Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lenten Reflection 2: Brother Lawrence on Heaven and Hell

It appears these reflections are going to be weekly reflections.

Brother Lawrence's emphasis is very much on living and doing things out of the love of God. In Brother Lawrence's experience the hurdle to living this way was a concern for his being lost: the fear of hell. Lawrence said that he overcame this struggle through seeking to engage the "religious life" solely out of love for God unconcerned about his ultimate destination. It is interesting to me that it was precisely here that Luther got stuck, and apparently could not love God without concern for the destiny of heaven or hell. I wonder if this is why "faith", whether one defines "faith" as a nebulous articulation of trust or in terms of doctrine, often becomes a work in some forms of Protestantism. If faith isn't somehow about the love of God, but a means of getting free get out of jail card in a crazy cosmic game that God runs then no matter how much we talk about Christianity being about a relationship with God we have turned it into a system of exchange, its just making sure you have the right currency: Faith is the currency not works.

However Brother Lawrence says there is no currency, there is no buying our way out, no insurance policy, just love. Or rather love of God becomes the motivation and what is received, and then one finds one is in a relationship with God and once one trusts that relationship the fear of hell the questioning of attaining heaven simply melts away as one places all ones trust in God: ie. Faith.

There is a way of conceiving Christianity that is current today that speaks a great deal about receiving blessings from God, and destiny, and the possibility of missing our destiny or blocking God's blessings. It creates a great deal of anxiety among many Christians who fall into this language and conception of the Christian faith. If you have things going a little or a lot wrong you wring your hands wondering if there is something in your life that is keeping God from blessing you, or preventing you from receiving your destiny. There is perhaps a way of looking at this that may be correct. If one is not living in loving communion with God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, one may not be able to see what God is doing in your life and thus unable to take up what is right in front of you. However, loving God does not ensure a smooth life, it does not mean one wont be unemployed, or never ill even if one is perfectly within the love and will of God. The life of faith is not magic God is not manipulated by our actions and our actions do not guarantee that God will do certain things.

Brother Lawrence shows us that part of loving God is letting go of our destinies and focusing on what God will do for us. When we do this Lawrence reminds us we find ourselves in the embrace of a God who loves us. We find this when we find our motivation for prayer or avoidance of sin etc., not in attempting to get things out of God but in simply our love for God, which Scripture tells us we have because God first loved us.

1 comment:

Tessa said...

Thanks for writing this.