Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Unconditional Love

And so, after finishing "The Satisfied Heart: 31 Days of Experiencing God's Love", I believed (possibly for the first time) that God loved me unconditionally.  I know Christian's teach this, but there are some seriously conflicting scriptures. (if you believe in an eternal hell)  First the parable of the talents.  If you are a Christian, you know what this is, but in case someone reads this who is not, it's found in the book of Matthew. In a nutshell, servants are given money to invest for their master.  One servant doesn't do anything with the money, but instead hides it.  The master is not pleased, and sends that servant into "outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth".  Now, if being thrown outside is forever, it cannot be disciplinary, but only rejection. Use your talents, or you will be thrown away like garbage. How can one not see that as a condition for love?   BUT, if being thrown outside is for a period of time, it can be disciplinary.  We as parents understand that discipline can be done in love, in fact, not disciplining can be unloving.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  I came to believe in the unconditional love of God before I came to believe 'eternal' has been mistranslated. (but please do notice 'eternal' is not used in this parable at all)  Trusting in God's love was only possible for me by focusing on the scriptures that speak of His love...for 31 days straight.  Growing up in church I was so programmed to focus on service and obedience and repentance...there was not much time to focus on the fact that none of these are required to be loved.  "It's not what you can do for me, but what can I do for you" is a song we sang at church, and it really was the focus of our lives.  And if we could manage to do good works, then we could give ourselves a big pat on the back and know we really do love God. (and prove it to everyone else as well, who are of course always watching and sizing you up) 

But the problem with that is, at least for me, the good works never seemed good enough.  So my spiritual walk was primarily asking for forgiveness, and feeling despair because I was such a failure.  But then reading day after day that I was loved...period...well, it started to set me free from that.  Like I said in the journal entry I shared last time, having a 'devotional time' became something I longed for and actually looked forward to.  It had ceased to become a duty.  Amazing.  Because I did get ahead of myself in this post, I will go ahead and end with one of my journal entries that addresses another difficult scripture that I now see in a new light.

S) A field is useful to farmers, if there is enough rain to make good crops grow.  In fact, God will bless that field.  But land that produces only thorn bushes is worthless.  It is likely to fall under God's curse, and in the end it will be set on fire. (Hebrews 6: 7-8)
O) Are we to believe that God will curse us and send us to an eternal hell if we don't produce for Him?  Is that consistent with anything we know about God?
A) What is the field? People, or people's actions? What is the curse? Is it rejection, or punishment? What is the fire?  Eternal torture, or destroying what is of no use?
P) Lord, I want to understand, I want my kids to understand, and I want the church to understand--what is hell?  Please make it clear to us, so we can understand your nature.