A Simple Theology
I love to write in coffee shops—the laid-back atmosphere, people meeting other people, most of the time happily.
I also happen to be a fan of coffee. I’m not sure who first discovered it, and I refuse to Google it. Some things are better left to the imagination. If I Google it, then my theory regarding the coffee bean and how it was originally considered to have magical powers would have to be abandoned.
And then I couldn’t say, “I’m drinking magic bean juice,” which I say sometimes.
We may have never met, but you know me. I’m the guy in the corner of Starbucks with the oversized noise-canceling headphones, the MacBook—because all good writers use Macs—and The North Face laptop bag (a gift from a friend way cooler than me). On the best days, the music becomes my momentum and God’s presence my catalyst. On the worst days, the magic bean juice does the trick.
I love getting to know the baristas and the other regulars that frequent the shop. Over time you develop friendships. Some of my closest friends started out as coffee shop friends. Recently, I got talking with a regular. Through previous conversations, I’ve pieced a bit of his life together.
He is a tough fella, in his sixties. He had grown up as a rancher in the Midwest. He had been a minister “in a past life.” He had lost his wife and had a few grown kids scattered across the U.S. He loved God, but best I could tell, somewhere along his journey some of God’s people had hurt him. He didn’t have much use for the church anymore. He could find passion when he talked about church, but it was usually when he was pointing out its hypocrisies and failures.
This fella reads a lot of history, but theology is his favorite—any theology, any religion. He sits for hours in the coffee shop reading some old book, always thicker than the last, and never any titles I know. But once he found out I was a “Christian writer,” his new favorite hobby was to challenge me with sweeping questions about theology. He loves to talk about Scripture. Every nuance is intriguing, every word is a question, and every mystery is waiting to be discussed, if not
I’m not, by the way, a “Christian writer.” I’m just a guy who writes about Love. I am not much of a theologian either, or at least I’m not a proper theologian. You know, the kind of person that loves theology religiously. Come to think of it, I’m not very religious at all. In fact, I can’t stand most things about religion.
I do have a core theology though. It’s quite simple: God is love and He is always good. It’s my position on everything. And I’m not much into debating it. I’d rather show than tell.
“How’s your day going?” my sixtyish coffee shop friend asked me.
Before I had fully removed my headphones, he had launched into the book he was currently reading. I can’t remember what it was called. The Veils was still playing when he gave the title. I paused my iTunes.
He started quoting Scriptures faster than I could Google them and pointing out the hypocrisies of certain Christian leaders, most of whom I had never heard.
“He’s fired up!” I thought.
I once heard a hero friend of mine, Bill Johnson, say that he believes “Jesus is perfect theology.” I like that…a lot. So I don’t want you to misunderstand me when I say I’m not a proper theologian, it’s just that I’m only interested in the theology Bill described.
So while this guy hurtled Scriptures, I tried to keep up. But it soon became apparent that I couldn’t play ball with this fella. As I listened to him, I began to pray in my heart, “Father, how do You see this man? What are You saying right now?” Immediately, I felt God’s presence— His love. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with love for the guy who was mid-sermon.
The question I’d asked God was so beautifully answered by His presence that I abruptly interrupted him to ask the same question, “What is God saying to you right now?”
He paused for a moment. This question seemed out of place. Ironic? Yeah, a little.
“I’m sorry?” he asked.
“What is God saying right at this moment, to you?” I asked again. I wasn’t being difficult or clever. We weren’t in competition for significance, I wasn’t trying to win an argument, and I don’t need to be right. I know that seems like an odd statement from a man who writes books, but it’s a freedom I’ve been growing in for years. Don’t get me wrong, I like to be right, I just don’t need to be.
When the Holy Spirit answered my question, I felt I had the answer to the question that’s ached inside the heart of my coffee shop friend for years.
He finally got his head around the question and began to reference the Scripture and the leader he’d just finished raking over the coals, but I interrupted him to ask again, “What is He saying to you right now, in this instant?”
He seemed distressed by the question.
It’s not really a distressing question unless you aren’t sure of the answer.
I continued, “God just told me He is madly in love with you. He particularly loves your mind and He is also immensely proud of you— especially regarding how you raised your kids.”
It was that simple, it was that beautiful. Love always is.
For a moment my rugged sixty-something coffee shop friend looked like he had just been speared to the heart, then there were tears. He smiled, his eyes alive in a way I had not seen before. He caught his breath, then again. I could see he was trying to maintain the appearance of control. Then shakily he whispered, “Thank you.”
It’s amazing how even the smallest glimpse of our Father’s love, the slightest brush with His presence, can transform. The moment I shared that short but sweet message from our heavenly Father, our conversation radically shifted. I got to tell him about my theology, which I’ve mentioned but let me repeat it: God is love. His love is always good. And we exist to become sure of that love.
We had a beautiful time of fellowship as we discussed in Spirit and Truth the nature of God’s always-good love…
Jason Clark is a writer, speaker and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children.
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For a long time, I felt ostracized and insecure when labeled a heretic. Then one day I found encouragement after revisiting the definition of heresy. Simply put, the definition is, “an opinion that is profoundly at odds with what is generally accepted.” I felt that if everybody is saying the same thing then somebody is not thinking. Back then and now, my heart cry to the church I was a part of was, “Let my people think.”
Randall Worley talks about having a “beginner’s mind,” faith while embracing mystery, pioneering and the nature of heresy, the limits of language, approaching scripture through love, and the importance of remaining curious while understanding that God is not insecure or defensive when we raise hard questions.