I was ordering lunch the other day.
I was so thirsty, and I wanted to order a sweet tea and drink it as fast as I could.
When my twenty-something server asked for my drink order, tongue in cheek, I responded, “For the love of God, I hope you have sweet tea.”
Without missing a beat, she smiled warmly and said, “Well, I’m an atheist, so that really doesn’t matter to me. But we do have sweet tea.”
I was surprised that she just said that so matter-of-fact, without much hesitation. I could not believe that she shared her non-belief so casually. Like a cold, wet washcloth, it kind slapped me in the face.
As I sat there I was clearly aware that I had no answer to her off-the-cuff statement. I was embarrassed that I wasn’t prepared for someone looking me in the eye and without blinking, tell me that they did not believe in God.
Atheists reject the idea that God exists. When they say that there is no God, atheists put the notion of a divine being on a list that includes unicorns and faeries.
By contrast, my faith places God on the existing-being list with stars and alligators and Dachshunds.
Faith is believing. And believing is following a Way.
Putting that in a slightly different way, following Christ means to walk the way of love.
The way that Jesus embodied, exemplified, and inspired.
The way of love is a way of intentional response. We experience God’s love for us in various ways and respond to that love.
Jesus taught everyone that we are God’s beloved children. He wouldn’t have had to tell us this if it were obvious. The world kicks plenty of us around, tosses us aside, and treats us like something on the bottom of somebody else’s shoe.
People go hungry, go homeless. Get fired and get abused. People languish in jail and know cruelty at the hands of those who should nurture and protect them. We all face challenges and disappointments and wrenching heartaches. Moreover, rich and powerful people seem intent on establishing once and for all that they are the winners and some people are just losers.
The Way of Jesus is a radical alternative.
We are God’s beloved, and so is everyone and everything we encounter.
However bruised and battered and disfigured we may be by the circumstances of life, each step we take is a response, a response to the love we’ve been given as a gift.
Pure, unearned, and unconditional… love.