I have often been asked, “Why do you believe in God?”, or “How can you believe in a God that allows for people to be abused?”. I have been asked this by friends and family members alike. These questions haunt me in the middle of the night, as I worry about the masses of people who see the abuses of humanity as being somehow a reflection upon God. Each time, I answer these questions differently. Last Sunday night, was a sleepless night for me. I sat there in bed watching the time just tick by, thinking. At about 5AM on Monday morning, my mind began to wander to these questions.
Why do I believe in God when there are so many horrible things happening in the world and yes sometimes even in churches? And I realized I believe and I have faith because despite all the hate in the world, I know that God loves me. I know that God is love and that God cannot be defined by the corruption, violence, and power plays of humanity. God helps those who believe to rise above all of that. He works in our lives in little ways and in our world in big ways. How have you seen God at work? We see him through the works of his creation that rise up in the face of all that is wrong in the world. God is love. This is why I believe and this why I hope others come to faith.
Human beings have been easily corruptible since the beginning of time. And religion has been battling corruption since before the time of Jesus. Jesus came and taught on the laws because of the ways in which religious leaders had bent, and molded those laws and scriptures to fit the message they wanted the people to hear. People were more apt to follow the rules of society instead of God’s rules of love. Jesus fought against the pain caused by clergy and those in power who cared more about themselves than truly serving God’s people.
It has been a problem within Christianity. This is the same corruption and elevation of human desires that sparked the Reformation that birthed Protestantism, forever fractioning Christianity. Today is a special day because today we recognize the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. We may not think about it too often. But they came into being because being Christian ceased to be about God’s love and had become about power, control, abuse, and the elite of society. In the 16th century, several things had been going on. First the mass, including the sermon, was conducted only in Latin and unless you were a part of the elite and highly educated you did not speak Latin. So a huge majority of the Christian population had no religious education or guidance. Even lower levels of clergy were uneducated in the tenets of the faith. Powerful religious positions were sold to the highest bidder.
Clergy were corrupt and often lead immoral lives. And indulgences were being sold. So when loved ones died the only way into heaven was if you had enough money to purchase your way in. With the invention of the printing press, these issues became widely published in the languages that people spoke, the vernacular. People were questioning the motives of the church; people were questioning the faith because of the widespread abuse of power and the loss of focus on what was truly important in Christianity. The Protestant Reformation is not the last time this happened. It happens every so often in the life of Christianity today.
This is the reminder that we are all human: clergy or not. No one single person is somehow closer to God than the next and as such we need reminding about the purpose of Christ’s ministry, Christ’s message for the world. Humanity has an amazing way of manipulating nearly everything in the search for control. But in so doing, humanity perverts the message and purpose behind Jesus Christ and his work in the world. Christianity was intended to be liberating, a place where all peoples can come together outside societal norms seeking only God and to learn how to live into God’s love more fully.
Today’s world needs to hear this message more clearly. God is love. Christ preached love. We are called to live love. The Dalai Lama says, “Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life”. Christ challenged the people he taught to really think about God. He challenged them to think about compassion, to think about what the love of God really looked like in the world around them. This is what religious leaders, like the Dalai Lama, are urging people to do today. This contemplation and then hopefully action is necessary if we are to rise above the explosion of violence in the world, the abuses seen in religion, governments, and society today.
So when we think about the love of God. What does that look like? How do we know when someone is living it? So go forth and live the love and remember the words of our Savior when he said, “ You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. God’s love is alive in all of creation. And this love is the story God calls us to write in the pages of history. This has always been God’s story for humanity. We just need to live it. It is up to us to decide to give it the importance it deserves in the ways we chose to live day to day. So love God, love yourselves, and love others.
 Dalai Lama, 21st century.
 Matthew 22: 37-39, RSV.
(based on Matthew 22: 34-46)