Hello friends - welcome to this week's Pause in Lent. Other bloggers who are joining in (not necessarily on the subject of Liberality) are listed in my sidebar. It's fantastic reading through the different posts, and seeing themes which run through the very different posts we all produce.
At first, as Ang suggested to me when we hatched this plan, 'Liberality' seemed to be the hardest Cardinal Virtue to understand. And then when I started looking the word up it seemed so similar to generosity, which is in itself similar to kindness (?) that I wondered how I could do three different posts on three such similar Virtues. But this week things I've been reading and reflecting on for a while seem to have gelled into a series of thoughts which could be (perhaps) collected under the title of Liberality. So here goes:
noun pl. liberalities
1. the quality or state of being liberal; specif., willingness to give or share freely; generosity
2. absence of narrowness or prejudice in thinking; broad-mindedness
My thoughts are on the second definition, as otherwise I'm not going to have anything to say about generosity!
At first glance it seems there are two ways to react to any challenge to Christian faith - a crumbling sort of openess ('Oh yes, this belief is just what works for me, something else might work for someone else') or a narrow, militant certainty ('There is only one Truth and I will proclaim it in the face of all opposition, certain that disagreement is persecution for my faith'), to caricature the two positions.
However, both of those positions seem to me to be based on fear - firstly fear that someone else will be offended by my beliefs, or, for the second way, fear that someone else's beliefs might challenge my own if I ever gave in and listened to them.
It strikes me now that there is a Third Way (apologies to T. Blair) and that this is surely the way of 'perfect love which drives out all fear'. It is about having confidence and faith in our loving God which allows us to be open to ideas and suggestions, to research and experiences, without in any way diminishing our Lord or our faith in him.
God is too eternal, too real, to be harmed by some of the things we try to defend him from. Defending God? Really, friends, I don't think he needs our help. Surely we're really only defending our own positions or our own, inevitably limited, faith, when we get into a row about creation vs evolution (don't even get me started on this - I think it's a false battle) or about exactly who is Saved, or about any other cherished but, let's face it, human understanding of God and His Word. As Fiona quoted in her Pause last week, what God wants from us is that we, "Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God" - Micah 6:8. When I stop being frightened of challenges and instead open up to the "wideness in God's mercy", I catch glimpses of how incredibly big God is, and how human fear only holds us back from him.
"For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.
But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own."