Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you… Yes, I just lured you in with a Rick Astley song. For whatever reason I thought that set of lyrics was pretty relevant to what I am going to cover in this relatively brief post. My recent post “Who’s in control?” garnered the biggest single day number of hits for this blog. It also had a good number of comments and email responses. It seems my Christian friends have taken issue with my position that as human beings we are not wretched, worthless, disgustingly sinful beings. That we are not building up a debt of sin that will justify eternal torment and punishment forever, which can only be paid and forgiven by belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus. That all of our actions and imperfections somehow get erased by faith alone. Well, aside from the fact that the words of Jesus himself contradict the concept of faith alone in favor of “what you do to the least of these my brethren you do unto me“, it really doesn’t portray God as has often been the Christian position that God is love.
So, is God love? I believe so. Mostly because no science has been able to prove what causes love and that particular feeling or emotion is the thread that weaves humanity with a concept of morality. So what exactly is love? The Apostle Paul, who as most of you know I have been pretty critical of, wrote one of the most inspirational chapters of the Bible and it happens to be perhaps the greatest description of love. The chapter, for those of you who may not have guessed it, is 1 Corinthians 13. As the Bible has multiple translations this chapter reads differently from version to version. The most obvious difference is when comparing the KJV and the NIV. (to those not familiar – the KJV is the King James Version which was translated in 1611 and the NIV is the New International Version which was translated in 1984. These are the 2 best-selling translations) The KJV doesn’t use the word Love, it uses the word Charity. To the skeptic this would seem to be a problem, but not to me. Charity is, after all, a tremendous example of unconditional love. When one exercises charity, they give for the sake of giving, with no expectation of reciprocation. There is no doubt that is love. So, if God is love, why not use 1 Corinthians 13 as a description of God. For the sake of brevity, let’s just take the core of the chapter which are verses 4-7 and replace the words “love” and “it” with “the Lord” (note- I am removing a few “it’s” for the sake of flow):
The Lord is patient, the Lord is kind. The Lord does not envy, does not boast, is not proud. The Lord does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs. The Lord does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. The Lord always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Now I ask you again: Is God Love? If so, than we have never been rejected, nor will we ever be. Why else would a word like “Father” be invoked so often? The way I see it, our Eternal Father never gave up on you, me or anyone else. It seems that for many people it really is the other way around.
For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you.. – Deuteronomy 4:31
Yes, if He didn’t give up on me, or you, why would He give up on anyone? Isn’t it just a matter of time until all prodigals realize who they are and come home?
We can only hope Julie.
Oh dear friend, if it was me that you were referring to as one of those “Christian friends”, maybe you misunderstood me. Yes, I do believe I am a sinner and that I was born with a sinful nature. I do believe that God is love and that he loved us so much that He sent His son, Jesus Christ to pay the price for our sins and make us righteous. No, I don’t believe we will never be punished for our sins. On the contrary, there are many examples of natural punishment in the world. For the sake of not blowing up your blog posts by people freaking out, I will kind of leave it like that. We can discuss what I mean in person. But, there is the obvious punishment from the justice system and there are consequences you may pay with damage to relationships and that may be passed on for many generations. He doesn’t say that you will not endure consequences for your actions. But that in the end, Jesus’s blood washes us clean.
I don’t think it is fair to say “Now I ask you again: Is God Love? If so, than we have never been rejected, nor will we ever be. Why else would a word like “Father” be invoked so often? The way I see it, our Eternal Father never gave up on you, me or anyone else.”
Think of it from the perspective of a “father”, in which you are. Do you love your children? Do you love them unconditionally? Would you ever give up on them?…tricky question…From my life experience with a sibling, my mom hasn’t lost all hope that my sister will eventually come around (probably not likely as she is 50), but she has some what given up on her, for to continue supporting her is only enabling her and hurting her more. Anyway, back to the questions. Even though you love your children so much, so much that you would even sacrifice your life to protect theirs, do you discipline them? Do you give them consequences for their actions? Of course you do, and you do it for their own good because you love them and care about them. Can you control them 100%? I think that if you look at it from purely a human perspective you can see how what I believe makes some sense. I totally believe God is love. I believe He is a God of vengence and a jealous God as well. I don’t have the time right this second to look up verses to support that, but I’m pretty sure that it would be OT verses…I know the NT is ify for you.
I really like that “love passage” in 1 Cor. But I am not sure that I can say that I can be or do all those things towards the ones I love 100% of the time. That is where my human flaw comes in. God’s love is so pure, so perfect. Mine is not. I think the sacrifice He made for me, us, all, is 100% out of love and the wanting of a relationship with us. Without that sacrifice, He can not look upon us. It’s really a beautiful thing, a reassuring feeling, a feeling of comfort.
Does this mean we have a free ticket to live our lives wildly without regards for others?…no way! It means that we do our best, but for His glory, not ours. We ask for His guidence and strength to do the right thing. We follow His commandments and love each other and treat each other with charity, even when it is a difficult thing to do.
BTW, I feel honored that I am your 1st post…can’t wait to see your numbers on this one. 🙂
You make really good points Valencia. I am going to go with a short answer though 🙂
First of all, you were not the only Christian friend who took issue with that post.
Yes, as a Father I punish my kids when they screw up. That is without question. The issue is – ETERNAL punishment. This is not gracious, beneficient or loving. The worst part of this doctine is that its not even around actions – its over a particular belief about the death and ressurection of one of God’s servants (or to the Trinitarians – God himself). If my kids screw up they get an adequate punishment for what they did (most of the time they get a pass becuase I am a softie). I wouldn’t lock them in an oven forever because they didn’t believe something.
The concept of eternal damnation is nowhere in Jewish Scripture. In fact the maximum penalty for trangessions according to the Zohar is 12 months (this is found in the Parashat on the Flood). Its a sketchy allusion though, because the Zohar focuses primarily on the longing of our Creator to have unity with the Creation not condemn it.
Yours is a beautiful post. To the point on hell in Nelson’s comments, I can’t really speak to it. Many scholars believe hell is the eternal separation from God. One thing I know for sure with 100 percent absolute certainty is that God is perfect and showed perfect love in the gift of his Son so that one day I will be reconciled to Him for eternity.
Nelson your point that Jesus contradicts faith alone with his comment do unto the least of these ….is incorrect. Mother Teresa eloquently explains what was meant and how faith not works is the only way to God thru his only Son. See
I love this blog.
Valencia meet Gene. The words gentle giant describe him best. He’s also a good friend that happens to be a Sales VP at Ultimate.
Gene meet Valencia. She’s a good friend with 3 great kids. One of which taught my baby boy how to fist bump. She is also responsible for convincing me that taking the kids to church on Sunday morning would be a fun idea.
I completely respect both of you and your opinions. I am not saying that faith doesn’t matter. I am just saying that it’s not enough. As James said “faith without works is dead”. Since James was Jesus’ brother and actually met the physical Jesus I yield authority to James over Paul. Paul was the advocate of faith over works. Jesus was very clear about actions though. Matthew 5-7 is a prime example of actions being necessary over all else.
Now Gene. To your point (and Mother Teresa’s). True Faith, in my opinion, would accompany deeds. A true follower of Jesus doesn’t just go through the motions one hour a week. A true follower emulates Jesus. That’s my belief and it’s a hard position not to justify. I have atheist that read this blog as well and they typically subscribe to concept of being Christ-like. Imagine a world that lived by the simple words “love one another”.
Thank you both for reading and being willing to open your minds and dialogue. There really isn’t anything more important to think about, is there?
Nice meeting you Gene! Nelson says good things about you.
“I wouldn’t lock them in an oven forever because they didn’t believe something.” Nelson, that surely gets to the heart of the true nature of a father. Consequences and correction for our own earthly children, yes..Of course, no permanent estrangement or horrific torture….and how much more does our Creator love us more even than we love our own children. I love it when someone can just distill a whole lotta big stuff into the simple, concise but not simplistic ideas!
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Maybe its a theme issue. What blog service do you use?