The deeper my experience of God’s love grows, the more I find my perspective broadening and becoming more inclusive, rather than exclusive. I am beginning to appreciate more why the Apostle Paul said:
And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled with the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV)
As Paul says, this love surpasses all knowledge. I am finding you have to experience God’s love to even begin to understand it. It’s not something you can reason out in your mind. As Richard Rohr has said:
God refuses to be known in the way we usually know other objects. God can only be known by loving God…To love God is to love what God loves. To love God means to love everything…no exceptions.
So I am on a journey of learning to love God by loving who and what God loves, which is everyone and everything. After all, God created everything to reflect his glory and majesty. Mankind is even created in God’s own image. In this process my understanding of God’s wrath is gradually evolving also. I am beginning to believe that I have had a serious misunderstanding of it.
For instance, when God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because they would die, he was not saying “If you do that I will kill you”. He was saying “If you do that it will kill you”. More like telling a child not to touch a hot stove. It’s not that the parent will punish them for touching it, but that the hot stove will burn them.
So when the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” in the King James Version, it doesn’t mean that God will slay you for your sin. It means more like the way the Complete Jewish Bible puts it, “For what one earns from sin is death; but eternal life is what one receives as a free gift from God, in union with the Messiah Yeshua, our Lord”.
Jesus died on the cross in our place to pay the price of death that sin (not God) demanded of us. And Christ’s substitutionary death was not in response to Adam’s fall and the death which was released as a result. No, God knew from the beginning that if he gave mankind free will they would make bad choices. So he made provision for correcting our mistakes before he created us. Jesus is the “Lamb slain before the foundation of the world”. His love for his creation was so great the he paid the wages of sin himself on our behalf.
And that’s not all. Jesus was incarnated in human flesh to demonstrate to us God’s true nature – that is Love. For God is Love. So when Jesus invited us to follow him, he was inviting us to imitate God’s love by our love for God and for all of his creation. That is why he told us to love even our enemies – because God loves them as well as us. And we should also treat all of God’s other living creatures, as well as the earth itself, with love and respect, for God loves them too.
As I said, I am gradually learning to love people who are much different than me, including those who have beliefs that are sometimes at odds with what I believe. And not only are some of my beliefs changing as a result of listening to what others believe, but in examining my own beliefs I am sometimes gaining a better understanding of why I believe them.
Now, as my perspective is broadening and becoming more inclusive, you can argue at me if you wish. But I will not argue with you. If you ask me, I will tell you what I believe now. But I will not try to impose my beliefs on you. It is up to you to decide what you believe, so that you know the reason you believe that.