This was written by me May 6th, 2011 as a Facebook note (Facebook note, seriously?!) but I felt it should be added to my unofficial collection of writings here. Five years later and I’ve grown into my thoughts a bit but can still get behind my 2011 feelings. I’m still not a theologian and I still don’t study the Bible as I should so hopefully my thoughts aren’t damaging to anyone’s collective understanding of God. Shout out to the teaching staff at my church that leads me to the water with scripture based messages each week! Commence old post:
I’ve been hearing a lot about God’s justice lately. It seems that people find great comfort in knowing God will justly judge those around us. I know that at one point, I took comfort in this because I felt like I had been wronged by others and liked knowing God would avenge me for it. Thankfully, I don’t have that attitude anymore. What kind of life would I be living if my biggest worry was God punishing another person for causing a tiny, tiny issue in my life in the grand scheme of things? People are dying of preventable diseases in massive numbers and I want to be avenged because someone hurt my feelings? Please. The current atmosphere surrounding God’s justice seems to be pointing to God rightly sentencing people who deny Him to an eternity in hell. What kind of person would I be if that brought me joy? Not a very Christ-like person I would say. I will not be overjoyed or feel justified at the end of this age if I find out hell is standing room only. I love people. I want them to share in the promises God has made us in the age to come…even if they don’t agree with me theologically.
Anyways, that is not how I planned on starting that. We’ve been doing the song “Sweetly Broken” by Jeremy Riddle in church lately. I heard it on the radio driving home last night and one line stuck out to me. “For on it my savior, both bruised and crushed, show that God is love and God is just”. At first I felt like blocking the “and God is just” part out. On Facebook, my “churchy” friends have been posting a lot of stuff about God’s wrath lest we forget how powerful he is. Like they’re afraid someone will focus too much on God’s powerful, transforming love and forget he can strike us down with lightning. This next part may be a concept many, many other people have already embraced but last night that particular “just” line was transformed for me. God is just because there are great, enormous, tragic inJUSTices occurring all around us. Forgive me if I take too much of a liberty with God’s character here but I truly believe he is more worried about the millions without clean drinking water, the droves of girls being sold into prostitution, lack of proper medical care, and on and on and ON. I believe he is more worried about those people he CREATED (just like comfortable you and me) than making sure our friend Johnny believes the correct set of beliefs that will “save him”. Who really needs saving in this situation? It is true God could deliver those people in a wave of the hand but he’s obviously waiting for something and I can’t help but wonder if it is his “believers” that are doing nothing but locking themselves in prayer rooms for hours on end instead of getting their hands dirty. (PS – not against prayer, obviously).
I’m not a theologian. I suck at reading the bible. But you don’t have to be a scholar to see the big picture. A group of friends and I met recently and this question was asked: “Have you ever experienced the kingdom of God on earth or had a moment where you felt like ‘this is what it will be like’?” Two of us answered with instances where we were serving or living alongside those less fortunate than ourselves. That made me think…when God restores this earth and comes to live among us and everything is made whole again…there won’t be others “less fortunate than us”. Right? So I pointed out that maybe it was flawed thinking to feel like we were experiencing “heaven on earth” in those moments. My wise, sage-like friend said she didn’t think that was the case because in those moments it is more about an honest connection with those individuals, our fellow “earthlings” and not about our socioeconomic status, money, power, etc. It wasn’t about patting ourselves on the back for serving or even the reward of serving as much as it was about feeling totally unified with another human being. THAT is heaven to me. No injustice, no inequality, no judgment, just oneness with others and creation. Imagine a world like that…it makes me feel like I might float away.
Half of my friends can tune out now (you’ve been warned) because I’m about to quote a man and a book who obviously has it all backwards and doesn’t care about the fate of his fellow human beings (jokes). In “Love Wins” by Rob Bell on page 7, before you even get into the meat of the book, he’s talking about the really terrible idea that heaven is a “there”, a destination, an end. He says:
“If this understanding of the good news of Jesus prevailed among Christians, the belief that Jesus’ message is about how to get somewhere else, you could possibly end up with a world in which millions of people were starving, thirsty, and poor; the earth was being exploited and polluted; disease and despair were everywhere; and Christian’s weren’t known for doing much about it. If it got bad enough, you might even have people rejecting Jesus because of how his followers lived.
That would be tragic.”
At the risk of totally ruining a great literary device I’ll just point out that that passage is dripping in sarcasm. Just in case you missed it. Just in case you thought we, as Christians (and I can hardly stand to call myself that sometimes), are doing a halfway decent job of displaying who Christ is to others. Just in case you thought arguing about the nuances of salvation was helping lead others to knowing a full, whole, freeing life with Christ.Just in case you thought focusing on how God is going to punish someone who got the wrong idea about Him is going to draw others closer. Just in case you thought condemning another for not being JUST like you would help them out.
Sorry for taking it to church just then. Didn’t mean to. But really, this message is for me as much as everyone else. I just can’t stand to watch a perfectly good message from an amazing, powerful, loving, gracious God get complicated. It’s simple. It’s not offensive. It’s good news. It’s easy to understand and to put into action in our lives. The action isn’t carrying out God’s justice in terms of how to be GOOD ENOUGH to enter into the kingdom. The action is carrying out God’s justice in terms of CREATING the kingdom in the here and now by working to uproot the much, much greater injustices occurring around us. That is something I can get behind. I’m not interested in discovering the 976 different laws, rules, and regulations that will get me into the kingdom of heaven…I’m interested in bringing it to life right now.
Here are a few ways:
I’m officially a hippie.