A Universal Responsibility
Redefining love is possible through all different kinds of faiths, and for those who maintain no faith in a higher power at all. I consider redefining love a responsibility that we all share in order to bring peace to these troubled times. This site is specifically designed to speak to everyone, regardless of their religious background, for this very reason.
When we redefine love, we love everyone, regardless of whether or not they share our beliefs. This is called grace. Grace allows us to view conflict not as a negative to be avoided, but as an opportunity to better understand the other person. Perhaps we have something to learn from them, or they from us.
Redefining love through faith (or not)
If you are a person of faith – any faith – then your religion probably has some sort of foundational beliefs about love and grace. I encourage you to spend time reflecting on your faith as you redefine love.
Maybe you are agnostic and believe there is some sort of mystical force behind all this, but you don’t subscribe to any specific religion. Or perhaps you are an atheist and believe that it all begins and ends right here, dust to dust. In either case, you probably have a core value system that you rely on to guide you through life.
In truth, we all have a core value system that is unique to ourselves. The notion that those who practice our same religion are just like us is a myth we comfort ourselves with when we want to belong to something bigger than ourselves. The same goes for atheists who believe they are part of some sort of Universal Atheist Club.
The truth is, until we can accept that we alone are responsible for our own values, we cannot be accountable. If we cannot be accountable, then we cannot redefine love.
We alone must decide what our value is to the world, and what our values are. No religion, no science, no philosophy can do that for us.
Religion can provide a beautiful foundation upon which to build your value system, but only if you’re willing to dedicate your time to study and prayer. Similarly, intellectualizing without intentional review of conscience is utterly lacking in humanity. In either case, it is usually the most self-righteous among us who struggle the most to be accountable for their own character.
Thoughts on prayer
The religious set a lot of store by prayer. They believe that it is powerful. They believe that it is comforting. They believe that it heals. The non-religious think it’s a bunch of nonsense.
In redefined love, we must try to speak each other’s language. We must attempt to understand even those with whom we struggle profoundly to relate. There is no greater example of the need for this than the phrase, “I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.”
These words of comfort have become so overused and cliché that they can sometimes feel meaningless, even among those who utter them. The problem is, the occasions that arise that call for such a phrase are those of unspeakable pain. There simply are no words. We fall back on clichés because nothing is the right thing to say.
Another phrase that has raised controversy lately is the Pray For movement. Pray For Hurricane Victims. Pray For Political Change. Pray for this. Pray for that. With so much discord and pain in the world, there is a lot to pray for these days.
Atheists can’t stand the Pray For movement. Since they find prayer an empty and meaningless gesture, they view it as a complete waste of valuable time and energy that would be far better utilized in actually solving the problem.
But what is prayer, really? Prayer is intentionally meditating on something. It’s spending time considering a problem that needs to be solved or a person who needs care and attention. Is it safe to suggest that the first step in solving any problem or caring for a person in need is to reflect on the issue at hand? Before we can act, we must think, right?
So prayer, whether it’s being heard by a higher power or not, is mindful consideration of a problem or person in need. I would argue it is a crucial first step in resolving any issue. Whether you call it prayer or simply quiet contemplation, actions without forethought are rarely successful.
Those opposed to the Pray For movement make the assumption that praying is all people are doing. Certainly politicians have hijacked prayer (along with a lot of other sacred things) to use for their own selfish gains. Voting records indicated that the “prayers” of many politicians are simply rhetorical.
On the other hand, if it were the case that praying does not inspire action then the atheists would be in charge of everything, which is far from the case; a point made clear by the current make-up of our top political offices and Congress who were elected almost exclusively by a very motivated group of avid prayers. Clearly, these folks were following up their prayers with action.
To those who are offended when someone offers to keep them in his or her thoughts and prayers… Please don’t reject someone else’s prayers for you. Even if you believe that prayers are nothing more than empty words being sent into the abyss, it’s nice to be thought of, right? Prayers for others when they are hurting is an expression of love. In a world where love is in short supply, I’m not so sure we can afford to be so choosy.
I am a Christian. I grew up Lutheran in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). My husband was raised Christian Evangelical. We’ve done some balancing of our differences in faith, some of which helped me come to my current understanding of redefined love.
If you do not practice my religion, please do not dismiss me as irrational or undermine anything I have to say based on my religious beliefs. Better yet, let’s all stop mocking those we disagree with altogether. We cannot mock others for their beliefs while redefining love.
I realize that Christians aren’t perfect. There are a lot of painful things done in the name of Jesus. Perhaps you have too often felt the sting of judgement from Christians. I’m sorry this has happened to you. Please don’t assume we are all that way. It may surprise you that I too have felt that sting. It is doubly patronizing when it’s other Christians who question my faith because I experience the Bible differently than them.
In my faith, mistakes are called sin. We all make mistakes. Therefore we all sin. Not even the most pious among us can escape it. It is part of the human experience.
Much to the consternation of the high priests and leaders of his time, Jesus routinely associated with the dregs of society. In redefined love, since we all have an equal capacity for sin, there is no hierarchy. We are all the dregs of society. We are all the tax collectors, prostitutes, and thieves with whom Jesus associated. That is exactly the point. “He who has not sinned cast the first stone…” (John 8:7).
Jesus routinely held people accountable for their sin, and he had little patience for self-righteousness (a sin in its own right). Despite humanity’s brokenness, Jesus never stopped loving us. Even as he died on the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
I am not Jesus. I am a mere mortal. Jesus provides an example by which to live my life. It is not my job to judge your sin. It is my job only to love you as Jesus taught us, and leave the judgment to God.
There is not a one-size-fits-all Christianity any more than there is a one-size-fits-all shoe. Christians are as unique and diverse as the varied cultures who built this nation in the first place.
I am continually growing in my faith and as a person. I seek out sources of knowledge from all walks of life, all cultures and religions; from unique personalities both spiritual and secular. The very foundation of redefining love is built on the notion that everyone has something to offer the world.
In redefined love, we love people in spite of their sin, regardless of their beliefs, ideas, and behaviors, no matter how staunchly we disagree. This is the essence of grace. We believe that everyone has within themselves an equal capacity for good and evil, and that everyone deserves love.
Copyright © Redefining Love 2018.
The author of Redefining Love is not a licensed mental healthcare professional. The information included on this site is for general informational purposes only. For mental health questions or concerns, please reach out to a licensed mental healthcare professional.