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Responding to Love Wins/Erasing Hell blog sponsored by Urbana Theological Seminary

by davesandel on May 22nd, 2011

From  Urbana Theological Seminary, Professor Ken Cuffey says that “the Scriptures that afford us a free will choice … God gives a real choice.  Scripture affirms this without in any way compromising the sovereignty of God.”

So I begin to think about the idea of choice and realize that I can indeed choose between toothpastes.  I can choose where to live, and what to eat for supper.

Sometimes.

I’m not so sure about choosing between good and evil.  I think I will always choose evil, or some limited amount of good, which amounts to the same thing.  I think I am unable to do anything else except by the grace that I receive from God.  And then I’m always limiting that grace by my fear and my ego-centricity.

Jesus asks me to choose to follow him.  He tells me that if I don’t, bad things will happen to me.  Depending on how I interpret what he means, maybe bad things will happen to me forever.  Jesus asks me to love God and love my neighbor with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind.  I realize that this “all” he speaks of might be bigger or smaller, but it’s never really “all.”  Yet if I don’t do what he asks, I’ll be sorry.  Maybe forever.

That’s unworkable to me.  I need to find another way to tell that story, because if I’m to be an unconditional lover, then I need God to lead the way.  None of this “you’ll be sorry” stuff.  That’s conditional, isn’t it?

As I begin to think about this, I notice the confusion in my mind.  What is happening to my understanding of free will here?  Of course I want to go back to the Bible and see what I can see.  But I also remember that these questions have never not been asked.

And that often the way we try to answer them is even more negative than my own double negative in that last sentence.  My wife asks me to be more interested in her, and a little less interested in the way she receives (or rejects) my ideas. She’s got something there.

I keep imagining the way Jesus looked into peoples’ eyes to know them before he said a word.  I think he knew/knows us better than we know ourselves.  And his response was always the most loving response of all.  Tough love, sure.  And what we might even call “codependent” love sometimes.  Both-And.

But always love.  And never any condition.  Never any time limit.  Patient and waiting.  For me, even.

That’s the story I continue to harvest from the Bible, and just can’t wait to share.

A former pastor suggested an interesting measuring stick to me tonight.  “Bottom line the role of the church is to communicate the fact that Jesus loves every one of us, and loves every one of us unconditionally.  So we should begin to ask everyone we see, everyone we know, ‘Do you know that God loves you, and everyone else, without condition?’ ”

I told him to go talk to George Barna, but I like his idea.  And I love his question, which would certainly generate lots of counter-questions from those old men and young men, old women and young women, and children, in every country of the world, from every religion, who are asked.  1 Peter 3:15 insists that I be able to answer the questions all these folks will have about God’s love, and to be able to answer them with “gentleness and respect.”

Jesus didn’t answer very many questions directly, at least not with direct words.  But I think he always responded to his critics, to his friends and to everyone else with love.  It might look “mean and wild,” as Mark Galli likes to point out.  But it’s love, nonetheless.

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