The gospel can be cut so many ways. “Good news” for a woman begging is different than for a rich Westerner, or trafficked boy. But this notion of unconditional love and freedom keep me busy.
I’ve heard many Christians stress about people needing to “convert” or “be saved” so they don’t go to hell. Was it similar thinking that sparked the convert-or-die theology of the Crusades?
If God is Love and that Love pours through our lives, then our thinking, respect for and interaction with others starts to change.
And wouldn’t God-Sized Love stretch us a bit…?
The above verse claims nothing can separate us from God’s Love, so does that include hell? I could be wrong, but that definition seems to cover things, space, and time pretty intensely.
There’s also Psalm 139 claiming God is with us wherever we go, and this one expressly says hell (verse 8). Maybe it’s metaphorical– too many of us have been there–but part of the purpose of this passage is to comfort us that wherever we are and whatever we’re going through, we’re not alone.
Small aside: When I checked the Hebrew, it seems verse 8 doesn’t close but goes through verse 10, thus reading: “If I ascend to Heaven, You are there, if I make my bed in hell, if I take the wings of the morning, if I dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Your Hand lead me, and Your Right Hand shall hold me.” Many Christians associate the “right hand” of God with Jesus.
If God is even there (Jehovah Shammah) then Love must be there too…
But if this is true Jasmine, then Jesus didn’t have to die??!
Absolutely not! Neither we, nor God could be satisfied with all the injustice in this world if Someone didn’t pay the ultimate price. A scapegoat was needed and predestined before even the beginning of Time (Revelation 13:8).
But if this is true, do we get a free pass to do whatever we want in life?!
Yes we’ve been given absolute Freedom to–sadly– hurt and destroy eachother and the creation around us (freedom is a crucial element of real love), but when God/Love is our source, some things we do or ways we behave may unsettle us. On the flipside, love compels us to do and be good to others.
Here are more verses that stretch us:
- God promised eternal life (not in the context of eternal badness) (Titus 1:2)
- Before the foundation of the world we were chosen to be holy and blameless before God in Love. (Ephesians 1:4)
- How many times should I forgive my brother? Seven times? Response by Jesus: Seventy times Seven (aka Infinitely). (What humans cannot manage, God can–and beyond that, God would never ask us to do something *He didn’t already do *Himself (Matthew 18:22)
- Jesus lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:15)–(so even from the grave–or worse- we might hope we’re not forgotten).
- Mercy and Justice often go hand in hand and apparently Mercy triumphs (Psalm 89:14, James 2:!3) (*but then maybe we get the Older Brother syndrome from the Prodigal Son story).
- Forgive them Father, for they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34)
(This last one challenges me to keep mercy even for those whose age and actions indicate they know damn well what they’re doing but don’t care.)
But Jasmine, those verses don’t unlock until someone “accepts” Jesus?
I could be wrong, but as long as anyone can point to a single church or Christian and say ‘I want nothing to do with God or Jesus if *that’s* what He’s like!’, then I hope not.
There is a song in my kids’s school: “Ja is Ja, Nee is Nee, beloofd is beloofd, Jezus zal je helpen, als jij in hem gelooft (Translation: Yes is Yes, No is No, A Promise is a Promise. Jesus will help you, if you believe in him.”
I had to teach my kids something different: Do you think God’s Love and Care for you are conditional? Listen, I’ll help, protect and feed you whether you believe I’m your mom or not. I will continue whether you talk to me or not, whether you curse me or not, and even if you never thank me for the food I made. Why? Because I love you– and my Love isn’t based on what you say/do/think. I love you and will go to hell and back for You–so help me God– because you’re mine.
Call me crazy, but I believe God’s promises and love are not for me because I read about them. I believe they are for all of us because God is our Real Parent. Are we not all from a womb? Are we not all human/one flesh?
When I was little, my mom used to turn my letter writing mistakes into flowers or something else cool. I was always amazed–I never even imagined a fix like this.
So how much more could an All-powerful, All-loving God/Parent do for all of us?
Is hell bigger than love? Something deep inside says: can’t be.
*I use “He” and “His” as simple pronouns for God but fully recognize God with both male and female ‘identity’ (for lack of a better word), as demonstrated throughout the Bible, but most fully through humanity itself. More on this in a post: “Transgender God” here. Or check Glennon Doyle’s, “Love Letter to a Transgender Teen on Spirit Day” here.
Cover image: Heart in Formation
“The Adventure Begins” – pic from friend’s wedding, pls contact me if you would like to use.
Subversive Jesus book, my own copy, find here.
Bible creative journaling page, sourced here.