In their preaching, George Fox and other first Friends sought to direct people, not to belief in or experience of an inner metaphysical essence, but to the dynamic activity of divine revelation in their minds and hearts. Their message remains important today.
“What canst thou say?” is sometimes taken to be a call to “speak your truth.” But that’s an idea that George Fox could not have endorsed; more likely, he would have taken issue with it in forceful terms. His challenge was, and is, much more radical.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian, was in some ways close to the early Quakers in his views on morality and violence. Yet he accepted the need to lie and perhaps even to kill in resistance to Hitler and the Nazi government, not rationalizing those acts as intrinsically good but taking on the responsibility before God for committing them. I am moved by his sincerity and courage.
“Love your neighbor as yourself” doesn’t mean that I must learn to love myself before I can love others: it recognizes that, even if I despise or hate myself, I already do love myself.
Although what I am experiencing is only a superficial reflection of my own face, I perceive it as the face of God, the reflection of the divine within.
It took a very long time for me to recognize and begin to accept that the primary law of the spiritual life is simply this: “it’s not about me.”
If love flows through us, then we can’t possess it. And if love flows through us, then we can’t take credit for allowing it to do so.