The Good News

Good newsI recently wrote a blog informing the world that my view of scripture seems to be slightly off from everyone else’s. Well, here I go again.

The good news of God is not that Jesus died on the cross as a payment or penance for your sins. I’m not the only one to believe this, but it’s still quite popular so I just wanted to put that out there. The entire concept that Jesus died as some form of payment has been debunked, it simply doesn’t line up with a God of love, nor with a healthy human self-image.

If you don’t believe me, use the method I always use to test salvation hypothesis, put yourself in God’s shoes. Yes, I realize that I am a limited being, but if something seems morally wrong to a human, chances are, God feels that double. In this case, my first born child broke the rules and continues to break them, to save the first I demand that my second child be murdered to satisfy me. Sound like something you might go to jail for? Yeah, exactly.

The good news of God is not that God will provide for your every need if only you have faith and can pray to Him. While the Bible does suggest that humans have been given authority over the earth, by God and by Christ, it would directly contradict free will for most of our prayers to be answered. Despite the fact that God created the world out of nothing, scientists have discovered that since then, nothing else has been created from nothing, and so everything you gain, someone else loses. Where do you think that $1 Million dollars would come from? Be careful what you wish for.

The good news is also not that we now have a way to pursue perfection. Yes, Jesus was the son of God, and according to record, was perfect, so we should definitely look up to Him and follow his example, but we will never be him. You will only ever be you, and to spend your life attempting to be perfect, because you believe you are worthless, is degrading to the person that God created you to be to begin with.

Once again, put yourself in those shoes. Your child spends their whole life telling themselves and you how horrible and corrupt, disgusting, little, and terrible they are. How does this make you feel? What do you want to tell them? I imagine it’s something like, “No! No, my child! You are perfect just as you are, you need to change nothing about you for you are mine!” (Sound familiar?)

The good news of God IS this message, that God loves us! It’s amazing I know. Our sins have been forgiven, they were always forgiven because God never turned his back on us. Jesus came to tell us this, and to set the record straight. The Hebrews had spent their entire history coming up with ways that humans fell short of God’s love, but they were missing the mark, so Jesus came down to say once and for all, stop the sacrifices, I only want your hearts. Stop the killing and the fighting, you are all my children. Stop beating yourself up, because I love you and will always love and have always loved you and nothing you do can change that. How wonderful is that message?

To answer the next logical question, yes, there is still sin, but it isn’t what you think. It’s not some grandious dark cloud or evil entity waiting to tackle you when you least expect it, it is simply living in a way that will bring you the most pain. This is why God hates it, because it’s bad for us, not because it’s bad for Him. He’s God! Nothing is bad for Him. He has no kryptonite. So, step one, love God. Step two, love yourself because God loves you. Step three, love your neighbor as you love yourself because God loves you. Pretty simple.

No go, eat, drink, and be merry, for God loves us all!

Foundation

ImageSo, the foundation of a new Christianity has been laid, incorporating both ancient concepts from Pelagius and Job, to more recent relational theologians like Larry Shelton.

Okay, you might say, but if I didn’t quite dig deep enough to understand the core of the foundation you’ve laid here, what exactly is it you are trying to say, and what makes it so different from the Christianity I find in church every Sunday?

Excellent question! First, the foundation of all Christian moral activity in the world is love. Not the love that appears in popular movies or trashy novels, but the love of God as he reveals to us in others and in Jesus Christ. This love is so deep and so viscerally understood as unconditional in all of us, that I feel safe claiming that God is not only love, but unconditional love. This is not to say that unconditional love is clear in scripture, but rather that unconditional love is clear within each of us. We know what is true and right about God, and when anything other than unconditional love occurs, we know that something isn’t right about it.

If God is unconditional love, there are some basic assumptions that the church has made about original sin, and about sin and general that don’t quite fit that paradigm. For instance, why would a God who loves unconditionally create a world, and indeed His children, so that they were temporarily perfect, only to live the remainder of their existence regretting and mourning that they could never be again? This seems well outside of the realm of love, let alone unconditional love.

What story does fit then? That is the first three entries of this blog, the story of how God loved us so much that He created a world in which we could choose to reject Him. When we did so, He honored that choice, but we, in defense, blamed Him, and created a story which blames Him. There is plenty of historical proof, indeed history itself, that those who survive will blame those who cannot or will not refute the blame. Ancient humans were no different.

This idea that we are unfit, horrible, depraved, wrong, broken, etc. beings has drilled into our brains for so long that we have forgotten what it means to be beloved, exalted, chosen, anointed, and blessed. We have come to believe that we are so disgusting that nothing can save us; not ourselves, apparently not even God, despite what scripture says to the contrary, because we continue to act as if God has done nothing for us, not forgiven us, not claimed us, and not created us. Are you beginning to see how these things are in contest with each other?

One last point before I move onto the next difference. If God is as powerful as we can possibly imagine. As graceful, good, perfect, and just; why do we have such a hard time accepting that maybe; just maybe, he created us in an image that He can be proud of, from the beginning, and for eternity? Proud does not mean happy with, it does not mean approving of; it means proud of our ability to choose, love, laugh, and live. Yes, we can make mistakes, yes we can hurt others, but if we were incapable of doing these things, would we be any better than furniture? Don’t you think God knows all of this? And yet still, here we are, in the world, being loved, no matter what we do. Reality should trump imagination. The reality is, this is who we are, loved. Once we can accept this our perception of life changes, the nature of scripture changes, and who God is changes. You are perfectly imperfect, exactly as God made you, and that is very good.

Well, that sounds all nice and comforting there, emotional even, but what about scripture? Surely you can see there is an angry God, killing God, threatening God, etc. This is where the story of Job comes in, and what it was trying to say, and what it tells us about the ancient Hebrew way of life…

Unconditional means Unconditional

ImageThe entire encounter took place in about three seconds, but to Cain, it could have been an eternity.

First, a blinding light forced him to close his eyes. He felt like he was sinking into the ground, which he was, because he had fallen to his knees.

The first thing he heard that helped him realize what was happening was a tiny voice in his heart that said, “I love you, my son.”

When Cain opened his eyes, he was at the top of a magnificent ziggurat. Up so high that when he looked out he could see the entirety of the land. His feet were actually upon the topmost step, with only the pinnacle available before him. Upon that pinnacle there was a throne made of jade, and sitting upon that jade throne, a man in golden armor. The man… was crying.

I’m so sorry Cain. I have been with you since before you were born, and I have waited so long for the day that you would open your heart to me, release it from your bitterness.

“Where am I? Who are you?”

Do I really need to answer that?

“Are you… you can’t be… why would you…?”

Yes, I can, and because I love you.

“How can you love me? I am full of hatred, of murder… Oh… I killed my brother!”

If you were truly filled with hatred, you would not be here, my son. You opened your heart to me when you felt remorse for what you had done. It is the first step to repentance.

“No! No, you can’t love me. I am too horrible! I am wicked! From birth I have hated, I have been nothing but evil. It is my nature to be evil!”

CAIN! Who are you to know your own nature? Did you place your soul within your body? Did you lovingly craft every cell of flesh, every inclination, and every curious neuron? It was I, who made you Cain, and it was I who gave you your nature, and I know… it is not evil.

Shaking his head in confusion from the barrage of words unknown to him, Cain grasps the last sentence. “How could it not be? Look what I have done?”

What you have done, my son, is a most disturbing act, a desecration of all that I value and hope for in humanity. However, no matter how evil your actions, I will always love you. It was I who allowed you to choose to walk the path of darkness, and it was I who created a universe where darkness could exist. It was I who created humanity so fragile that it could be taken away by so many things. My reasons for these things are great and beyond what you could possibly comprehend. All you need to know is; I love you. I do not hate you for what you have done. I weep for you, for your dark path. Turn back to me, my son, follow my ways and you will be happy again.

“No! I could never be happy again. I have betrayed you, my family, and myself. I don’t deserve your love! I deserve to die as a punishment for my actions!”

The light began to fade then, as Cain pulled away from his creator.

Son, you don’t have to do this. I could never hate you. Abel is with me, he only hopes for your salvation from this, just as I do. He understands you now, and he does not hate you either. Don’t do this to yourself.

“It’s too late… You may love me, but I can’t…”

As the light fades completely to black, Cain sees one last movement from the man atop the pinnacle, his head falls into his hands, and he weeps.

After Cain awoke from blacking out, he broke from the eyes and arms of his family and ran back to his dwelling, collected his things, and left. Now that he knew that Abel had been right all along about “Being”, he only felt more hatred toward himself. The blood that he had spilled that day cried out to him, mocking him, taunting him, reminding him of his betrayal.

Cain walked away from home without looking back and with only one thought on his mind. He would find someone out there who could do what he didn’t have the strength to do, no matter how much he hated himself… kill him. He both feared and sought death. He knew there were others out there like him; men who found pleasure in death. That is where he belonged. With the cursed, those cursed by blood.

But no matter where he went, he would never forget that man, and how he wept for him, and how he said, “I love you”.

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The story of Cain and Abel has long been used to show God’s favoritism. Indeed, the scholarly opinion would suggest that the story was born as a method for alienating foreigners that the Hebrew people did not want to trust, or who they wanted to kill.

What I hear when I read the story is the beginning of something completely different; the beginning of mankind believing themselves to be fallen, broken, miserable creatures. Yes, we make mistakes. Yes, we sin. Yes, we spit at God.

However, unconditional means unconditional. There is nothing you can do to separate yourself from the love of our Father. God made us as we are, creatures capable of love and hate.

The thought that God would create a people, perfect only to fall and live thousands of years in the shadow of what they might have been, is cruel and sadistic and unlike a God of love.

We are the source of sin. We are the source of hate. We are the separation that exists between God and us. We are the love. We are the light. We are the hope for a brighter and more loving future. We are neither demons nor angels. We simply are what God made us. Perfectly imperfect.

10 Years Later

Cain and Abel“And so ‘Being’ threw dad out of paradise because he didn’t follow the rules perfectly.”

Seth, being only 5 years old, gasped and leaned back in fear wondering how he’ll ever be able to do what’s right in the eyes of ‘Being’.

“’Being’ was so upset, he cursed the ground so that we’d have to work really hard to grow things. Trust me, I know, I spend all day working very hard for our food to grow, and it isn’t easy.”

Seth responds tentatively, “But… but Abel says that ‘Being’ loves us very much! How could ‘Being’ love us, but also make life so hard for us?”

“That is simply the way of ‘Being’. For instance, I try just as hard as Abel to speak with ‘Being’, but I don’t feel anything, and Abel feels everything. He says he can talk to it, but I’m not sure I believe him, I think he’s making it all up.”

Having heard the last sentence Abel understands what’s going on, it’s not the first time. What is he ever going to be able to do to convince Cain that it’s not ‘Being’ that isn’t speaking, but rather Cain who has shut himself off?

He speaks up, “Cain! Stop filling our brothers head with your jealousy!

“Seth, don’t listen to him, ‘Being’ does love us very much. So much so, that It wants us to work so we can have a purpose. That’s why it takes effort to bring food, because if it was too easy, we wouldn’t appreciate the beauty and bounty that ‘Being’ has given to us. This is why we must always remember to thank ‘Being’ for everything we have, because we would have nothing without It.”

Cain rolls his eyes, “Oh please! It’s not ‘Being’ that brings our food, it’s my sweat! I don’t see It out there tilling the soil every year, or making sure the plants get water when it doesn’t rain!”

“Without ‘Being’ there wouldn’t be any rain to begin with! Rain is a blessing, just as growth is a blessing, just as having brothers is a blessing! Life itself is our greatest gift, and we should not spend it trying to scare each other.

“Seth, you know how I take care of the sheep and goats?”

“Yeah” Seth nods.

“Well, I see the miracle of birth every year, and I can tell you that I had nothing to do with that! That’s ‘Being’ creating life right before our eyes! Just like you my little brother, were created by ‘Being’. You are a miracle too!”

Seth’s eyes open wide with excitement, “Wow, really!?”

“No!” Cain interjects,

“If you were a miracle than you would be helping me tend the fields rather than sitting around with mother all day long listening to songs and playing with toys!”

Looking crossly at Cain Abel says, “Again, don’t believe the words of fear spoken by our brother Seth, he’s just jealous that he can’t be sitting next to mother instead of out in the field.”

Cain blurts, “What would you know about it sheep herder! Like you’ve worked a day in your life! All you do is sit there and watch the animals eat grass while you play on your flute, or hum stupid songs! I’m the only one around here that does any real work! ‘Being’ has cursed me I tell you! Gah! I’m done with you, I have real work to do anyway!”

Abel kneels down to look his brother in the eye, “Seth, I want you to be very careful about listening to Cain. I am concerned that fear has eaten away at his heart. According to dad, fear is there to help us do the right thing, but I think that Cain has lived so long with it inside him that he’s losing himself, and has lost his connection to ‘Being’. I love him so much, I hope he’ll reconcile his hurt with ‘Being’ soon.”

Seth, not quite understanding what Abel is saying, and knowing he’s talking more to himself, still wants to know, “What’s Cain afraid of?”

“I don’t know, Ach Qatan. Sometimes I think he’s so afraid of being rejected by ‘Being’ that he’s rejected ‘Being’ first to avoid the possibility.”

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So many people have Cain in their hearts. They become so afraid of not being good enough for God that they reject him simply so they won’t have to deal with the assumed reality. This is not healthy. One of the greatest gifts of knowing God as a God of love is that He will never reject us, no matter what we think of Him.

Yes, sometimes God feels distant, but He’s not. There is a recent song on the radio which talks about how now that the lights are on, you can know that I was never gone. This is what fear does to us, it blinds us to truth, blinds us to love. There is a point when we have embraced fear so strongly, and so completely, that we don’t want to let it go because to do so would admit we have wasted so much time embracing it, but you need to let it go.

Pray to God right now, open your arms to Him, forgive yourself for what you have felt toward Him and know that He forgives you. Your sins have already been forgiven, rise and go in peace. Live the love that was first given to you. God Bless.