Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.” (Ephesians 1:3 – 4)

On the cusp of a New Year Paul invites us to consider what a magnificent gift Christ was to the world. When my children were young I often told them that since we could not give physical presents to baby Jesus, we give presents to each to honor the love the Lord God has for us. As they grew, I taught them the traits of the Christian life, and that by showing love and compassion to others, they are showing love to the Divine. They may not profess faith in a mainstream way, but I assure you they are kind, caring, and compassionate people. People, I truly believe, would be welcomed as children of the Lord God.

“He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Verses 5 – 10)

Do you notice, beloved reader, how simply Paul sets this forth? By seeing, hearing, and following Jesus Christ we are doing God’s will. Over the decades and centuries we have made theology so complicated, mincing issues and ideologies down to the small detail. It sometimes feels like we are not to just follow the Lord God and Jesus Christ, but discern which version and incarnation of the Lord God and Jesus Christ; according to whose faith beliefs should we believe? That’s not right.

“In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.” (Verses 11 – 14)

We, as a Christian body, have to do better. Christianity has emerged from recent decades with a black eye. Not everyone,that is, who believes in the Lord God. But the faith tradition called Christianity has bullied and bruised so many. That is not right either. So for the coming New Year, beloved reader, I am not suggesting that we believe more strongly or more correctly; we should believe more gently and with more compassion & mercy. I will try to remember to remind you of this. Remind each other! It was not, and never was, through our own ability and might that we received forgiveness and redemption. But through the love, grace, and mercy of the Divine! Selah!