Church Reopenings: The risks, the other risks, and one more that no one’s talking about

As some churches around the country begin to reopen worship services while others wait, I’ve been talking to several church leaders and members about the various things we need to be considering. We need to take into account a number of risks––both risks to opening and risks to staying closed. I write this to encourage church leaders to make decisions with all of these things in mind. And I write it to encourage church members to bear with us as we try to make good decisions when they aren’t easy or clear.

I’ve been impressed with the thoughtfulness and diligence of our church’s leadership and with the grace and patience of our congregation. Wherever you are, and whatever decisions you’re making, I hope you’re experiencing the same.

Health Risks

Disease Spread

Anyone talking about churches reopening has heard about the risks of disease spread. We bring a large crowd of people together––

  • people who love each other and haven’t seen each other in months;
  • people who, if they’re like me, never knew how much they valued singing together and want to sing;
  • people who all have different standards and awareness about things like physical distance and touch and masks and kids running around.

We bring these together and worry about becoming the next epicenter of infection.

As a pastor, I fear the news article that says, “75% of those in attendance that day have now tested positive, two have died, one is in critical condition. When we contacted the pastor, Teddy Ray, …” I don’t want to know how that line ends.

I’m concerned about the liability, the negative publicity, etc. But the much greater fear comes when I start to fill in the blanks with names and faces of people I dearly love. And I don’t even want to think about what it would mean if our congregation were to become an epicenter for a city-wide outbreak.

I don’t write this hypothetical to suggest it would be the likely outcome. I think it’s quite unlikely. Tens of thousands of churches are reopening. We’re hearing about the handful where these are the results. Nevertheless, it’s a possible outcome. And one that at least makes me take next steps with a healthy fear. Reopening of churches poses the risk of disease spread––both to our members, and then out into our community––however likely or remote that risk is. Churches must take that seriously.

Mental Health and Human Dignity

Then there are the other risks of quarantine to consider, those related to mental health and human dignity. These aren’t particular to the church, but they need to factor into our decisions. I admit that I’m frustrated by the ways some of these are being ignored or even scornfully dismissed. I’d love to see social workers and mental health experts standing alongside epidemiologists at press conferences and as key parts of advisory panels. Some of the major unintended consequences of quarantine have no reason to catch us by surprise.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been widely praised for his public handling of the situation in New York. And with good reason. He has been a model of class and measured response from most of what I’ve seen.[note]Some people have taken exception with this statement, especially citing Gov. Cuomo’s decisions regarding assisted care facilities. I wasn’t aware of those when I wrote this. I had seen many clips of his press conferences that impressed me and had seen general praise of his handling of the situation. Regardless, I’ll leave this in rather than editing after the fact. I hope one claim like this is neither the point of fixation nor enough to invalidate the rest of this article for reasonable people.[/note] But one of his most viewed moments was, in my opinion, his worst.

[Cuomo]: Economic hardship. Yes. Very bad. Not death. Emotional stress from being locked in a house. Very bad. Not death. Domestic violence on the increase. Very bad. Not death.

[Reporter, about people who aren’t receiving unemployment checks]: They can’t wait for the money. They’re out of money.

[Cuomo]: Yeah, we’re talking about a couple of days lagged on the unemployment insurance. And they will get the check from the date of unemployment. It does not cost them an extra penny.

April 22 Press Conference

It’s a privilege to be able to dismiss economic hardship, emotional stress, and domestic violence this easily. That kind of approach doesn’t recognize the personal hell these can represent. If someone has ever waited for a check to buy food, they won’t see it as just “a couple of days lagged,” something that “does not cost them an extra penny.” Critics of the pro-life movement have (rightly) contended that you can only call yourself pro-life if you care about someone’s quality of life while they’re living, not just whether they live or die in the womb. The same should apply here. It makes sense for disease spread to be the beginning of our conversations right now, but it can’t be the only part of our conversations.[note]An example of the tunnel-vision some of us have developed: I talked to a healthcare worker recently who was chastised for using PPE for a contact precaution patient because the patient didn’t have COVID-19. Even some people working in healthcare seem to have forgotten that other health concerns still matter.[/note]

For many of us, the unnatural way quarantine has us living is mere “disruption.” But for others, it’s devastating, at least verging on inhumane.

Here’s just one crushing example:

This isn’t an argument that we should be doing something different. But it’s an argument that we can’t dismiss things like this. We must ask questions not only about life and death, but about living and dying with dignity. The church should be on the forefront of asking those questions.

I live in a house with four impressively self-sufficient kids and a wonderful wife. I still have my job. I have daily human contact––both in-person conversation and physical touch. I imagine that my situation is about as easy as anyone’s right now. And even with all of this, I admit there are days when I’m just barely holding it together.

So I can’t imagine the challenge for anyone who is:

  • living in near- or total isolation,
  • responsible for young, not-at-all-self-sufficient kids,
  • going on months without a hug or human contact,
  • single parenting,
  • carrying deep anxieties about finances,
  • living in a home that’s physically or emotionally unsafe

    … to name just a few.

The church is the primary community and social support for a lot of people on that list. So long as we remain closed, we’re creating a barrier to much of that social support. Yes, we can do some things digitally and from a distance. But we can’t fool ourselves into believing they’re the same or even that they suffice. Staying closed does not come without risk to our people.

Spiritual Health

Some people have dismissed the importance of church gatherings, saying things like, “I think God will understand.” Yes, God understands. But we don’t gather for worship simply to appease God. We worship together because we’re made to worship.

God’s order to Pharaoh over and over in Exodus is, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” Of all the basic human rights denied the Israelites in Egypt, God identifies their ability to worship him as central. For any who would talk about “personal worship” or worshiping God “in our hearts,” any who contend that place and gathered community don’t matter, the treatment of worship throughout the Bible points us in a different direction.

If worship is really something we’re made for, it’s unsurprising to see that spiritual health has a significant relationship to both mental and physical health. This 2012 study is a helpful and interesting analysis of the best research on religion/spirituality and its connections to health. Here’s a summary table of its findings:

Church leaders who want to reopen churches aren’t just concerned about this for the survival of their organizations, as some have suggested. They’ve seen that their people’s spiritual health is related to their overall thriving, and they’re concerned, especially in a time of great adversity, for the well-being of their people.[note]To be sure, this is no suggestion that someone who suffers from depression or has a rocky marriage or is diagnosed with cancer must not have enough faith. This is no simple true/false relationship. But is a spiritually healthy person more likely to remain mentally, socially, and physically healthy? The research says yes.[/note]

Church Risks and Final Decision-Making

The Risks of Exclusion or Unwise Exposure

As we consider re-opening, we’ve begun to talk about all of the people who might be encouraged or required to stay home. We would encourage anyone in a high-risk group to make a careful assessment of the risk before coming. We would require anyone who poses a higher risk to others to stay home. That includes anyone who can’t follow the recommended social distancing precautions (masks, physical distance), anyone who has been in recent contact with someone who tested positive, or anyone displaying symptoms. Because of space requirements, we might even have to exclude people based on capacity issues.

I want to note here that this is not a new phenomenon. It’s just broader. Capacity issues and RSVP systems are unusual but not unheard of, even if the reasons for them now are different. We’ve always had at-risk people who would be wise to avoid large crowds at certain times. We’ve always had people who were excluded because they or their children posed a health risk to others. (I have a feeling churches from here forward will be much more direct about asking people with symptoms of illness to please stay home.) We’ve just not had so many who fell into these categories.

The risk of exclusion is real and much broader than it has been before. But it’s also not new. It’s something to grieve. It should cause us to look for as many creative solutions as possible. But I don’t believe we can choose to prevent everyone from worshiping because some, even many, may be temporarily and regrettably excluded. Kentucky’s governor, after noting that at-risk groups shouldn’t participate in social gatherings that he was opening to others, said, “That’s not fair, but the virus isn’t either.”

Leaders are also worried that some of our at-risk people might choose to come anyway. I don’t think we should prevent them or even actively discourage them in a way that would suggest they’re unwelcome. See all of the above. Our people’s physical health is a real concern. But so is their ability to live with dignity.

One other related risk here is that people will come because they think they should, out of a sense of duty or obligation, fearful that they might miss the grace of God, otherwise. The church’s worship and sacraments are real means of grace. We dare not say or communicate less. But we also, especially now, need to let people know clearly that we respect and support anyone’s decision to stay removed if it’s out of concern for their health or others’. Please don’t come out of any sense of obligation. Here’s where it might be appropriate to insert that “I think God will understand” line.

The Risk of Simplistic Decision-Making

“Would Jesus hide in fear instead of doing the work of God?” poses a slanted and simplistic question. So does “Would Jesus put people’s lives at risk just to do what he wanted?” You may not have heard these asked quite this simply, but many arguments about reopening churches go only about this far.

One side cites personal and religious liberty, deriding anything that seems like irrational fear. The other side cites the duty to be good citizens and care for others’ physical health by not going out, deriding anything else as selfish or uninformed.

Church leaders need to be sympathetic to both sides in this conversation. Preventing people from worshiping together is not a small deal, and we dare not treat it as such. Ignoring public health risks or public authorities (especially when their requests or mandates aren’t explicitly malicious), also no small deal.

The risk of making simplistic decisions is, after all, why I’ve written as much above as I have. Church leaders, I hope you’ll consider all of these together and not make a decision based on any simple slogan. Church members, I hope you’ll give your leaders grace and patience as they try to hold all of this in tension.

One Final Risk No One Is Talking About

Our national divisions about when and how to reopen are beginning to cut along partisan lines. Just-released survey results show Republicans more than twice as likely as Democrats to believe non-essential businesses in their states should be allowed to open (61% to 29%). A wide majority on both sides (about 80%) said they “feel strongly” about their position.

One of the poll designers noted, “What we have here is a very real partisan split that you don’t expect to find in a public health epidemic.” It really is unusual. A pandemic has become a divisive partisan issue.

As unusual as this is, it’s equally unsurprising. Partisan allegiances may have become the greatest idolatry of our nation. For a number of Americans, these allegiances have become a primary identity––the most likely association to determine what’s good and what’s evil, who’s friend and who’s foe, who we treat with charity and who we treat with hostility. They also determine the sources we trust for news and opinions. The news outlets that carry each party’s agenda feed it all.[note]In my first draft, I called them “false prophets of their political gods.” That sounds extreme, but I don’t take it back. I’ve moved it to a footnote because I still want to say it but don’t want it to distract from the body of my text.[/note] They’ve demonstrated much more interest in promoting their preferred political parties than giving us the full, verified truth. This runs from deception through silly and unnecessary distortions to promotion of unfounded conspiracy theories.

Whether for good or bad, churches have usually been able to avoid partisan politics if they chose to. Fox News and CNN viewers can sit side by side in the pews without either side getting too agitated. But now, reopening decisions may force all of us to inadvertently take a side.

Many churches are likely to have some members eager for reopening and indignant at any approach that seems slow or over-cautious. They’re likely to have other members firmly set against reopening soon, angry at any actions that could put public health at risk. Those divisions will probably fall along partisan lines. If we go several months with churches making different decisions on this, it could prompt a next-level partisan separation of our churches. I could see Republicans, frustrated with churches that open too slow, leaving for the ones down the street that opened early. I could see Democrats, ashamed of churches that opened too soon, leaving for the ones that have maintained a full #StayHome approach. This won’t likely happen if everyone makes the same decision over a month or two. But I could expect it if we go into the fall or longer without clarity.

What We’re Doing

So finally, here’s what my church is doing as we try to take these many things into consideration.

#1 – We’ve committed to following all guidance from our authorities––both government and denomination. We believe this is a Romans 13 “be subject to the governing authorities” moment, not a Revelation 13 “resist the beast” moment. We may or may not agree with our authorities’ full prescriptions, but we accept their authority and believe they’re trying to act in the best interest of the people.

#2 – My church community’s leaders don’t believe we can abide by the current guidelines and have meaningful, in-person public worship services. The current guidance prevents us from singing or celebrating Eucharist together. These have always been essential pieces of our worship. Without these pieces, we believe we’re able to facilitate better worship for our community online, where we can still sing and have even found a way within the current restrictions to continue celebrating Eucharist and distributing the elements. (To be sure – we are NOT encouraging virtual or online communion. Worship leaders are celebrating communion in the room, then we’re distributing the elements to those unwillingly absent––a long Christian tradition.)

#3 – Meanwhile, I’m advocating for a creative plan to follow our government’s guidance regarding other kinds of gatherings. Gatherings other than for worship services seem to be our best options right now, given the restrictions. Our leaders are talking about ways to hold Bible studies, prayer gatherings, simple outdoor social gatherings, and other things of the sort. Just last week, we were able to begin distributing communion elements at a local park again. It was so good to see people in the flesh, pray with them, and see them able to stand six feet apart and talk with each other. I hope to continue offering more of these opportunities in any creative ways we can find that adhere to governmental and denominational restrictions.

#4 – We’re not naming many plans in advance. Many changes in guidance have come with relatively short notice, and our church has done a good job of responding to change quickly. So we’re preferring to make quick decisions once we have all the necessary information, rather than trying to anticipate what will come next or when. As soon as enough restrictions lift that we can gather people for worship, I expect that we will do that quickly. I could see that involving the offer of several small gatherings in homes or outdoor gatherings.

#5 – We’re committed to streaming online worship services for the foreseeable future. We believe this is an important option to provide so long as anyone is unable or uncomfortable attending in-person.

#6 – As we begin holding in-person gatherings, we will communicate frequently that no one should feel pressure to come if they don’t feel comfortable. See above.

I’m interested to hear from other leaders what you’re doing and how you’re thinking about this, or to hear from you if you have questions or think I’ve missed anything here.

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A resource for sharing testimony

In my last post – “Life is Beautiful. Life is Hard. #blessed” – I referenced a series of testimonies we had in worship throughout the fall. Some people have responded to ask if I have any resources for inviting people to share testimony. I do!

Here are PDFs with the information I sent people for two recent series of testimonies:

  • This one from last fall, with a prompt about God’s recent work in someone’s life.
  • And this one is what we’re using right now, with a modified prompt to ask about a part of the Jesus story that has special significance in someone’s life. (That’s to go along with our Year-with-Jesus preaching focus this year. See more about it in my 12-year preaching plan.)

If you use these, I’d love to hear your feedback.

Essential Sources for Biblical Interpretation: A new quadrilateral? (or, Use these sources, but don’t say “quadrilateral”)

In my response to Adam Hamilton, I suggested a move from contextual reading to canonical reading. I want to be careful to say that I don’t intend a move away from contextual reading. We need it! We just can’t leave it by itself.

I’ll propose here that we need four essential sources for good biblical interpretation. When we lack any of these, our interpretations go askew. Those four: Context, Canon, Christ, Church.


N. T. Wright has observed that some take a “skin-deep-only appeal to ‘contextual readings,’ as though by murmuring the magic word ‘context’ one is allowed to hold the meaning and relevance of the text at arm’s length.” [note]Scripture and the Authority of God, p. 111[/note]

As David Watson says in response to anyone who claims they can’t believe something in the Bible because it reflects an ancient worldview: “The whole Bible reflects an ancient worldview. There’s not one word of Scripture that doesn’t reflect an ancient worldview.” [note]See it in this excellent short video: “How Not to Deal with the Challenging Parts of Scripture”[/note] We can’t be excused for dismissing the entire Bible because of its ancient context, but neither can we overlook it.

The biggest problem with neglecting a passage’s cultural context is that we ignore our own context in the process. We forget that we may be reading into a text something entirely different from its intent.

All texts had a particular author, setting, genre, and purpose. Ignoring those can lead us to false and unnecessary conclusions. Ignore the context of Genesis 1 and you may treat it as a science textbook. Ignore the context of discussions about slavery and polygamy and you may assume that these discussions are endorsements. This is what we typically regard as fundamentalism.

God has acted in history, including in the historical writing and reception of these texts. We need to understand them in those historical contexts to understand them well.


I’ve argued for canonical reading in various forms in the previous two posts. This beautiful quote from John Wesley demonstrates a reverence for the whole scriptural canon as a word from the living God:

Concerning the Scriptures in general, it may be observed, the word of the living God, which directed the first patriarchs also, was, in the time of Moses, committed to writing. To this were added, in several succeeding generations, the inspired writings of the other prophets. Afterward, what the Son of God preached, and the Holy Ghost spake by the apostles, the apostles and evangelists wrote.

This is what we now style the Holy Scripture: this is that word of God which remaineth for ever: of which, though heaven and earth pass away, one jot or tittle shall not pass away. The Scripture therefore of the Old and New Testament, is a most solid and precious system of Divine truth. Every part thereof is worthy of God; and all together are one entire body, wherein is no defect, no excess. It is the fountain of heavenly wisdom, which they who are able to taste, prefer to all writings of men, however wise, or learned, or holy.

from Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, Introduction, par. 10.

Some people in the UMC have since suggested that it’s unnecessary to read the biblical canon as divine revelation. They point to our Doctrinal Standards[note]rejecting any of Wesley’s Works as binding and ignoring them as informative[/note] that say only that the biblical canon reveals the Word of God, thereby giving themselves liberty to choose which Scriptures are revelation and which are not.

This won’t do. Without a view of Scripture as the Word of God, we make ourselves arbiters of truth and use the Bible when we find it helpful. We approach the Bible with an historical-critical view that allows us to stand as an authority over the text and its authors rather than to sit under their authority.

We may even make claims to a christological reading, but so long as we give ourselves permission to choose which texts are human and which divine, we’ll inevitably create a Jesus who looks a lot like us. The frequent criticism of historical Jesus scholars (those who are identifying what the real, human Jesus was like) is that they look down a deep well to find the truth about Jesus and see a very familiar face staring back up at them.

Just as dismissal of context leads to a fundamentalist reading, dismissal of canon leads to a subjective reading, where our feelings and opinions overrule anything displeasing we encounter in the Bible.

Part of Scripture’s historical context in the Church is that it has been written and read as divine revelation. To read it as anything less will surely lead us astray.


I made a more extended case for christological reading in the last post. I’ll reemphasize that when we read with Christ as our lens, it does not mean our construction of the historical Jesus is the final judge of what’s true in Scripture. Instead, we read every letter of Scripture as one directed to Christ and finding fulfillment in him.

When we read christologically, we read the Bible not as stories but as a story––the story of God’s creating, redeeming, and sustaining action in our world, and particularly through Jesus Christ. Neglect a christological reading and we’ll end up with a secular reading––one focused on good stories and morals or interesting history.


Finally, we must read Scripture in and with the Church. The Christian faith is an apostolic faith, come down to us through the proclamation of those who came before us. They met in ecumenical councils and developed creeds which served as a rule of faith, a means of reading Scripture through the lens of the Christian faith.

When we read the Bible as God’s living Word for us, we read it acknowledging that this Word has spoken to and shaped centuries of believers before us and a global population of believers around us. To read the Bible well, we can’t read alone. We need to read with the whole communion of saints––those who have gone before us and those all around us.

When we dismiss the teaching of the historic church and the reading of the global church, we risk an individualist reading. That individualist reading could be the reading of a solitary person or the reading of an isolated group. It comes whenever we only listen to the voices most like us and most in agreement with us and dismiss the rest.

Contextual, Canonical, Christological, and Communal

So I want to suggest that we must read with all of these as essential sources. That doesn’t make our biblical interpretation easy. We prefer simple explanations and easy solutions––the kind that would fit on a bumper sticker. As H. L. Mencken reminds us: “Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”

When we dismiss whatever parts we don’t like, we can find those neat, plausible, and wrong solutions. Much more difficult is the task of holding these four together and managing the tensions they present. But when we fail to hold these in tension, our biblical interpretation falls to the control of fundamentalism, subjectivism, secularism, or individualism.

Everything should be as simple as possible, but no simpler. As simple as possible in biblical interpretation means we must engage context, canon, Christ, and Church.

If you’re interested in more, I highly recommend David Watson’s article “On the Authority of Scripture” and his book Scripture and the Life of God, which deal with many of the same themes (and many more) in much greater detail.

Two Brief Postscripts

Barth’s Threefold Word of God

You can see something similar to Karl Barth’s doctrine of the Word of God here. Barth spoke of a threefold nature of the Word of God––Scripture, Jesus, and the proclamation of the Church. These cannot be separated. Scripture is the written Word of God; Jesus is the revealed Word of God; the Church’s preaching is the proclaimed Word of God. We cannot know them apart from one another.

Barth understood these according to the Trinity: “There is only one analogy to this doctrine of the Word of God […] This is the doctrine of the triunity of God.” [note]In Church Dogmatics I.1[/note] To those who dismiss either the biblical canon or the Church’s historical teaching as Word of God, Barth would say they cannot properly understand Jesus (whom they claim as the Word of God).

By the Power of the Spirit

I didn’t include the Holy Spirit as a source for biblical interpretation. That didn’t seem the right category. But we believe the Spirit is essential for us to receive and understand God’s Word to us. Again, Barth’s treatment is profound and helpful. He spoke of Scripture as becoming the Word of God for us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Only by the inspiration of the Spirit do we receive the Bible as God’s Word. Only by the power of the Spirit can we receive Christ. Only by the gift of the Spirit do we continue to teach, proclaim, and hear the Word of God.

Some people have taken Barth’s claims as an opportunity to suggest that the Bible is less than the divinely inspired Word of God. That was not his intent and ignores his clear claim that Scripture is the written Word of God.

“We are gods.” What if Kanye is right?


Kanye West tweeted something that many of Christianity’s greatest theologians would agree with…








And Christian–or at least theistic–tweeters rebuked him…



To be clear, I doubt Kanye intended what those Christian theologians intended when they said the same. But what if his words were actually orthodox Christian belief?[note]Best to make that “g” lower case[/note] It’s a belief that we’ve mostly lost along the way, and as a result, we’ve lost a lot of the richness and depth of Christian experience. Let’s take a quick look at our relationship to God, as depicted in the Bible and the early church.

Sharing in the Life of the Father

Jesus tells a parable many refer to as the Parable of the Prodigal Son.[note]Find it in Luke 15:11-32[/note] A son asks his father for his inheritance, then leaves his father’s house and squanders it all. He ends up so destitute that he longs to eat even pig slop. Finally, he returns to his father, hoping to receive a position as a servant in his house. The father receives him back, but as his son, not a servant. And the father throws a feast. His son has returned—kill the fattened calf!

The story closes with the father consoling his other son, who refuses to come in to the feast. The older son is upset—how could his father have a feast for the one who squandered his inheritance when this obedient son has never even had a young goat for a party with his friends? The father responds, “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”[note]Do you recognize that? It sounds a lot like when Jesus says, “All that belongs to the Father is mine.”[/note]

Neither son has understood his real inheritance. It’s not what they can receive from their father to enjoy on their own. The inheritance begins now—it’s sharing at the feast of the father! Everything he has is theirs! Now!

This makes me wonder if I usually look for God’s “blessings” in the wrong places. I look for how God is benefiting me, making my life better, providing the right opportunities. These “blessings” are about what I can receive from God to enrich my own life. Like the brothers in that parable, I may misunderstand the real inheritance when I watch for these as God’s blessings.

What a wonder! God invites us to participate in the divine life as his children. He invites us to his table. He invites us to share everything he has.

An important distinction: the inheritance isn’t just to take what the Father gives, but to share what the Father has.

If our real inheritance is to share what our Father has, it means we can share in God’s perfect love and holiness and joy and peace. We share in God’s divine nature.

Union with God?

This is where some theologians have talked about a sort of union with God that would sound unthinkable to many Christians. One of the greatest early Church Fathers wrote, “If the Word became a man, it was so men may become gods.”[note]From Irenaeus in the preface of Book V in Against Heresies. To be sure, this is the universal use of “men,” males and females are included equally in it.[/note]

Did you gasp reading that? We might be quick to respond, “There is no God but one!” We are creatures, not the Creator.[note]The difference between God (Father, Son, and Spirit) and humanity is that the Father eternally begets the Son and brings forth the Spirit from his very own substance. But God created humanity in time from nothing. We retain our human nature, even if we might be called “gods” or “one with God” as we participate in the divine nature.[/note]

That will never change. Those theologians would certainly agree. But we can become so united to God that we share God’s will and thoughts and actions. We can be so united to God that we become holy as God is holy. One New Testament letter refers to this as “participating in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis comments on it like this:

The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods”[note]A note: God really does call people “gods” in the Bible. You can see this in Psalm 82, and then as Jesus refers to it in John 10:34-35.[/note] and He is going to make good His words.[note]On page 205 of the 2001 HarperCollins edition.[/note]

Notice how much more this is than the standard ways we think of life with God. Some people talk about “inviting God into your life” or a “God-shaped hole” that reveals our need for God. But God’s invitation goes infinitely beyond his entering into our small lives or filling some particular hole or desire in our lives. Instead, God’s invitation is that we would come into his divine life. This doesn’t so much fill a particular hole as it consumes the whole of us. It consumes the whole of us to the point that we would be called fully God’s, and by being God’s, we would actually be called <gasp> “gods.”

An early Christian theologian named Augustine famously wrote of God, “You have formed us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in you.”[note]From the first paragraph of Book I in The Confessions.[/note] He didn’t say our hearts are restless until they find a place for God, as if we should have God take a seat at our table. Instead, our hearts are restless until they find rest in God, until we are seated at the very table of God.

The problem when we decide to have life our way isn’t just that it’s sin—some sort of disobedience to our Father. The greater tragedy is that while we indulge our small desires, it’s as if we’ve chosen pig slop when we could instead be feasting at the table of God.

What if Kanye is right?