Ever hug a principle?


Have you ever danced with a lady named Grace?
When’s the last time you took Faith out for a walk?
Has the lovely odor of Hope wafted through air around you recently?
Do you have to look for Love—or is she there all the time?
How do you feel about that person named “You?”
Have you ever hugged or embraced a principle?
Do you even know where to find yours?
What’s your take on the fellow named “Jesus?”
I’ve heard that some people see God in the details—some find the devil in the same place.

God is a lot bigger than simply the details. I see God in the eyes of my grandchildren—wide open, searching, flashing, immediate, loving, longing, warm, hurt, happy, full of promise and anticipation.

I conceptualize God as the great connecter. He holds things together—keeps thing in balance. He provides coherence in life—he’s both the glue and the lubricant. And if we seek him with all our hearts, we discover him as we gain insight and understanding into the meaning of life.

If we ask him, he nurtures within us a new direction—a worldview of love and peace.

He gave us Jesus and the freedom either to ignore or to choose to identify him as Messiah—the Christ. As God, Jesus taught us critical principles of human relationships that often run contrary to our natural inclinations. He avoided announcing rules. Instead, he gave us principles.

Principles are fundamental tenets from which individuals develop their own rules of human conduct. They’re mountains to climb—destinations to reach—something to strive for. Principles require an interpretation, and when we embrace—or hug one of God’s principles of human interaction—we hug him.

Picture with me the pre-dawn darkness of a quiet springtime Sunday. You are there in that upper room with his followers. You sit huddled on the floor, hugging your knees, hunched against a wall, feeling the ache of depression, hearing the sobs, the coughs, the moans, of those around you. Exhaustion salts your grief. A palpable odor of fear spreads around you. You grieve the death of Jesus on whom you had pinned all your hopes, all your dreams and expectations. It is the loss of a friend—a leader—a teacher—the loss of a future—of an identity. They have vanished into nothing. Your status has changed overnight from celebrity to fugitive.

The door opens—you glance toward it as one among you quickly ushers two women out. You notice the dawn breaking as a shaft of light enters the room and is extinguished as the door slams shut.

You look around in that brief moment and find a dozen or so separate individuals—no longer a group—no longer a team—now each alone, isolated in personal thoughts and feelings.

The weariness overwhelms you. You slump down and, finally surrender to sleep.

Your dream takes shape slowly.

You feel the cool wind and the warm sun of the upper Galilee. You look over at the face of the Master—looking south—steadfast to Jerusalem. In your dream you hear his words—explaining that he must undergo an ordeal of suffering—be tried and found guilty by both political and religious leaders—that he must die to rise again.

You remember then that he taught those around him throughout his entire ministry, but that it had become more direct, more desperate during the recent journey—from Bethsaida to Jerusalem—teaching, teaching, teaching—he seemed to know his fate and wanted to prepare us to continue his ministry on earth.

The memory traces of your mind reveal his lessons during his very short three-year ministry. This is revolutionary, you mutter to yourself as Jesus taught new principles of human relationships—not rules, for there was nothing legalistic about his message.

He taught in many ways. His modeling for others was always consistent. Often, he spoke paradoxically in his parables. You recall a hillside by the Sea of Galilee where he fed 5,000 with one boy’s lunch. He started his sermon with a blueprint for character development and a description of what it takes to feel blessed. Other lessons flood your mind—new ideas about ethical behavior and teaching much different from the Jewish legalistic tradition in which you had been raised. Some of his principles taught on that hillside by the sea startled you.

He said:

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourself a proud owner of everything that can’t be bought.
You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

Here’s Jesus on ethical behavior:

Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?

Here’s another way to put it. You’re here to be a light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this—as public as a city on a hill. Now…shine.

Be especially careful when you’re trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.

And then you were shocked when you heard…

You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, “Do not murder.” I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. The simple moral fact is that words kill.

You know the next commandment pretty well, too: “Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’”But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body.

Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose. Don’t hit back at all. If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. You’re familiar with the old written law, “Love your friend,” and its unwritten companion, “Hate your enemy.” I’m challenging that, telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. (Selected verses from The Message)

He summarized the Ten Commandments with two principles—Love God with your complete heart, soul and mind—and love your neighbor as yourself. He changed the way mankind relates to God. He showed us Grace—undeserved love —and he brought us salvation—a way to gain forgiveness as he becomes our advocate with God. He was faithful to his calling. His ideas and his popularity, however, threatened anyone in authority, and they crucified him.

Suddenly, the door of the room in which you slept was flung open. You are startled and awake. The woman is shouting about the stone being rolled away—about the tomb being empty. You forget your fear and rush toward an empty tomb in pursuit of those in front of you, and when you arrive you find it is true, and now you sense his presence close by.

Christianity started from this point…

Grace entered the human lexicon on this day and became available to us through a simple act of faith. Christ has conquered death.

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