universal Pattern by Richard Rohr

  1. Thank you for another thought-provoking entry on your blog, which I read with great interest.  I’m very much in agreement with Rohr’s insight into the universality of God’s love for his creation, and especially for all people – not just one group, race, or sect.    Christ died for all, I’m sure.  However, there still remains the scriptural fact of judgement for those who deliberately reject God. God in his grace doesn’t force belief upon anyone, and if they choose to turn away from him and want nothing to do with him, he will not prevent them.

    Wendy and I are reading through the book of Job at the moment, and have reached Job’s remarkable insight, written so many centuries before an understanding of the afterlife was developed, in chapter 19, in which he expresses the glorious hope of a future life with God, but also the danger of judgement for those whose religion excludes love:

    25 I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27 I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! 28 ‘If you say, “How we will hound him, since the root of the trouble lies in him,” 29 you should fear the sword yourselves; for wrath will bring punishment by the sword, and then you will know that there is judgment. (Bible Gateway passage: Job 19 – New International Version)

    Lots of love, and best wishes for the New Year,Michael

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    • Thank you, Michael, for your thoughtful comment. I think that one of the difficulties with the Bible is that it expresses, in different times and places, a variety of points of view (even contradictory views) as people over the centuries have tried to understand and respond to God – everyone experiences and understands God in unique ways, depending on so many factors. I hold on to what Paul wrote in Philippians 2:10-11 – “That at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” (Romans 11:33-34)

      God is present within every aspect of his creation. I confess I don’t understand all the Biblical references to judgement. But I don’t think that denying or rejecting his presence within actually changes the fact that God is fully present within. Salvation comes from recognising and acknowledging his presence and inviting him to fill our whole being. For some, this recognition may not come until after death, when we will all “see” clearly: “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) THEN, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, whatever they thought in their earthly life.

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