Heretics are people who deviate from the norm. The word heretic comes from the Greek word haireses, meaning “to choose.” Heretics choose a path that differs from the norm. Jesus was a Jewish heretic, and Christianity began as a Jewish heresy.
There is a story in the Gospel of some teachers of orthodoxy who confronted Jesus, saying, “We understand your disciples are picking grain and that you are healing people on the Sabbath, our holy day of rest. Don’t you know that’s against the beliefs and rules of our religion?”
Jesus replied, “People are not made to serve the Sabbath; The Sabbath was made to serve people.”
This was heresy.
Intimacy with God
Religious orthodoxy is the inevitable result of thinking exclusively from the head. The heart is always a heretic which sees humanity as one, regardless of belief, doctrine, religion, class, or sexual orientation. Distinctions of “us-versus-them” dissolves when we see each other through the heart.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “the gods we worship write their names on our faces, and a man will worship something… Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we are worshipping, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.”
So, it matters whether we worship a God of distance or a God of intimacy. An intimate God is at once transcendent and imminent, beyond and within. We live in the Divine and the Divine lives in us.
The Divine offers us an inexplicable gift when we are open to life and get up close and personal. God confirms what the mystics tell us: that God desires an intimate relationship with each of us and that if we desire an intimate relationship with God, we will receive that gift.
From the first taste of our mother’s milk to our last breath, we are forever in search of an intimacy we can trust. This desire to open our innermost selves to others is deeply rooted. Our deepest need is to know others and to be known ourselves. The universal human quest is to find not only someone but someones with whom we can fully share our lives.
Our souls are hungry to be in the presence of those who will listen without judging. Our souls long to be able to open to those who will understand and accept us unconditionally. What we all want is someone who will listen to us and sit with us in silence. Innate in every human being is the desire to feel safe in the presence of another. As Parker Palmer puts it, “the soul is shy; the innermost self won’t come out unless conditions are safe.”
God is that safe place. God is all heart. He is the breath of our breath, the life of our life. God is nearer to us than our hands and feet. He knows our hearts. The psalmist wrote, “I sought God, and God answered me and delivered me from all my fears… O taste and see that God is good.”
God is the inexplicable beauty of life. It is a divine pleasure to feel close to everything that lives, moves and breathes. God is the mysterious vitality that fills us with that longing for belonging. The Divine energy within and among and beyond us is the source of all intimacies we share. The energy of intimacy is possible because the spirit of life lives in every one of us.
Every day we are looking for mercy. A family member needs support and reassurance. A friend hopes that we will listen without judging. The grocery store clerk hopes that when we ask her how she is, we really care about her answer.
Experiencing closeness to another, even for just a moment, makes an immeasurable difference. Every day we need others to treat us with kindness and compassion. Every day we need to treat others with kindness and compassion. To embrace intimacy not only changes the way we feel about others, but it also changes the way we feel about ourselves.
Showing God’s Heart in Sacrificial and Forgiving Action
The news of the day is full of horrible reports of people doing unspeakable things to others. The murder of young girls in an Amish school in Pennsylvania is one example. That someone would enter a school and kill young girls is incomprehensible. But in that terrible narrative there were other stories.
After Charles Roberts took over the one room school, he told the girls he held there that he intended to kill them all. When he announced his plan, 13-year-old Marian Fisher said, “Shoot me, and let the others go.” She offered to give up her life so that her classmates could live.
But all the children were killed.
Amish families have a tradition of trying to embrace those who have hurt them. Several of the bereaved parents went to visit Charles Roberts’ wife to do that. They also publicly announced that they forgave Charles Roberts. The God worshipped by Marian Fisher and those Amish parents was written on their faces.
The heart is a heretic because it seeks unity of spirit, not uniformity of thinking. To listen to the heart is an act of conscience; To be open to it is an act of courage. To take whole hearted action in our daily lives means we have the power to transform not only ourselves but also the world we live in. Inevitably, heretics are people who think through the heart.
Further discussion on this topic can be found at:
You are More than the World Perceives
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God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. (Acts 15:8)
No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. (Romans 2:29)
You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:3)
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God. (1 John 3:21)
A Voluptuous God, A Christian Heretic Speaks by Robert V. Thompson