“God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, namely, real human beings, the real world, this is for God the ground of unfathomable love.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16 NRSV
“For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:10
I had an interesting encounter with another blogger this week after I posted my warning about the danger that Glenn Beck and people like pose to religious liberty. I was not really surprised at the encounter I figured that I might get a bit of hate mail but this was interesting. This blogger who evidently thinks that he has the absolute lock on God’s truth had this as one of his replies on the post:
“My Jesus is ANGRY at His children who promote false doctrines and pervert the Word of God. The reason I know this is because Yeshua IS the Word of God, these things recorded in holy scripture for all to see and read.” 777Denny
Now Denny is a bit off and seems to me a very angry person who has so conflated the Gospel of Jesus Christ with his own incredibly narrow and hateful theology and politics. These lie slightly to the right of the Taliban so that it is hard to understand where his faith ends and politics begin. Maybe that is why Bonhoeffer commented that “Politics are not the task of a Christian.”
Denny seems to think that about all Christians and for that matter people in general are pretty worthless. Of course I have treated Denny pretty well. I have offered to and will pray for him because he is so trapped in his own legalism and hatred of his former Roman Catholic faith. I want to keep a dialogue with him. His anger, legalism and ideas about sex and the role of women cause me believe that he must be a physical or sexual assault victim. While his tirades are pretty extreme, not very creative and full of nuttiness they do speak to a general contempt for the world that is the creation of God and the people that he has redeemed through Christ’s incarnation, life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension.
Now I know that Christians can be and often are intolerant…we can be somewhat surly at times and our history in many cases is rather ugly and not very reflective of Christ, unless it is Denny’s “Angry Jesus.” I cannot say that I have not had my moments of ugliness and more than I have been pretty obnoxious and well, just a jerk regarding my faith. However even so I can’t blame God for things that I get angry at. I have only my occasionally bad temperament to blame, maybe some genetics too. As George and Frank Costanza say “serenity now!” Denny represents as aberrant as his view of Jesus is, a segment of the Christian world that really does despise the world and the people that God created and has redeemed. Denny is obviously a troubled soul and needs help but until he sees this he will hurt a lot of people and most of all himself.
Part of my Lenten journey has meant slowing down and taking stock of things in my life and faith. This was actually enforced on me when Adolf the Kidney stone stopped me in my tracks for about three weeks. Now I haven’t had any “new revelations” or in fact not much more than realizing that I need to focus on some aspects of my spiritual life that I have neglected and just take a bit more time to appreciate all that God has done as well as the people and world that I live in.
As I have mentioned in other posts the passage from 2nd Corinthians 5:17-21 has been on my mind a lot since my “Christmas miracle.” So you don’t have to look it up I have posted it below highlighting verse 19 which has really speaks to me:
17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2nd Corinthians 5:17-21
This I think is one of the key passages in the New Testament in relation to God’s relationship to humanity, real humanity. As I have mentioned my Lenten journey has taken me back to re-reading and pondering the life and work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I think that living in the tumultuous times of the First World War, the collapse of the German monarchy, the German civil war, the Kapp Putsch and the Nazi rise to power and takeover and the Second World War has insights that are very applicable for the tumultuous times that we now live.
Bonhoeffer lived in some of the darkest times, where his own countrymen turned on one another and extremist politicians of the Left and Right stoked the fires of resentment, fear and desperation through the newspapers and periodicals that they owned. Fiery speakers instigated crowds to violence against their opponents and undermined the weak government at every opportunity even with actual force. Bonhoeffer was someone who did not lose sight of the Gospel nor the people that Christ died to redeem during that time. The passage that I cited at the beginning of this article is something that leapt out at me this week.
“God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, namely, real human beings, the real world, this is for God the ground of unfathomable love.”
It is so easy today immersed as we are in a 24/7 information barrage of television, talk radio and the internet where politicians, pundits, journalists to see why regular folks like Denny have been whipped into a frenzy against their neighbors and fellow citizens for matters completely disconnected to the Gospel. This becomes even more of a problem when it takes faith which should be focused to reconciliation and redemption and turns it into just another way of despising the people and the world that God loves. In essence the “Gospel” has been turned into a weapon against the very people and world that Christ died to save and made a prostitute to crass political ideology. However as Christians we cannot allow ourselves to be trapped by the hatred espoused by so many who daily work in the modicum of “speaking the truth” must realize as Bonhoeffer said that “God’s truth judges created things out of love, and Satan’s truth judges them out of envy and hatred.” The pundits and politicians who prey on the people of faith and exploit their fears not for the sake of God, but for their profits as some of the most popular of these people readily admit on the air.
God loves real people; not only the ones that we choose to love or those that we prefer to hang out with. He loves people who are not perfect, the Church was not intended to be a social club where we get our “God fix.” It is instead to be a community in relationship with one another and the world in which we live. The Gospel is not just a message that we offer to fill the pews and keep the bills paid. The Gospel is all about the love, mercy and even justice of God, which is not to be confused with the “justice” that we desire. The Gospel is about integrity as the people of God. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself….” It is the message of reconciliation that allows us to have community with one another and the world and as we do so grow into the kind of humanity that is transformed by the Gospel so that we might be really human. Bonhoeffer wrote: “While we exert ourselves to grow beyond our humanity, to leave the human behind us, God becomes human; and we must recognize that God wills that we be human, real human beings. While we distinguish between pious and godless, good and evil, noble and base, God loves real people without distinction. ”
The call is not to be immersed in the anger of the day but transformed by the love of Christ. Certainly the hope of the world is not found in the unending media barrage but in the Gospel that reminds us that “we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”