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Romans 12:1-21 & the love story of
Francis & Clare of Assisi
Francis had a different way of understanding the character of God, and what that vision necessitated for personal daily life, ethics and commitment. One of the interesting parts of his life is the life-long relationship he had with Chiara (or Clare) Scifi, who became known as St. Clare of Assisi (1194-1253). At 18 on Palm Sunday she left her aristocratic home to join the group around Francis. She started a new order, for women the Poor Ladies at San Damiano and became one of the most influential women in Medieval Europe. Theirs is a love story, not of a romance between the two of them, but of an enduring love they shared for Christ. It points to the transformed way in which Francis – through his faith – viewed the God, the world, others, and himself.
There are three principal ways to view or understand the character of God, of what reality – what we might call “isness” is like:
1) God as Indifferent: basically uninvolved with us in any purposive or interactive way. Reality – “isness” – simply is. “What is” is indifferent to humans needs and ends.
2) God as Punitive and Threatening: though Christian language regularly speaks of God as loving, many Christians see God’s character very differently. God is seen as the source and enforcer of requirements, whether of belief or behavior of both. God – or at least the wrath of God – is much to be feared. Even though God loves us, God is also punitive. God is the rejected lawgiver, disappointed parent, angry king, jilted lover, who will punish those who don’t “get it right.”
3) God as Gracious, Loving and Compassionate: God – “what is” – is life-giving and life-affirming, willing our transformation and the transformation of the world and involved in those transformations. The word Gracious (coming from grace) emphasizes that life, our life, is a gift. Loving and compassionate mean that God wills our well-being and the well-being of all creation. Our lives with God are less about measuring up to God’s requirements for salvation, than about a deepening relationship with God, who has been in relationship with us from our beginning, whether we know that, believe that, or not. This life is not fear based, but, the Christian life is about trusting ever more deeply in God – even in unrecognizing that bad things will happen.
(taken from Marcus J. Borg, Speaking Christian. pp.75-81.)
Questions for Reflection:
*What word, phrase or image strikes you in Romans 12?
*How do you picture God?; address God? How does is that translated – or is it? – into the way you live your life?
*How do you long to be transformed by the Spirit of God?