Salvation as At-One-Ment
If God uses and needs violence to attain God’s purposes, maybe Jesus did not really mean what he said in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5): “Blessed are the gentle, the merciful, the peacemakers.” (Sunday)
Jesus was not changing God’s mind about us; he was changing our minds about God—and thus about one another too. If God and Jesus are not violent or vindictive, then our excuse for the same is forever taken away from us. (Monday)
The Franciscan view grounds Christianity in love and freedom from the very beginning. It creates a coherent and positive spirituality, which draws us toward lives of inner depth, prayer, reconciliation, healing, and universal at-one-ment, instead of any notion of sacrifice, which implies God needs to be bought off. (Tuesday)
Jesus did not come to found a separate or new religion as much as he came to present a universal message of vulnerability and unity that is necessary for all religions, the human soul, and the earth’s survival. (Wednesday)
If we would imitate Jesus in very practical ways, the Christian religion would be made-to-order to grease the wheels of human consciousness toward love, nonviolence, justice, inclusivity, and care for creation. Mature religion serves as a conveyor belt for the evolution of human consciousness. (Thursday)
Jesus came to give us the courage to trust and allow our inherent union with God, and he modeled it for us in this world. (Friday)
Who of us can say with total certitude that we know we’re doing God’s will? I can’t on any day of my life, and it’s very unsatisfying. That’s what it means to “bear the mystery” of the cross, to agree to find God in a clearly imperfect world. We would much sooner have certitudes, we would much sooner have order and control and know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. Most would prefer beliefs, dogma and perfect objective morality to biblical faith any day. Certitude allows you to predict and control outcomes, and to justify rewards and punishments. That’s not all bad. The trouble is that is not the message of the cross.
Thomas Merton expressed the doubt and uncertainty we all face in this familiar prayer:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. 
Take a few moments to be still and quiet, to allow your deepest desire to well up within you and come to the surface of your awareness. In the silence, connect with your longing for union and intimacy with God. Name this intention and, as you go about the day, return to this sense and statement of your desire.
Gateway to Silence:
I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.
 Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: 1999), 79.
Adapted from Richard Rohr with John Feister, Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an Age of Anxiety (Franciscan Media: 2002), 35.
A note on the term “substitionary atonement”:
The phrase “substitutionary atonement” is generally used in this week’s meditations to indicate the most current iteration of the theory. Throughout Christian history, there have been multiple theories of substitutionary atonement. One of the earliest, the ransom theory, originated with Origen and the early church. Closely related to this was the Christus Victor theory. The ransom view of atonement was the dominant theory until the publication of Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo? (Why Did God Become Human?) at the end of the 11th century. Anselm’s satisfaction theory of atonement then became dominant until the Reformed position introduced penal substitution in the 16th century. This new view of substitutionary atonement emphasized punishment over satisfaction and paralleled criminal law. Today, the phrase “substitutionary atonement” is often (correctly or incorrectly) used to refer to the penal theory of atonement. This series touches the surface of 2,000 years of complex theological process.