I believe that one of the basic principles that Jesus taught is that God doesn't operate in terms of 'deserving' at all. This seems to be the point of the story about the workers in the vineyard who came in at different hours but all got paid the same (Matthew 20). This policy was offensive to the workers, who were used to the idea that rewards are proportional to desserts. But the vineyard owner waves all that away, and replaces it with the notion of 'generosity.' Theleast that he gives is what is just in our eyes, what we would make a deal for as a quid pro quo. But that isn't really how he operates. His own context ignores the question of deserving altogether and treats everyone equally with 'generosity.'
"In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus points out that God sends rain and sunshine indiscriminately on the good and the evil, and then recommends to us that we be 'perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect' (Matthew 5:45-48). Be perfect, complete, not partial, whole. Give freely without examining the 'desserts' of the recipients. Anyone can love someone who is loving and lovable. But if you would live up to your heritage as children of God, you must not seek such a reason for your love.
"All this means three interesting things. First, we have no ground for feeling that God doesn't love us because we're not worthy. There is no connection between being loved by God and being in any degree worthy or unworthy. Second, we may release our interest in, and desire for, being worthy, lovable, desirable . . . Third, when we in turn love other people, we must do it the same way God loves us, without regard to whether they deserve it or not. Please notice that this means that we are not to say to ourselves, 'I love so-and-so, even though he doesn't deserve it.' Or, 'The X's are my enemies, but nevertheless I love them.' It means that we are to break all connection between the notion of 'deserving' and the act of loving."
— Radical Optimism: Rooting Ourselves in Reality
Adoration of God
"Prayer practices, meditation, service to the poor, recitation of scriptures, worship in the temple, devotional song and dance, repetition of the names of God, adoration directed to God through the mediation of icons — these are some things that are common to both East and West. The difference might be simplistically summarized by saying that in the East these are considered privileges rather than obligations. There isn't, so far as I know, a sense that adoration is due God. The feeling I have picked up is that adoration is the delight of the devout soul and aids the devotee in coming closer to realization. In general, there is no sense of alegal relation to God, even in the muted sense of a covenantal relation. The relation seems rather to be natural. This is why the accent is on the religious experience, rather than on fulfillment of commands, obedience, loyalty, belonging to the church, etc."
— What We Can Learn from the East
"Transformation is something we all crave. This is what we are looking for under the guises of the many things we do. We seek fulfillment through security, pleasure, power, personal relationships, artistic creativity, intellectual insight, and mystical experiences. We are intimately familiar with ourselves as beings available for mutation. And yet we also put obstacles in the way of the very transformation we most deeply desire. We really want to lose ourselves, and yet we cling to ourselves. We continue to try to define ourselves, piling up adjectives by which we — and, we hope, we alone — can be described; but at the same time we know, on some secret level, that we are indefinable."
— The Easter Mysteries
Relish the Radiant Universe
"The conclusion for the religious person should be that the world is God's most personal work, therefore something for us to know and admire and revere, to take part in, to contribute to creating — since it is made as a self-creating universe. This is participating in the divine life, precisely what the religious person wants to do.
"So I have tried to set forth a general view of this cosmos that shows it in this light. My hope is that others will get a sense of how the universe is radiant and exciting and how we are poised right on the creative edge, right where the new action is happening. God's action, our action. A self-creating universe that is God's ecstasy, God standing — indeed, God dancing! — outside Godself, still doing the Godly things: being One, being Community, sharing being, indwelling, rejoicing, always being more."
— God's Ecstasy: The Creation of a Self-Creating World
Love Our Neighbor as Ourself
"If we cannot love our neighbor as ourself, it is because we do not perceive our neighbor as ourself. We perceive the neighbor as preciselynot ourself, but as a potential threat (or potential aid) to ourself. This perception in turn is based on other assumptions and ways of ordering the world that have to do with how reality is differentiated into separate objects and events and how these are organized into groups or unities. It is not a matter of the exhortation being an ideal that is difficult to attain; it is a contradiction of our culture that is strictly impossible to realize, so long as we see the world the way we do."
— The Holy Thursday Revolution