R. H. Boll on "What We Owe the Government"

The following is taken from Word and Work, Volume 10, Issue 7, July 1917 and is entitled, "What We Owe the Government" by R. H. Boll...

"There is one thing," remarked a friend, "that I cannot get over; and that is that we should live in a country and get the benefits of its government and enjoy its protection, and then refuse to fight for it in the time of need." In answer to which it is sufficient to say that our obligations to a benefactor cannot go so far as disobedience to the God who is the one great Benefactor, Law-giver, and Judge, to whom we belong, whose rights over us are first and absolute. We owe the government respect, honor, obedience, customs, taxes. We render to every man his due; to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, to God the things that are God's. But God's claims have the right of way always. It would be of interest to know on the other hand, how much the world's governments owe to the children of God. Was not Sodom destroyed because there were not ten righteous men in it?

What is your reaction to Boll's comments here?

Thomas à Kempis on The Imitation of Christ...

'He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness,' says Our Lord.

In these words Christ counsels us to follow His life and way if we desire true enlightenment and freedom from all blindness of heart. Let the life of Jesus Christ, then, be our first consideration.

The teaching of Jesus far transcends all the teachings of the Saints, and whosoever has His spirit will discover concealed in it heavenly manna. But many people, although they often hear the Gospel, feel little desire to follow it, because they lack the spirit of Christ. Whoever desires to understand and take delight in the words of Christ must strive to conform his whole life to him.

Of what use is it to discourse learnedly on the Trinity, if you lack humility and therefore displease the Trinity? Lofty words do not make a man just or holy; but a good life makes him dear to God. I would far rather feel contrition than be able to define it. If you knew the whole Bible by heart, and all the teachings of the philosophers, how would this help you without the grace and love of God? 'Vanities of vanities, and all is vanity,' except to love God and serve him alone. And this is supreme wisdom -- to despise the world, and draw daily nearer the kingdom of heaven. 

It is vanity to solicit honours, or to raise oneself to high station. It is vanity to be a slave to bodily desires, and to crave for things which bring certain retribution. It is vanity to wish for long life, if you care little for a good life. It is vanity to give thought only to this present life, and to care nothing for the life to come. It is vanity to love things that so swiftly pass away, and not to hasten onwards to that place where everlasting joy abides.

Keep constantly in mind the saying, 'The eye is not satisfied with seeing, not the ear filled with hearing.' Strive to withdraw your heart from the love of visible things, and direct your affections to things invisible. For those who follow only their natural inclinations defile their conscience, and lose the grace of God.

Gustavo Gutiérrez on Theological Reflection...

Theological reflection--that is, the understanding of faith--arises spontaneously and inevitably in the believer, in all those who have accepted the gift of the Word of God. Theology is intrinsic to a life of faith seeking to be authentic and complete and is, therefore, essential to the common consideration of this faith in the ecclesial community. There is present in all believers--and more so in every Christian community--a rough outline of theology. There is present an effort to understand the faith, something like a pre-understanding of that faith which is manifested in life, action, and concrete attitude. It is on this foundation, and only because of it, that the edifice of theology--in the precise and technical sense of the term--can be erected. This foundation is not merely a jumping-off point, but the soil into which theological reflection stubbornly and permanently sinks its roots and from which it derives its strength.

-- Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation, pg. 3.

Luke Timothy Johnson on Sin, Suffering, and Scripture

This is from an essay in Johnson's book Living Gospel that I am reading for school. This is some heavy and important stuff that enables us to have some hard and crucial conversations about the nature of suffering. Consider what he says:

...It is nevertheless important that those of us sufficiently free from pain at the moment to think at all should think hard and well about suffering, for it falls into one of those fundamental categories which, when we get wrong, we also go wrong. And I think there is a lot of bad thinking in our world today about suffering, which actually adds to people's pain.

I have in mind primarily the contemporary heresy that more or less identifies suffering and evil. This is a dreadful error, first of all because it makes evil a cosmological rather then a moral category, with the unitended consequence that suffering is trivialized and evil is made banal. It also deprives suffering of any positive value. A reality that is actually deeply ambiguous and polyvalent is reduced to something simply negative and is thereby distorted. ...

The easy equation between suffering and evil results in part, I think, from a failure adequately to formulate what we actually mean by suffering. ... Let us think of suffering as the pain of a system in disequillibrium. ...To feel pain, then, requires life. But to be alive means also always to be in disequillibrium, for change is the single constant of mortal life. Therefore all living things suffer as a consequence of existence. ...

...When pain is inflicted on another in order to make the organism sick or damaged, or in order to bruise another's heart, or in order to confuse another's mind, then it is legitimate and even necessary to speak of evil. To cause needless suffering is to do evil. But the evil resides in the intent to do harm, not in the suffering itself, which is a natural function of all living beings.

It is critical to observe, however, that systems also fall into disequillibrium -- and therefore experience pain -- from positive causes. Bodies that grow in size experience pain -- ask gangly adolescents and bodybuilders -- and bodies that give birth experience enormous pain. The cost of physical life itself is suffering. Likewise, a soul that grows in compassion does so through pain. And all learning involves pain, a truth so obvious the ancient Greeks coined the motto, mathein pathein, 'to learn is to suffer'; a contemporary rendering is the one used by athletes, 'no pain, no gain'.

...It is our contemporary culture's tragedy to have lost any sense of suffering as a positive dimension of human existence. ... We consider the equation between evil and suffering so self-evident that we make avoiding suffering the equal of fighting evil. ...

...It is important to note that the New Testament's perspective on suffering -- and therefore also our perspective -- is not shaped by an infusion of a new philosophy, but by a new experience of God in Jesus Christ that enabled human thought to reach a point it had not before. Three aspects of this deserve emphasis. First, we see in Jesus' ministry and, above all, in his death and resurrection, a mode of suffering that is life-giving. Second, in Jesus and the sending of the Holy Spirit we see the self-revelation of God's own inner life. Third, what we have learned of God in Jesus enables us to think about human suffering in terms of creation rather than simply in terms of destruction.

...He [Jesus] not only experiences what all other humans experience of pain and loss and grief, he reaches out to the pain of others and participates in it.

...We seek to live even as God has shown us God's own life in Christ. We therefore do not avoid suffering as evil, we do narcotize ourselves against pain, we do not seek to hold our lives securely as a system in perfect balance. Rather, we recognize that stress and suffering are not only intrinsic to all life, they are entries into the deepest mysteries of life itself. In the name and in the power of Jesus, we therefore embrace the suffering that comes to us as the opportunity for transfiguration, as the path towards transformation into that self-emptying giving and being fillied again ever more richly that is God's own life.

What do you think? Is it dangerous or even wrong to equate evil and suffering? Is Johnson onto something important here? How might our day-to-day lives and our understanding of God's work in our lives be different if we understood suffering in this way?

Certainly some important things to consider.

A Prayer of Thomas Aquinas

Thanks to my brother Jonathan Hanegan for bringing this great prayer from Aquinas to mind.

O Lord my God,

help me to be obedient without reserve,

poor without servility,

chaste without compromise,

humble without pretense,

joyful without depravity,

serious without affectation,

active without frivolty,

submissive without bitterness,

truthful without duplicity,

fruitful in good works without presumption,

quick to revive my neighbor without haughtiness,

and quick to edify others by word and example without simulation.


Grant me, O Lord, an ever-watchful heart that no alien thought can lure away from You;

a noble heart that no base love can sully;

an upright heart that no perverse intention can lead astray;

an invincible heart that no distress can overcome;

an unfettered heart that no impetuous desires can enchain.


O Lord my God, also bestow upon me understanding to know You,

zeal to seek You,

wisdom to find You,

a life that is pleasing to You,

unshakable perseverance,

and a hope that will one day take hold of You.

May I do penance here below and patiently bear your chastisements.


May I also receive the benefits of your grace,

in order to taste your heavenly joys and contemplate your glory.


Cultivating a Spirit of Mindfulness

I have had the privelege of spending the day not only with my new friends and partners in the Kingdom at Rochester College in the Missional Leadership Cohort, but we have been blessed by spending the day with Randy Harris talking about the the spirituality of missional leaders. Randy showed us the following video. Watch it and then I will share the message he gave us so clearly and powerful today.


We primarily see what we are looking for or what our attention is drawn toward.

Randy said...

“Spirituality is primarily a way of seeing. Spiritual people are those who have trained their eyes and their ears to be attentive to the presence of God. If we do not train ourselves that way then God becomes a too cute invisible gorilla.”

He went on to share that the practices themselves carry little value on their own. But their value can be ascertained only in the context that these practices put us in the posture by which we become aware of the invisible gorilla. 


The Covenant Prayer of John Wesley

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.

Alan Roxburgh on Change versus Transition

...change is what happens to us from forces outside ourselves over which we have no control. Most of us deal fairly well with continuous change, which is ongoing, gradual, and expected. ... But discontinuous change is much more disturbing and difficult. Unlike the continuous form, it creates a situation that requires something different from and more potent than the normal habits and skills that were so useful during a stable period of continuous change. ... Besides continuous and discontinuous change, there is also transition, which is our inner response to change coming from outside ourselves. This inner response can be powerful. ... In a congregation stuggling with discontinuous change, it isn't the changes that will defeat the leader but the transitions. As the congregation enters the crisis and confusion of discontinuous change, the reflexive response of leaders is to come up with a change plan to fix the crisis and return the organization to its normal experience of effectiveness and success. The problem with this response is that the plans focus on change; they ignore transition. Unless an organization learns to address its transition issues, it will never create an effective change process.(pgs. 57-58)

N. T. Wright on the Point of the Resurrection in Luke

"The resurrection isn't just a surprise happy ending for one person, it is instead the turning point for everything else. It is the point at which all the old promises come true at last: the promises of David's unshakable kingdom; the promises of Israel's return from the greatest exile of them all; and behind that again, quite explicit in Matthew, Luke, and John, the promise that all nations will be blessed through the seed of Abraham. ... But if Jesus has been raised, then this is how the Old Testament has to be read: as a story of suffering and vindication, of exile and restoration, a narrative that reaches its climax not in Israel becoming a top nation and beating the rest of the world at its own game but in the suffering and vindication, the exile and restoration, of the Messiah -- not for himself alone but because he is carrying the saving promises of God. ... If Jesus is raised, Luke is saying, he really was and is the Messiah; but if he's the Messiah, he is God's messenger, God's promise-bearer, carrying the promises made to Abraham, Moses, David and the prophets -- promises not only for Israel but also for the whole world. ... For Luke, the point of the resurrection is that the long story of Israel, the great overarching Scriptural narrative, has reached its goal and climax and must now give birth, as it always intended, to the worldwide mission in which the nations are summoned to turn form their idolatry and find forgiveness of sins." (Surprised By Hope, 236-238.)


The Translators of the King James Bible on Change

Look at this quote from the preface of the original 1611 King James:

For was anything ever undertaken with a touch of newness or improvement about it that didn’t run into storms of argument or opposition? … [The king] was well aware that whoever attempts anything for the public, especially if it has to do with religion or with making the word of God accessible and understandable, sets himself up to be frowned upon by every evil eye, and casts himself headlong on a row of pikes, to be stabbed by every sharp tongue. For meddling in any way with a people’s religion is meddling with their customs, with their inalienable rights. And although they may be dissatisfied with what they have, they cannot bear to have it altered.

Isn’t this so true?