Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Love Problem

It's popular these days to bolster the current conception of God's all-inclusive love from the life and ministry of Jesus. We know that God is perfectly revealed in Jesus and if we want to know what God is like, we can look at Jesus' life and glimpse his Father's character. And what Jesus reveals is Love pure and simple. He is loving, healing, never judging, etc. etc. Love. Love. Love. Sounds so soothing. Yeah, it's been bugging me. I seem to react to being soothed. So I looked for this loving inclusive Jesus and I can't find him. Parable after parable, teaching after teaching, Jesus emphasizes the haves and the have-nots, the ones who obey and the ones who don't, the sheep and the goats. His message is not the kind of thing I think of when I think of all-inclusive mercy and love. He seems so often instead to be giving a warning, if not of righteous judgement, then of a simple cause and effect situation in which if you don't take God's hand offered you, there is no other hope.

And I find it makes sense to me. You see, I'm very impressed with the problem of Sin. Mind you, it's a past tense problem. God has already dealt with it. But what a solution! If the only way to deal with sin was this all-in approach where the GOD OF THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE AND ALL POSSIBLE UNIVERSES has to become one of his creation and die, then sin itself must represent an unfathomable rift, something God can't fix merely with his loving merciful character, but through the means of the cross and all that comes with it, that is, the life, death, resurrection and return of his Son. And from everything Jesus and the other New Testament writers seem to say we have some part in appropriating that solution. It's not merely thrust upon us. We are called to repent and believe (act out?) the good news. Otherwise we are on the outside, whatever that looks like.

Two different "use the offered solution" scenarios come to mind. The first is my health. I would like to live healthy to a full age and still be running in my eighties. But I have no hope of getting there then without eating healthy and engaging in daily exercise now. The second is patching software on a computer. If a program has a specific vulnerability to attack and the developers of that software have published a fix for it, there is no hope that your copy of the software is safe from the specified attack unless you actually install their fix.

So the problem these days seems to be God's love measured against the fate of all those who won't "exercise," who won't "install the fix," who won't turn and follow him, who look at his absolutely gob-smacking-ly appalling sacrifice and find it just isn't to their taste. I think it's not actually fair. What do you call an act of spending everything he had to redeem us? Well, that's got to be Love, I'd say. Having accomplished this great salvation, what about those who reject the offered life ring? What is he supposed to do with them? It's simply unfair to make it his fault if they refuse to be helped. I'm not saying that some of the current rethinking of our ideas of hell and damnation isn't healthy. We need to rethink our stuff all the time. But I am saying that some of the current "God is all love" thinking, where he manages to save even those who don't want him anyways is a little like the nonsense about him making a stone that is too big for him to lift.

And generally speaking, barring nonsense poetry, which I admit I do enjoy, I'm opposed to nonsense.

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