A funny thing happened over the weekend, having posted an entry titled ‘x marks the spot’ there was a sudden influx of readers… I have a suspicion some were hoping for more fruity content than I generally provide, or at the very least, the start of a treasure hunt. I could be wrong, but the adult website search engine which sent a few people to my page suggests otherwise!
For some Christians ‘evangelising’ (lit. ‘Good-news-ing’, from Greek eu-angelion: good message) seems to be all about the threat and fear of punishment, and having that threat lifted by accepting Christ…
I had a friend to visit over the weekend; we were talking about ‘the Gospel’ -the good news that Christians are called to share wherever they go. And I said ‘ well what is it then?’ only half joking, since I wanted to hear what she said… For her, it was about being saved from fear of punishment or ‘hell’… I was pretty surprised, although I probably shouldn’t have been. For me it’s never been about threat or fear, though I too believe in a final judgement, so her take on the Good News made me think about my own understanding:
I know God exists. And I am also aware (intermittently) of how much God loves me… God loves us human beings so much that he became incarnate -(that means literally ‘took on flesh’) he didn’t remain aloof, simply the transcendent creator, but descended… to live a true human life, start to finish. And though even the best of us were thick-headed, distracted and disloyal; although some more successful people were pleased to be petty-minded rulers of their own little realms, dealing out injustice to hang onto the nasty dark status quo; Still he didn’t react by destroying anyone, but came to tell us -even on the cross -that the sins of humanity, past, present and future, were forgiven. First in the kingdom of heaven was a desperate crucified thief who hung beside Jesus as he died.
So I know that God is serious about love. God loves at great cost -at complete cost to himself, and forgives, without reserve, all who will accept his forgiveness. How could I live my life the same old, self-serving and small-minded way, knowing what the most amazing human, God-incarnate, Jesus of Nazareth, Carpenter, teacher and true friend; has gone through for me. And how could I ever treat another human being as anything less than precious, because that amazing Beloved also did it for them.
-Not to know, is sad, and needs to be told.
-To kind of know but not believe in that kind of love -is understandable -I doubt that anything can teach you about the love of God other than actually encountering the love of God -which will happen if you choose to seek him, or perhaps if he chooses to seek you… (psst…if you’re reading this then one of those two is true).
-But to really believe in, yet still ignore or refuse that kind of love, and choose… well, anything else, is self-abnegating madness… it may even be impossible… it would certainly be a judgement to be feared. That kind of self-imposed hell is the only one I can imagine, because I know with absolute certainty that God is never going to turn away anyone who loves him and longs to be loved by him.
So hell’s not really part of the good news I’d share if I wanted to tell someone who didn’t know… in fact it only really becomes relevant once you’ve encountered the love and forgiveness of God <hooray>, and you’re finding it a drag keeping up the relationship- -rather wanting to go back to the old days of tedious but comfy self-indulgence… which we all do from time to time… So thank heavens God forgives us the moment we repent!
‘Repentance’ is a translation of the Greek word ‘metanoia’ which means turning… kind of turning to walk ‘with‘…
I often imagine myself like a child walking after an older sibling or parent down a street, and getting distracted by shiny shop-windows and loud cars, sometimes God lifts my chin so I look ahead or nudges me to keep me from falling off the kerb… sometimes I still walk carelessly and trip or I just stop and gaze down at my shoelaces in the rain. But when I realise I’ve gone astray and am ready to correct my path, to ‘repent’ -he’s always there, he has never wandered off and left me… but it’s still up to me to do the walking-he won’t do it for me.