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SIZE, God, and the Challenge of These Times

 
As we think about God and what God is like, it is helpful to introduce the criterion of SIZE.  The SIZE of a person (and a nation) has a lot to say about who a person is in the context of their relationships and the world.  It also has direct application to God.

The notion of SIZE might be a new idea for you.  I first learned about the term from a process theologian, Dr. Bernard M. Loomer, during my seminary days at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.  Check it out!  SIZE, for Professor Loomer, is The amount of diversity a person can include into the unity of their being and still remain a unified self.

This is a challenging and enlightening concept.  It bears repeating: SIZE is the amount of diversity a person can include into the unity of their being and still remain a unified self.  Think about this in terms of the range of relationships and ideas a person can entertain without become too defensive or insecure.  Think about it, also, in terms of enlarging our capacity to listen, to forgive, and to open ourselves to views and opinions that might totally contradict ours.

The SIZE of a person has to do with the person’s stature, with the largeness of his/her spirit.  For Loomer it is the stature of a person’s soul.  It is the range and depth of his/her capacity for relationship.  It is the power to sustain more complex and enriching tensions.  It is the magnanimity of concern that … enables others to increase in stature.

The SIZE of God.  In our thinking about God, God has great size. However, it is a size that can never be fully grasped because it is always enlarging–eventually becoming more than anything we can conceptualize or imagine.  This means that as God and the universe continue to evolve, God is forever including new relationships, situations, and meanings into the unity of God’s being.  This is an unending process.

Growing in stature and size is seldom an easy thing.  Inevitably, there is an element of sacrifice and/or suffering involved.  Yet, it is by engaging our differences that we grow.  When we are able to work our way in and through the chaos of life, when we are able to encounter those values and beliefs that most threaten us and turn them into contrasts (which means they can live alongside each other and grow from each other), we become bigger persons, persons of greater stature and size.

Take the issue of gay and lesbian rights.  Two decades ago, most Americans could not reconcile the idea of same sex marriage as an integral (i.e., accepted) part of American culture.  However, now, more than twenty years later, the idea of same sex marriage has grown and evolved in the American spirit to where it has been integrated into the larger unity of who we are as Americans.  Gay and lesbian rights are contrasts to other group’s rights; they are no longer (for the majority) viewed as incompatible.

SIZE and the suffering servant.  In the historical context of Judaism and Christianity, the suffering servant (as revealed in Isaiah 53 and in Jesus’ experience on the cross) has great size.  Suffering love is the pinnacle Christian value.  The servanthood embodied in suffering love is deeply relational.  The act of suffering by the servant has a profound effect on people.  It has the potential to bring about tremendous transformation and change.

In suffering love, an individual’s deepest potential as a relational person is realized.  Suffering love increases the stature of our being.  It opens even more doors of inclusive love in our spirit.  As a person bears more suffering, as relations take on greater range and depth, transformation takes place.  Along the way, as people’s lives are increasingly touched, the suffering servant becomes a person of greater size and stature.

In this same vein, the person who bears suffering, who endures hardship, generally is a stronger person than the one who has avoided hardship.  In this regard, for example–again, generally speaking–the Jewish person is stronger than the Christian, and the African-American is stronger than the white person.  Because of what they have had to endure, their suffering has given them greater strength and greater size.

SIZE and relational power.  Another example of size is revealed in the idea of relational power.  Relational power is differentiated from unilateral power.  Unilateral power is one way, one directional.  There is no reciprocity.  Unilateral power is about control.  It is the kind of power we see exercised by autocrats and dictators.  These persons are not interested in honest feedback.  Generally, they are notably insecure persons.  In the long run, unilateral power breaks down and is doomed to failure.

With relational power, a person seeks to both influence and be influenced by the other.  Conversation and dialogue are encouraged; feedback is essential.  While this style of leadership is more complicated, it is also far more successful in the long run.

For example, in international relations, the United States is strongest (and most secure)–not when we’re flaunting our strength and power in relation to other nations; we’re strongest when these other nations are strong as well.

SIZE and the challenge of these times.  In these deeply fractured times in our country, this relational approach to healing the fracture is imperative.  While the Biden administration must do the best it can to promote policies that advocate for the poor and that address the cancer of systemic racism in our country, to be people of size, they have to ask themselves: “What are we going to do with all these Trump voters?  How can we make some connection with them?”  I’m not talking about the white supremacists and others supporting acts of domestic terrorism.  I’m talking about the masses of white people (many from rural America) who feel left out and abandoned from the promise of America.

In dealing with these “others,” the Biden people need to be people of size.  While being strong in their own positions and sense of purpose, they need to make every effort to be good listeners and to try to discover how they can implement policies and programs that are reassuring to these people and that make their lives better–both for their sake and for ours.
 
The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Frantz is a retired United Church of Christ minister.  He had long term pastorates in San Diego County and in Miami Lakes, Florida.  His service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama in the late sixties spurred his commitment to social-justice ministries and to a spirit of ecumenism as a local church pastor.  He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Pacific School of Religion. He is the author of The Bible You Didn’t Know You Could Believe In and his just published book: The God You Didn’t Know You Could Believe In. Dr. Frantz and his wife, Yvette, are now retired and living in Boynton Beach, Florida.

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