Miroslav Volf Quotes
The apostle Paul ascribed to God actions and attitudes that stand in sharp contrast with how such a doting grandparent behaves. He spoke rather freely of God’s “judgment”, “condemnation”, even of God’s “wrath” (see Romans 1:18-3:20). Setting aside the litany of things that the Apostle believed merit God’s condemnation, let’s focus on the fact of it. In particular, let’s examine the appropriateness of God’s wrath, the strongest form of God’s censure….
I used to think that wrath was unworthy of God. Isn’t God love? Shouldn’t divine love be beyond wrath? God is love, and God loves every person and every creature. That’s exactly why God is wrathful against some of them. My last resistance to the idea of God’s wrath was a casualty of the war in former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced. My villages and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry. Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century, where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days! How did God react to the carnage? By doting on the perpetrators in a grandparently fashion? By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators basic goodness? Wasn’t God fiercely angry with them? Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.
Once we accept the appropriateness of God’s wrath, condemnation, and judgment, there is no way of keeping it out there, reserved for others. We have to bring it home as well. I originally resisted the notion of a wrathful God because I dreaded being that wrath’s target; I still do. I knew I couldn’t just direct God’s wrath against others, as if it were a weapon I could aim at targets I particularly detested. It’s God’s wrath, not mine, the wrath of the one and impartial God, lover of all humanity. If I want it to fall on evildoers, I must let it fall on myself – when I deserve it.
Also, once we affirm that God’s condemnation of wrongdoing is appropriate, we cannot reserve God’s condemnation for heinous crimes. Where would the line be drawn? On what grounds could it be drawn? Everything that deserves to be condemned should be condemned in proportion to its weight as an offense – from a single slight to a murder, from indolence to idolatry, from lust to rape. To condemn heinous offenses but not light ones would be manifestly unfair. An offense is an offense and deserves condemnation…
- Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace pp. 138-139
One could object that it is not worthy of God to wield the sword. Is God not love, long-suffering and all-powerful love? A counter-question could go something like this: Is it not a bit too arrogant to presume that our contemporary sensibilities about what is compatible with God’s love are so much healthier than those of the people of God throughout the whole history of Judaism and Christianity? Recalling my arguments about the self-immunization of the evildoers, one could further argue that in a world of violence it would not be worthy of God not to wield the sword; if God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make the final end to violence God would not be worthy of our worship. Here, however, I am less interested in arguing that God’s violence is not unworthy of God than in showing that it is beneficial to us. Atlan has rightly drawn our attention to the fact that in a world of violence we are faced with an inescapable alternative: either God’s violence or human violence. Most people who insist on God’s “nonviolence” cannot resist using violence themselves (or tacitly sanctioning its use by others). They deem the talk of God’s judgment irreverent, but think nothing of entrusting judgment into human hands, persuaded presumably that this is less dangerous and more humane than to believe in a God who judges! That we should bring “down the powerful from their thrones” (Luke 1:51-52) seems responsible; that God should do the same, as the song of that revolutionary Virgin explicitly states, seems crude. And so violence thrives, secretly nourished by belief in a God who refuses to wield the sword.
My thesis that the practice of nonviolence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many Christians, especially theologians in the West. To the person who is inclined to dismiss it, I suggest imagining that you are delivering a lecture in a war zone (which is where a paper that underlies this chapter was originally delivered). Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit. The topic of the lecture: a Christian attitude toward violence. The thesis: we should not retaliate since God is perfect noncoercive love. Soon you would discover that it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence corresponds to God’s refusal to judge. In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die. And as one watches it die, one will do well to reflect about many other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.
Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf pgs. 303-304
Position for Mission This Halloween
Halloween is the one day of the year when neighbors are outside of their homes and engaging in something together. There is not another day when we see so many faces and family in our immediate sphere of influence. How can we take advantage of this day to position for mission in our neighborhoods?
Here are some practical ideas to help us engage our neighbors:
- Host a costume party with your small group and invite your friends and neighbors. This is a great way to practice gospel hospitality. This would serve as a non-threatening environment and an opportunity to remove unhealthy barriers for the purpose of connecting with those that you might not know very well, or even at all. This also invites your small group to be participants, together, in serving as one body.
- Have dinner in the front lawn with neighbors as you give candy to trick-or- treaters. This is something anyone can do, whether you have kids at home or not. What a creative way to meet people. You could bring your grill to the driveway and cook hot dogs and hamburgers. A bunch of appetizers would be easy, and even something as simple as hot chocolate, warm cider, and/or cupcakes would make folks want to stop. Meanwhile, as families come by, you could have candy available to give. You could even have some fun, quick activities in the front yard for the kids to play as they stop by your house: pinatas, bean bag toss, and ladder ball are all great options. Whether you go big or small with you ideas, pursue to meet and engage new people.
- Take your kids trick-or-treating with your neighbors. For families, you could invite your neighbors to join your family in the search for mass quantities of sugar! Invite everyone over afterwards to enjoy holiday beverages while surveying the loot. Make friends and open doors that will allow you to discern where God is working.
Upholding Marriage: A Response to the SCOTUS Ruling on Marriage (originally posted on LCMS.org)
Upholding Marriage: God’s Plan and Gift
A statement by the Rev. Bart Day,
Office of National Mission
Updated: Wed. June 26, 2013, 12:08 PM
Today the Supreme Court issued its ruling, striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), allowing for federal benefits for legally married gay couples and potentially allowing for gay marriage in all of California with regard to Proposition 8. Though the ruling is not a surprise, we are saddened for our nation, even as we call our fellow Christians to faithfulness and prayer.
As Christians, we believe and confess that God Himself instituted marriage as the life-long union of one man and one woman. Same-sex unions are contrary to God’s will, and gay marriage is, in the eyes of God, no marriage at all. As Christians, we proclaim this truth, no matter what the courts or legislatures may say. We are called not to popularity but to truth. Therefore, we call on our fellow Christians to be faithful first to God’s Word, knowing that another court is ultimately supreme.
Marriage is a fundamental building block of society, binding parents to their offspring. Every child benefits from the nurture of a mother and the leadership of a father. While having one mother is a blessing, having two mothers or two fathers is confusing for the child and detrimental to her well-being. The divorce culture has done great harm to the institution of marriage as well, and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has and will continue to respond to that heartache with Christ’s comfort while simultaneously working to restore a culture where marriage is upheld.
While this occasion reminds us that Scripture calls homosexuality sinful (see Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:24–27), the Bible also says plainly that those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” that is to say, those who repent and show genuine sorrow over their sin, are forgiven and loved by Christ.
And so as Christ’s Church, we forgive and love too, following His lead with compassion and humility. We forgive and love because we are all sinners in need of His grace and mercy; because no matter the sin, we have all rebelled against our Creator and fallen prey to unbelief; because He has justified us by grace through faith, freely given and joyfully received (Rom. 3:23–24); because Christ has reconciled us to the Father; because He has declared us righteous and we are.
Please consider sharing this email with your congregation, family and friends, reminding them that the LCMS will continue to teach marriage according to God’s plan and gift. We will continue to proclaim marriage as a picture of Christ’s love for His bride, the church. And we will continue to be a place of forgiveness, mercy and healing for all people, even as we will continue to proclaim God’s truth in love. As we move forward, we offer up our prayers for the nation and particularly for marriage, family and children.
Rev. Bart Day, executive director
LCMS Office of National MissionClick here to download a marriage toolkit
, including a Bible study, FAQs and worship resources, including prayers, related to marriage.
How does God fit into your vacation?
How does God fit into your vacation? Summer is a great time to get away and relax. However, it can also be a great time to refocus on God. After speaking with a couple of our elders, I learned about some great practices that some families had in terms of making their family camping trips a time of spiritual growth for the family and those they brought with them.
One family had access to a projector and brought along a video series from a famous Christian athlete. In the midst of all the other camping activities, there were a a few times they paused what they were doing, gathered everyone around, watched the video and discussed how it applied to their lives. To the surprise of this elder, the kids mentioned these videos and discussions as a highlight of the trip.
Another gentleman mentioned the family tradition of bringing a book and reading it to the family around the campfire. Even as his children have grown older they still look forward to this evening tradition. Perhaps you could read some Scriptures like Psalm 8 that declare the glory of the one who made the heavens as you look up at the night sky.
I've found a couple other resources that might be helpful to you in leading a family devotion on vacation or maybe even while you are at home.
Camping ideas at Children's Ministry Magazine
Creation Safari's list of Scripture about CreationFive devotions
based on the book Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris
The 10 Commandments
from Luther's Small Catechism
The Apostles' Creed
from Luther's Small Catechism
The Lord's Prayer
from Luther's Small Catechism
Patterns and Practices of Disciple Making
Verge13 Session 2
How then should we live? Founders and leaders of several organizations share how they make disciples who make disciples. Their practices are simple, transferable, and reproducible offering many voices and diverse tools and resources for those who want to be on God's mission.
The common thread is that discipleship and life transformation happen in the normal rhythms of life through authentic and natural relationships as we invest ourselves in the people already around us every day.
Consider how God has placed you in position to be intentional about reaching the lost. These are some ways to prepare to have Jesus conversations:
- Care about the people in your work environment. Work yourself into the fiber of your community.
- Don't get caught up with the people who don't want to hear the Gospel. God has placed "persons of peace" in you life who are hungry for the truth you have to offer. Find them and bring it!
- The good news we proclaim is the Kingdom of God. Demonstrate that Christ reigns in you and you will be asked by pre-Christians around you to proclaim the gospel. What does this look like? Jesus was a friend of sinners, he healed on the Sabbath, honored the outcast, fed the hungry. Do what Jesus did.
- Change from gathering for the sake of those who already know Christ to gathering for the sake of those who do not. Meet weekly with co-workers for Happy Hour, invite other moms for play dates, go where the lost go. When you do meet, don't meet to discuss books and ask questions ABOUT life. Meet for life transformation and DO life together.
- Practice hospitality. Practice hospitality. Practice hospitality. And when you run out of ideas about how to be a blessing to those God has placed in your life, practice hospitality again!
- Value fruitfulness over success. Better to plant one seed at a time and eventually grow a forest that remains than to sow to the wind and grow nothing that takes root.
- Focus on building disciples rather than churches. Disciples on mission create communities.
- Foster obedience.
No one's life is so jam packed that they can't be on mission. Mission happens naturally. We disciple effectively when we realize it is not an extra task. If you want to explore specific tools developed to help you transform your normal life to a missional life, check out vergenetwork.org and click on networks.
What is God saying to you?
What are you going to do about it?
Who are you going to share it with?
Disciple Making - There is No Plan B
Verge 13, Session 1
In Matthew 4, we see Jesus calling his first disciples. The conference speaker, whose name is not listed in the program (how refreshing), sums up what disciples look like today. According to one recent poll:
- Four out of every five Americans identify themselves as Christians
- Less than half go to church regularly
- Less than half believe the Bible is the Word of God
- . . . The list goes on and on
Amongst Americans who consider themselves to be more enlightened Jesus followers, most believe:
- Good people go to heaven
- Muslims worship the same God as Christians
- . . . And lots more shockingly, unbiblical worldviews
In the words of Martin Luther, "What does this mean?" It means that statistics demonstrate there are lots of folks out there identifying themselves as followers of Christ who are not disciples in a biblical sense. But that is the law. Where is the gospel? The gospel was the best part of his message. It is in Matthew 1-3.
In Matthew 1-3, our speaker highlights at least twenty pictures of who Jesus actually is, His majesty and glory, and it is nothing less than awesome:
- Chapter 1: Messiah, King, Chosen One, Incarnation, Two Natures, Fully God, Fully Man, Savior of the World, Most Important Figure in All of History
- Chapter 2: Object of Worship, Sought by the Wise, Feared by Kings, Protected by Angels, Leader of a Second Exodus out of Exile, Spoken of by the Prophets
- Chapter 3: The Coming King, Righteous Judge, Loved and Sent by God the Father from the Foundation of the World
Roughly paraphrased, when Jesus calls his first disciples in Chapter 4, "He is not a poor, puny savior begging to be accepted. He is the promised Messiah. A Savior full of power and glory, worthy of total abandonment and complete submission." When Jesus says, "Follow me," everything in these men's lives would be changed because of their encounter with THIS Jesus.
In contrast, what does it look like to be a disciple of THIS Jesus?
- To live with radical abandonment for His glory
- To live with joyful dependence on His grace
- To live with faithful adherence to His person
- To live with urgent obedience to His mission
None of this makes sense unless one knows who Jesus really is. Because we don't know Him, a casual association with Jesus without embracing the cost of discipleship is popular in America today. It's too risky to abandon comfort, career, possessions, and position for our begging, puny Jesus, and we don't really see the need. So we don't. But, the casual, cultural Christian lifestyle is even more risky. With abandonment to Jesus Christ comes the adoption as sons. We have been invited to follow Him.
What is God saying to you?
What are you going to do about it?
Who are you going to share it with?