Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The joy of knowing that God is love
We are finishing our series on the wisdom books. Job was hard to teach. Too long and obtuse. But the thing I got was that Job's friends were engaged in a long and unprofitable discussion of who God is and what kind of character He has towards sinners.
It struck me that almost every conflict I have had with fellow Christians has been over the same issue, more or less. The hyper Calvinist's I met when I moved here did not want anyone in their little church who had a less than enlightened view of God.
The futurist rapture ready crowd ten years ago were looking for a rock to hide under to escape the soon coming wrath Beam me out of here, Jesus. I know I am painting a bit of a caricature, but allow me please, I am making a point.
Mean while I am carrying my own baggage through these mini conflicts, trying to get along with everyone and trying to understand myself how the Gospel of Jesus Christ meshes with the "sinners in the hand of an angry God" scenario of my education.
I guess the way God helped me understand it the last twenty years was to put "pastor in the hands of angry church leaders" and see what I would learn.
So, I get a little bit frustrated with it all and determined with my own reading and reflection to answer the question for myself. Who is God? and What is the Gospel?
Its there, but its easy to miss. The verses to defend other views are there too.
God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their sin against them. Folks, that is a scripture verse I just quoted. God is at peace with sinful humanity, and in fact, loves them enough to get them home to Him. He is not stirring the soup of an eternal torment oven, He is seeking the lost. The broken people in this broken world need to hear and see His love in action. They need a message greater that the sin counting friends of Job.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer suffered unto death in the hatred that was Hitler, but the theology of Bonhoeffer is what we need. I am indebted to Marc Vanderslays for digging up this quote, and I pass it to you as a costly Christmas gift of truth.
In the [physical] body of Jesus Christ, God is united with humankind, all humanity is accepted by God, and the world is reconciled to God. In the body of Jesus Christ, God took on the sin of the world and bore it. There is no part of the world, no matter how lost, no matter how godless, that has not been accepted by God in Jesus Christ and reconciled to God. Whoever perceives the body of Jesus Christ in faith can no longer speak of the world as if it were lost, as if it were separated from God; they can no longer separate themselves in clerical pride from the world. The world belongs to Christ.
…in the body of Christ [i.e. the church] all humanity is accepted, included, and borne, and that the church-community of believers is to make known to the world by word and life. This means not being separated from the world, but calling the world into the community of the body of Christ to which the world in truth already belongs…. The church-community is separated from the world only by this: it believes in the reality of being accepted by God–a reality that belongs to the whole world–and in affirming this as valid for itself it witnesses that it is valid for the entire world. (Ethics, p. 66-68)