The Secular Call of Jesus

Conversion is, then, a response to God. Who invites us to a state of complete freedom, away from everything that is hostile to His goodness and mercy. The call one hears is not primarily or simply an encouragement to amend one's life or to follow a particular religious path. The call Jesus extended to his disciples, for example, was not religious--it was resoundingly secular. It was a summons to acknowledge God's unconditional love of us as individuals; and it was an invitation to proclaim that love to the world by acts of caring, forgiveness and compassion for others, by refusing to demand one's prerogatives at the expense of others and by refusing vengeance and reprisal. The New Testament summarizes the entire ministry and message of Jesus in one calm phrase that is deeply moving in its secular simplicity: "He went about doing good."

--Donald Spoto, from his biography Reluctant Saint: The Life of Francis of Assisi

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12 thoughts on “The Secular Call of Jesus”

  1. A minister told a group that my daughter was in that if they didn't remember their conversion experience, day, hour, etc, then they probably weren't saved. She's 22. She was worried that she couldn't remember exactly the experience and what that might possibly mean. My response was that salvation was  "to acknowledge God's unconditional love of us as individuals." That everyone was loved by God but not everyone knew it. I think I'll send this to her. She needs to know that her old dad might not be so crazy after all.

    Thanks again for the timeliness of your posts.

  2. I heard a speaker (the awesome Becca Stevens of Thistle Farms--look it up if you aren't familiar with this ministry) who said something like this regarding the notion of "evangelism", "Jesus told us to love the world--he didn't say to expect the world to love us back".  

    On another note the notion of requiring a personal salvation experience can be so incredibly toxic....I never felt this and struggled for years.  I felt my "believers baptism" at 13 was fraudulent because I didn't feel any different.  Of course I was raised in a very faithful home and looking back it is sort of cruel to expect that of a child (or anyone).  When I got to college I read Horace Bushnell and William James and many things made sense to me.  

  3. This reminds me of the post that first drew me into your blog, Richard, on Bonhoeffer's letters from prison.  We discover God not in withdrawal from the world, but in going out to serve and to learn from the "neighbour who is within reach".  Or as MacDonald puts it, "it is not by fleeing our brother that we come close to God".

  4. Just another reason not to trust ministers and give them authority over us -- they have no clue what they're talking about.

  5. This brings to my mind a quote by S. Mark Heim in
    Saved From Sacrifice, regarding the [atheist] critique of the
    Gospels as condoning ritual human sacrifice:  We would not accuse the Gospels of victimization if we had not
    already been converted by them.

  6.  Some ministers and priests ... not all of us would give such abusive advice. Just sayin'.

  7. Thanks for your post.  I just finished reading your series on Bonhoeffer's letters from prison, and this is reminiscent of those reflections. I'm glad to be reminded, yet again in your blog, that we look to Jesus for a model of compassion, wisdom, love and grace. 

    Merry Christmas to you.

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