“God is good but…” “God is love but…”
Want to see someone get really upset about a good thing? Tell a religious person God is good and always good and is love and always in love and He does not need a payment for sin. That will get a reaction for sure. Of course I don’t do that on purpose. I just want to talk about Jesus. When I preach or write these posts however, I do get the reaction. Sometimes it is really intense. I get it. When all we know about something is seen one way then it is hard to see another way. When we have been told that our “faith” is in WHAT we know then it is hard when I say faith is actually in WHO we know. Many have been told to not ask questions because that would constitute unbelief and everlasting horror, ouch! So when I say that relationship is about asking questions I probably push the fear button in some. When all we know is a balancing act of human justified wisdom (the God needs to punish kind) then a radical, unbalanced Jesus will rock the boat. That actually puts me in good company. Jesus was so shocking that the religious killed Him. I would prefer a non-brutal-death option, however.
The Jews wanted a messiah that would destroy the Roman empire and anyone else who came against them. They were a very violent oriented bunch that just wanted some good old fashion Joshua butt-kicking justice. They hated anyone not like them and wanted the outsiders eliminated. They had substituted rules and laws and precepts and payments for God. They had fallen into a religious black hole of self-righteousness and human justice. When Jesus shows up He tells them to love their enemies, help their neighbors, join with the Samaritans, submit to authority, give their coat to the beggar, help the Roman solders by carrying their stuff. That was just the start. He then breaks their laws by healing on the Sabbath, pardoning an adulterer, forgiving a prostitute, healing a sinner, breaking Sabbath traditions and so much more. Jesus is an affront to the religious. He reconciles us to God, shows us the Father and unconditionally forgives us of any and every sin. Then what is the point of religion you ask? There is none. That is why Jesus was killed. He took their idol and destroyed it by a self-sacrificial act of love that is more powerful than any sword or punishment or “wrath” or threats or laws or rules or bribes or traditions or family lines or anything…
So why do people push back when they hear the good news? I think it is just like what Jesus experienced. Fallen humans have to have their day in court. They have to have the “human justice” of an eye for an eye. They have to see the other party suffer for what they have done. They have to judge good from evil. They have to assess in their hearts the condition of another to avoid pain, set boundaries, avoid conflict, stay safe and so on. They have to rationalize one person’s situation relative to their own. If a person is sick then “they didn’t take care of themselves”, or worse, “God gave it to them because they are ‘bad people.'” If someone is disproportionately blessed then they must have come by their blessing through corruption or deceit or whatever. I could go on an on but I hope you can begin to see that this judgement venom we carry around is the very thing that keeps us from loving others and keeps us from seeing the goodness of God. It is actually OK to say God is so good that He doesn’t hurt His children. He only loves.
In some cases that love is not welcome. In some cases His judgement is to let us go find ourselves and receive a return on our investment. His wrath is His intense love. Some find it amazing, but others are like cats being shoved in a tub. His “punishment” is His love that can look like turning us over to human “justice.” Sometimes He loves us so much He lets us sow and reap. Take a look at “Fallen Logs” where I talk about the prodigal son and the older brother. Also go back and read about “Godly Judgment.”
I really feel like God is taking us back to the original intent of Jesus and Him only. He is giving us permission to “see” what Jesus came to reveal…a perfectly loving God. He only gives away what He is made of. He is love so He gives away love. In the prodigal story God assesses judgment when He lets the younger son reap and sow. He finds a day of judgment when he is eating pig food. He has a day of the Lord when we sees how good his Father really is. He comes home to a Judgment Day when the Father welcomes him home with no conditions. The sad part of the story is the older son never comes to join the party. He stays away and is angry. I feel like this is the reaction of the religious today. It comes from fear. A love encounter with God will take that fear away. It is time to come to the wedding banquet and enjoy the Kingdom of Heaven. It is time to immerse ourselves in the love of God. It is time to get to know God as Jesus reveals Him to us. For so long we have fallen back into the same state that Jesus encountered when He arrived in Jerusalem.
Yeah, but what about verses like this? Heb 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, (ESV)
There are many like this one. If you can see through the cross then it will make sense on many many levels. If you can know the Father that Jesus reveals and not the god that humans have perceived, then this verse makes sense. If you actually read the text…then it makes sense too.
When we die what do we have to hang onto? When you wake up on the other side of breathing what is left? Can I suggest that what is left is eternal stuff? If our identity is found in temporal stuff then who are we when we wake up in an eternal reality? If our faith is in WHAT we have stored in our brains, what is left after no brain? Let me cut to the chase. If we know Jesus and our identity is found in our relationship with Jesus then we will know Him and ourselves on the other side of breathing. If we have no relationship with Jesus then we are free-falling with nothing to hold onto. That is the “judgment after death” syndrome. Still Jesus is eternal and His love is eternal and His grace never ends so He will still catch us in our free fall. Now the question is do we wiggle free like the tub-bound cat or finally surrender to His love?
In context read the next verse:
Heb 9:28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (ESV)
So just like the last verse…it is intended to be a comparison and explanation. We die and after that comes judgment. Jesus dies and after that comes “not to deal with sin but to save.” The “judgment” is Jesus coming not to deal with sin but to save. That is Him catching us. That is Him saving us now and then. That is Him doing what God does, save His children.
It is OK to say God is good. It is OK to say God is love. It is OK to find His love and goodness everywhere. It is also OK to see where fallen humans have missed the real God and substituted some ancient concept of an angry God or just blamed God for their own anger and vengeance (check out Zuzu’s Petals). It is OK to ask Jesus to reveal the Father to you. That is why He came. I can say with certainty in my heart that God is not a mean and angry God that needs to spank His kids. I can say that Jesus is the truth of who God really is. I can say I don’t worry about my “final destination” but live in a love relationship with my loving Father that is eternal. Being a Christian is falling in love with the God that Jesus reveals on the cross. So go ahead and fall into His arms. That is Him catching us.