Blessings Not Just for the Ones Who Kneel – the Promiscuous Love of God

blessing-not-just-for-those-who-kneel
Agent provocateur Darin Hufford of the Free Believers Network, posted something worth considering on his Facebook Page:

The #1 complaint I hear people respond with when they hear this grace message is that God isn’t only loving, He’s also a God of justice and judgment. I think to myself, “Why can’t you shake your bi-polar concept of God? He’s the most loving being in the universe yet He’s got a hair-trigger temper?” God sounds like an alcoholic father.

(Hmm…sounds like shades of a recent conversation we’ve been having, does it not?)

Darin goes to great length debunking this harmful myth in The Misunderstood God…my friend Brian McLaren goes to great length debunking this harmful slander of God’s character in A New Kind of Christianity. I want to expose this naked emperor impostor-god via a couple of relatively recent songs. But first, a Bible break:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. – Jesus, in Matthew 5:43-45 TNIV.

God is not like us – we want to curse our enemies and misbehavors; we want to withold the best for the blest – which is, of course, us. But like the eccentric, argumentative Psalms of our Holy Writ, a couple of contemporary Psalmists wrestle with the character of the prodigal God, and show us what might be a better image of the Divine.

The first, and most in-your-face, example I’d like to offer is David Bazan‘s ‘Bless This Mess’ from the I-can’t-stop-listening-to-it album Curse Your Branches.

God bless the man who stumbles
God bless the man who falls
God bless the man who yields to temptation

God bless the woman who suffers
God bless the woman who weeps
God bless the children trying her patients

Trouble getting over it
Is what you’re in for
So pour yourself another
‘Cause it’ll take a steady pair of hands

Holy or unholy ghost
Well now I can’t tell, but either way you cut it
You should get some distance if you plan to take a stand

God bless the house divided
God bless the weeds in the wheat
God bless the lamp hid under a bushel

I discovered hell to be the poison in the well
So I tried to warn the others of the curse
But then my body turned on me
I dreamt that for eternity
My family would burn
Then I awoke with a wicked thirst

By my baby’s yellow bed I kissed her forehead and rubbed her little tummy
Wondered if she’d soon despise the smell of the booze on my breath like her mom
And it makes me want to be a better man
After another drink

God bless the man at the crossroads
God bless the woman who still can’t sleep
God bless the history that doesn’t repeat

This is an ambivalent song, to be sure. Evangelicalism’s erstwhile poster child grew up in the Assemblies of God and spent some time among Calvinists in an attempt to bolster the consistency of his faith – in both cases, just like me. He & I are approaching the life of faith from different trajectories now, but we both struggle with how to raise our little girls with integrity amidst a world that increasingly has more options. In the midst of it all, we’d like to believe in the God of Jesus – the God who loves, and blesses, indiscriminately – even when we’re hurting ourselves. (You can see other good versions of the song here and here, and perhaps download it here? For more on Bazan’s story, read these three excellent – but R-rated, just so ya know – interviews, in The Chicago Reader, eMusic, and Patrol.)

The most over-exposed man in rock – and perhaps periodBono Vox Himself, has good reason for getting as much exposure as he does. Among other things, his tenacious vision of God’s peace and shalom over and against the legalism of his Irish youth comes through in his songwriting, album after album. ‘City of Blinding Lights‘ is a great recent example:

Selected lyrics:

The more you see the less you know
The less you find out as you go
I knew much more then, than I do now

…I’ve seen you walk unafraid
I’ve seen you in the clothes you made
Can you see the beauty inside of me?
What happened to the beauty I had inside of me?

Time, time, time, time, time, time
Won’t leave me as I am…
But time won’t take the boy out of this man…

The more you know the less you feel
Some pray for – others steal
Blessings are not just for the ones who kneel
Luckily…luckily we don’t believe in luck…
Grace abounds…grace abounds…grace abounds…

Like me, Bono has wrestled with the world-affirming and world-denying in voices like that of Chinese mystic and church planter Watchman Nee. And like me, he’s had to say that what traditional Christianity has meant by “the world” we were meant to “come out of” and what Jesus (and Paul, and others) meant by this enigmatic phrase are two completely different – indeed, opposite – things.

Jesus was referring to the world of principalities and powers, those inhuman and dehumanizing forces of religion and empire. He wasn’t referring to culture-as-such, and certainly not to planet earth. Millions of friends-of-God are awakening to the reality that we live in a God-blessed and God-beloved world that God still thinks is ‘very good,’ however marred by egoic haze and degradation its become. We’re all connected – for life or death.

As the US Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori recently remarked, the idea of solely personal salvation is heresy. Our redemption begins in this world, its social and public as well as personal – at this stage, in 2012, salvation is planetary in scope. The ecology of new creation needs to be rooted in every aspect of our beings, from creative work to re-creation.

Bottom-line: God is love. Love is orthodoxy. (Agapetheism, as my friend Kevin Beck likes to put it) It’s God’s kindness that leads to repentance, not the big stick that you imagine God’s holiness to be. Let’s join together in the Great Work of our age – becoming the leaves of the Tree of Life for the healing of our relationships, our neighborhoods, our ecosystems, our economies – in short, our world. This begins, as Brennan Manning says, with healing our image of God – and the ones God loves. Which is all of us. God brings abundant blessings…not just for the ones who kneel. May we model this same lavish, indiscriminate, sloppy, positively promiscuous love.

Amen and amen.

PS: What songs, art, poetry and cultural artifacts remind you of God’s blessing breaking out of the confines of empire and religion?

This post originally debuted on December 3, 2009

36 Responses to Blessings Not Just for the Ones Who Kneel – the Promiscuous Love of God

  1. Frank Spencer December 3, 2009 at 9:19 pm #

    One of your best recent posts Mike!

    • zoecarnate July 31, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

      Why thanks, Frank. That means a lot coming from you. 🙂

  2. John Sobert Sylvest December 3, 2009 at 10:37 pm #

    Inspired! Bravo, Mike.

    Dan Fogelberg, Part of the Plan

    I have these moments all steady and strong
    I’m feeling so holy and humble
    The next thing I know I’m all worried and weak
    And I feel myself starting to crumble
    The meanings get lost and the teachings get tossed
    And you don’t know what you’re going to do next
    You wait for the sun but it never quite comes
    Some kind of message comes through to you
    Some kind of message comes through
    And it says to you…

    [Chorus:]
    Love when you can
    Cry when you have to
    Be who you must
    That’s a part of the plan

    Await your arrival with simple survival
    And one day we’ll all understand
    One day we’ll all understand
    One day we’ll all understand
    I had a woman who gave me her soul
    But I wasn’t ready to take it
    Her heart was so fragile and heavy to hold
    And I was afraid I might break it
    Your conscience awakes and you see your mistakes
    And you wish someone would buy your confessions
    The days miss their mark and the night gets so dark
    And some kind of message comes through to you
    Some kind of message shoots through –
    And it says to you…

    [Chorus]

    There is no Eden or Heavenly gates
    That you’re gonna make it to one day
    But all of the answers you seek can be found
    In the dreams that you dream on the way

  3. Ted Seeber December 3, 2009 at 11:08 pm #

    My favorite idea on this, straight out of CS Lewis, is the idea that if you marry perfect justice to perfect mercy, what you get is a God who rewards our victims while judging us by OUR understanding of him, not a universal truth.

    That while repentance should be tied to the temporal needs of the victim to fulfill all justice; mercy demands that our eternal punishment be tempered by our understanding of the rules with the information we personally had at the time.

    That process might be painful, but as John Paul II reminded us in July of 1999, all those who are in Purgatory have the certainty of ending up in Heaven. Or to translate to something that might fit a postmodern non-denominational Catholic-bashing mode better: Only those who consciously reject God go to hell. Those who do their best and sin anyway, or those who through no fault of their own never knew what sin was to begin with- go to heaven.

    Myself, I’d add that my personal interpretation (which I’m sure the Dali Lama would reject) of the Tibetan Bardo would give the idea that those without a yidyam, or savior, have missed the point in life and are forced to come back and do it over- but that’s outside of Christianity (and to a certain extent, outside of Tibetan Buddhism as well, where enlightened souls are so enamored with their own enlightenment that they become their own yidyam and choose, out of charity, to come back to instruct others- so it’s mighty hard to tell the difference between a punished atheist and an enlightened master from my point of view).

    But in even that- God is not just judgemental and the source of all justice- he’s also merciful and kind.

  4. 1ozmom December 4, 2009 at 2:28 am #

    I cannot even begin to tell you how much I needed this post right now. I deal in very…legalistic Christian circles and I too speak grace and peace to them. It’s just really hard standing up to the monolithic wall of Christian legalisim/judgment all the time. I get really beat up and brought down. This post was a deep well to me, and I thank you. It’s good to know that you’re not the only one out there, you know? Knowing there are others believing, spreaking and praying the same things gives me the strength I need to keep speaking out the truth I know about Him.

    I cannot WAIT for Brian McLaren’s new book!

    • zoecarnate July 31, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

      I’m glad this helps, sister.

  5. Heather W December 4, 2009 at 4:53 am #

    Mike…oh Mike 😉

    Seriously though – when I read this I just feel sad, because the God I know loves ferociously, but it’s not the kind of love that you describe here. His love and anger are not two different sides of his personality, as bipolar would describe, but they are so inextricably one and the same. His love is burning hot, his anger is filled with mercy, and to hear God described in the way you are describing Him just leaves His love seeming so misrepresented to me….like, anemic. I mean, how can I put it – the more you paint a God who is this guy who could never be angry at anything, the more His love seems so much less, and much more like some sort of hallmark card or something…so chinsy. I dunno Mike. I have never felt more loved than at the moment of my deepest awareness of God’s utter hatred for my sin, coupled with the vision of a man being beaten and put upon a cross for me…

    I don’t know what to say. It just doesn’t resonate. It seems empty.

    • alan rosentreter July 31, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

      amen! thx for the real truth

      • zoecarnate July 31, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

        Are you thanking me, or Heather?

  6. zoecarnate December 4, 2009 at 1:34 pm #

    Hmmm. I’m not sure we’re saying different things – but maybe we are. Come, let us reason together. 🙂

    I know its a sentence fragment so I could be taking it out of context, but when Paul says “The kindness of God leads to repentance,” does he mean it? For all the white-hot disdain God might have toward sin, what is His attitude toward His creation? White-hot anger? Or kindness? If he “so loved the world” (before His Son was flogged to death by the Romans, btw) and “causes the rain to fall on the just and unjust alike” then God’s character is consistently that of kindness toward sinners. This isn’t a kindly old grandfather who’s without emotion…do you know how much self-control it takes to give blessings, not just to those who kneel? God really has to love His enemies, just like Jesus tells us to: because according to the New Testament, God looks just like Jesus.

    Perhaps – though you haven’t stated this – it seems to you like I’m being “soft on sin,” and not really talking about human transformation in Christ, eg ‘sanctification.’ And you’re right, I didn’t really talk about that here. Except to say that God’s kindness leads to our repentance – our metanoia, or shift in consciousness and change of life. I really think it’s mercy all the way rather than contemplating the big stick of God’s supposed anger at sin, however real that is.

    (And I must admit I’m agnostic at how angry God is toward sin. I know that reading the judgment passages in Scripture through the lens of Calvinism you get the sense that God is supremely upset all the time at what His creatures are up to – but would an omniscient God really be all that surprised at our capacity for brokenness? I seem to recall paradoxical puzzlement once reading John’s gospel, where at one point Jesus says “I do not judge; I leave all judgments to the Father” and then the Father saying – was this in John or Revelation? – “I do not judge; I leave all judgment to the Son” and it almost felt like the Trinity was putting the judging game on one another, because no one wanted to do it!)

    Don’t get me wrong, sin is tragic – whether it’s my angry thoughts that degrade you (I’m using ‘you’ and ‘me’ as hypothetical here – I’m not sure I’ve ever been angry at you!) or genocide in Darfur, sin is real and has real consequences – but I almost think those consequences are built-in and don’t require the over-and-above indignation of God on top of them? Perhaps judgment is God holding an impartial mirror to our faces and letting us see the contours of our entire lives, exactly as they are…

  7. Ted Seeber December 4, 2009 at 3:56 pm #

    @Heather- I know you’re probably not Catholic. However, I urge you to read what the former Pope, John Paul II, said about the theological concept of Purgatory.

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2heavn.htm#Purgatory

    I’m not asking you to believe in Purgatory, but instead, look here for traces of what you are terming “his anger is filled with mercy”. I don’t think we are being soft on sin, speculating on how that mercy works; the temporal punishment for sin must still be fulfilled if we are to have justice in this world.

    @Mike- I don’t think the consequences of sin are always built-in. The temporal consequences most certainly are, but the eternal consequences are often very hidden to us. Having said that- I agree with you that it would be punishment enough, in eternal consequences, for God to merely show us where we went wrong- the guilt of the soul will do the rest. This also fits perfectly with the link above, in which Purgatory, Heaven, and Hell are not places- but rather states of mind that are very attainable right here on Earth (well, maybe not Heaven and Hell- unless you’re a Saint or the most evil sinner imaginable- but certainly Purgatory, for most of us, is where we live).

  8. brojo December 5, 2009 at 5:23 am #

    “God isn’t only loving, He’s also a God of justice and judgment. I think to myself, “Why can’t you shake your bi-polar concept of God?”

    I realize that is not your quote, Mike, but I’m going to interact with it a bit for a moment.

    There’s no easy way to talk about (much less understand or explain) all this stuff…but the way I see it is that If mankind were created by Him in His image, then it’s only reasonable to accept the fact that God is multifaceted with a full spectrum of thoughts, feelings, emotions and ideas.

    I would say that not only is He an active God, but also a re-active God as well. His response and reaction to us, I believe depends on our response and reaction to Him. I’m not talking “eye for an eye” here…. unless that’s what He wants us to go through, of course.

    He loves His enemies, but also allows them to kill one another off.

    Over all, yes, I believe that in His judgment, mercy is His greatest gift to man, but in His mercy, He also executes judgment.

    • zoecarnate July 31, 2012 at 10:52 pm #

      But perhaps a divine kind of justice is itself merciful, eh?

  9. David Henson December 6, 2009 at 7:08 am #

    So if I’m hearing you right, God’s love is promiscuous. Does that mean that Mary might not be the only one?!?! Are there skeletons in that divine closet in the sky?

    Sarcasm aside, I tend to agree with most everything you say here. Only, sometimes I wonder if the justice of God gets a bad wrap. Not in the sense that God has some great guilt cattle prod to zap us every now and then, or that he’s dangling us over the fires of hell yelling, “REPENT EVILDOER!” (Trust me, I’ve tried this with my children and it doesn’t work). But what does usually work with my children is to love them. They still annoy the hell out of me sometimes and still throw tantrums and push each other over.

    But, they also hug each other, kiss each other. They also sing me sweet songs and laugh like crazy at the silliest things. They bring me special things from the yard, like the most glorious blade of grass, ever.

    But, lately, I wonder if God takes the form in which we can best understand God, that perhaps God is a bit more amorphous than we’d like to think, and perhaps has a bit more of our own projection of perfect humanity — the divine. It might make up for some our bipolar understandings of things, if we understand that God does indeed speak to us in many different languages, and sometimes the only language we understand sounds really harsh to others, like German. (I love Germany, great beer). I’ll shut up now.

    • zoecarnate July 31, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

      I agree, actually. I like how George MacDonald, in his Unspoken Sermon on Justice, frames God’s mercy is just and God’s justice is loving. How we like to dichotomize things!

  10. John Sobert Sylvest December 6, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    As far as theological constructs go, I reckon one must affirm a reality like hell as necessary, in theory, only because true love is not coercive and God would force no one into relationship with Him, respecting our freedom. (How such a self-imposed alienation might be experienced in an atemporal existence, who knows? I doubt seriously fire and sulphur are involved.)

    As far as theodicy questions, trying to reconcile such disparate God-concepts such as omnipotence and omnibenevolence, I’d affirm the latter and ditch the former. For one thing, if creation was any less ambiguous for us and seemingly less ambivalent toward us, we might experience the reality of God too coercively, diminishing the need for faith and limiting our freedom.

    In my view, we should abandon our puerile notions of substitutionary and penal atonement. We needn’t conceive of the incarnation as some type of divine initiative in response to some so-called felix culpa, as some type of cosmic repair job for an ontological rupture that took place in the past. Rather, from an emergentist perspective of cosmic evolution, we can conceive of a God who so loved created reality that the incarnation was in the plans from the cosmic get-go.

    What we experience, then, is His and our teleological striving ordered toward the future, where our role as created co-creators is robustly participatory, where our questions change from Why is there suffering? to What am I going to do about it? That all of creation is groaning in one great act of giving birth need never be conceived as divine punishment or retribution but can instead be envisioned as God’s shrinking to make room for creation, finally shrinking so far as to take on human flesh without ever deeming equality with God as something to be grasped at.

    Once we’ve recognized this divine initiative and fully experienced its efficacies in our lives, any notion that God employs the created order to punish us earthly heathen (as temporal punishment) seems rather facile. As for a theological construct like hell (an eternal punishment), such a theoretical necessity increasingly seems to be a practical improbability, for our God may be coy but She’s not timid, for as a wily seductress and charming temptress, She will, eventually, have Her way with each and everyone of us, I just have to believe. And so did many of the Church Fathers, who articulated the notion of apokatastasis, which means that God’s loving initiatives are so overwhelmingly efficacious that, in the end, no one will escape them.

    It might be heterodox to deny the reality of hell as an indispensable theological construct but it is manifestly not heterodox to hope and believe that there ain’t a snowball’s chance in the Superdome that anyone will ever end up there. Rather, I believe that every beginning of a smile, every trace of human goodness, will be eternalized. We will each adorn the eternal firmament, filled to our capacity with the ever unobtrusive but finally inescapable love of God, some of us, perhaps like Mother Teresa, a blindingly bright and blazing helios, others, perhaps like that little altar boy, Hitler, but a tiny votive candle.

    Often, I imagine God singing, to each of us, that Moody Blues song:

    I Know You’re Out There Somewhere
    Moody Blues

    I know you’re out there somewhere
    Somewhere somewhere
    I know I’ll find you somehow
    And somehow I’ll return again to you

    The mist is lifting slowly
    I can see the way ahead
    And I’ve left behind the empty streets
    That once inspired my life
    And the strength of the emotion
    Is like thunder in the air
    ‘Cause the promise that we made each other
    Haunts me to the end

    CHORUS
    I know you’re out there somewhere
    Somewhere somewhere
    I know you’re out there somewhere
    Somewhere you can hear my voice
    I know I’ll find you somehow
    Somehow somehow
    I know I’ll find you somehow
    And somehow I’ll return again to you

    The secret of your beauty
    And the mystery of your soul
    I’ve been searching for in everyone I meet
    And the times I’ve been mistaken
    It’s impossible to say
    And the grass is growing
    Underneath our feet

    CHORUS

    The words that I remember
    From my childhood still are true
    That there’s none so blind
    As those who will not see
    And to those who lack the courage
    And say it’s dangerous to try
    Well they just don’t know
    That love eternal will not be denied

    CHORUS

    You know it’s going to happen
    I can feel you getting near
    And soon we’ll be returning
    To the fountains of our youth
    And if you wake up wondering
    In the darkness I’ll be there
    My arms will close around you
    And protect you with the truth

    Thus imagined, that song gives me chills and brings a tear.

    • zoecarnate July 31, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

      Love this song!

  11. Ted Seeber December 6, 2009 at 9:26 pm #

    The danger in giving up the theological construct of Hell is not just the loss of free will and heaven. It’s also the loss of any reason whatsoever to do good.

    My life is short. If there is no afterlife to worry about, then my life is absolutely meaningless in the history of the universe; a mere 120 years among 13.5 billion years. NOTHING I do matters- so why not just kill off my neighbors to make what little short life I have as comfortable as possible?

    That’s the danger of postmodernism. Not the heterodox moral relativism that we have to judge each case independently (or God does)- but that there is no judgement at all, and thus, no meaning at all.

    It’s the same danger corporate capitalism now faces- without regulation, “Bankers do God’s work”- banks become God, with no ethics at all.

  12. John Sobert Sylvest December 6, 2009 at 11:06 pm #

    Ted, you describe what has been called a pre-conventional stage of moral development, which DOES account for the behavior of many people, who, in essence, are employing pragmatic not moral reasoning. However, your hypothesis, in aspiring to explain everyone’s behavior, does not withstand the scrutiny of modern anthropological and psychological sciences, which reveal that many, many others live out of conventional and even post-conventional stages of moral development, with the highest stage operating without any regard to consequences.

    Furthermore, from a theological perspective, many (e.g. the RCC) believe that humans can discern good from evil, right from wrong, without the benefit of special divine revelation.

    A radically deconstructive postmodernism IS bankrupt morally because it is an indefensible, incoherent epistemology. This does NOT mean, however, that a foundational approach is the only answer. After all, there are MANY foundational approaches, all claiming an authoritative status and apodictic certainty, but leaving us no compelling way to adjudicate between their otherwise disparate and competing truth claims. (♫♪♬ Allah loves me, this I know, because the Koran tells me so!) So, we reject such naive realisms and embrace, instead, a fallible and critical realism (with either weakened foundational, non-foundational or post-foundational epistemologies). We affirm truth and the ability of our theoretic, practical and moral reasoning to approach it, advancing slowly but inexorably in our knowledge — not denying absolutes, just anyone’s unwarranted claim to possession of same.

    • zoecarnate July 31, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

      Good words as usual, John – as relevant in 2012 as they were in 2009.

  13. Ted Seeber December 7, 2009 at 3:52 am #

    It may be because, to a certain extent, it accounts for my behavior. 1:98 people have my specific mental disorder to greater or lesser extent, 1:58 males, by the latest numbers.

    Emotionless Pragmatism is a mark of the high functioning autistic.

    Having said that- I think that there is absolute right and wrong, moral right and wrong, and cultural right and wrong- and while overlapping, these three sets do not overlap 100%. In the days before mass communication and quick travel, more often climate dictated the last two than religion, religions evolved to fit into the climates they were in. The one overriding moral was mere survival; that which did not promote survival of the community, simply was not done, or became taboo.

    I’m of the opinion that humanity is happiest when we attempt to maximize survival.

    The problem is, most postmoderns are actually, for a variety of reasons from economic to environmental, anti-survival or at least, against the form of society that has evolved to maximize survival.

    I would argue that if you build your society without a foundation- then you’re building on a shifting sand and people like me, who do NOT have an inbuilt sense of right and wrong and must continually build internal decision trees to tell us what is right and what is wrong, you’re eventually going to end up with a society that falls apart.

    Having said that, one also needs a foundation that is living and can evolve- going back to the climate model, insisting on evangelization into a new area must be done carefully, or else you’ll end up with what the atheists did to Bali’s rice crop- nearly destroying it because they didn’t realize the significance of the water temple rituals to keeping the ecology in balance.

    Postmodernism *MUST* lead us back to the foundation, or else as you say, it will always end up morally bankrupt to the pragmatic.

    • zoecarnate July 31, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

      Hmm…

  14. Chris Bourne December 15, 2009 at 10:40 am #

    Mike, Hi. We’ve never met and I stumbled in here from Martin’s blog. Your posts generate a good response, but you asked a simple question at the end of your post and that’s what I am responding to.

    My contribution comes from opera, well, comic opera anyway, from Rossini, Cenerentola, (Cinderella for the rest of us). Rossini uses the really dark version of the story, the ugly sisters are beautiful bitches, vain and spiteful, the father is a lazy coward, abusing his daughter because she is socially inconvenient.

    In the final scene Cinderella has just married the prince and is making her entrance at court. Her father and sisters are there, terrified of her, their guilt is all they can see and they stand naked and ashamed in all their finery. What will she do to them now? They might not live out the day.

    In her final aria Cinderella sings of her joy, of finding love. But she knows what moment this is, she sees her father and sisters and knows what she could do to them. Then she sings such a simple line… “My vengeance, my revenge is to forgive”.

    • zoecarnate July 31, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

      Beautiful. Potent.

  15. Jason December 28, 2009 at 5:01 pm #

    Hey Mike,

    I’m new to your blog, but I found this post interesting. It looks like you’ve dabbled around in a variety of traditions, and I really respect that and encourage most people to do that.

    This post stood out to me largely because of the last paragraph. I too am constantly amazed at how many people want to over-emphasize God’s justice and judgement. Those are there, but we need a balance between love and judgement. Besides, the Reformed Calvinist in me tends NOT to see the two as necessarily mutually exclusive, but more as a both/and (the Reformed theologians loved doing that 🙂 ).

    However, also as a Calvinist, it’s always been stressed to me (and I stress it to those I minister to) that it is God’s unconditional grace and love that bring us to him. It saddens me every time I hear my fellow followers insisting on preaching damnation and judgement because they think that’s the way to lead someone to the cross. Judgement makes us aware of the need, but only love gets us to the cross.

    • zoecarnate July 31, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

      Wise words, Jason. I love how George MacDonald says that God’s mercy is just and God’s justice is loving. How we like to dichotomize things!

  16. Roger Wolsey July 31, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    Great post! As a Wesleyan (Methodist), I’d say that people experience God’s love via God’s prevenient grace before they are believers. I know I did.

    • zoecarnate July 31, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

      I like it!

  17. pamela chaddock July 31, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    Love this post, Mike. Song lyrics rule. This line of Bono’s is also very timely: “Stop helping God across the road like a little ole lady.”

    I so appreciate your attempts to describe our awesome God in manners befitting this most perfect loving Creator – especially in prodigal and enemy-loving tones. These are the areas we humans most resist because it gives us the highest vision of God, forcing us to grasp and transcend “the world” within ourselves in order to become more truly God-like. No one said, “Be you perfect” would be easy. Thanks for the challenge, Mike.

    • zoecarnate July 31, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

      You’re welcome, Pamela!

  18. Kevin July 31, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

    Probing question, Mike. I’ve been studying David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Ahab, Joash, etc. You know the drill, I’m sure. And I’m sure you know how much I actually enjoy some of the insights hidden in their stories.

    So with those guys in mind I read this article, and wondered; where does this put you on the whole Ba’al/Astarte thing? Is Ba’al a good guy now? How would Jesus react to finding you’d put up an Asherah pole in your back yard?

    • zoecarnate July 31, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

      Holy non-sequitur, Batman! How is my saying that God loves us before we love God – a very biblical idea – on par with endorsement of Old Testament idolatry?! I do not follow. 🙂

      BTW, have you seen my friend Carl’s post on biblical nonduality? It might be in your wheelhouse.

      • Kevin August 1, 2012 at 8:16 am #

        Yeah. It’s a tenuous connection, inspired more by where I’m studying than by what you’ve said here. It was a genuine point of curiosity, but the question can wait until you write something more germane.

        The leaves for the healing of the nation has always been one of my favorite pictures in scripture.

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