I am going to start off with a couple of quotes from a  very influential Jonathan Edwards sermon in the 1700’s that shaped American spiritual thought “Sinners in the hands of an angry God”

“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten I thousand times more abominable in his eyes than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else that you did not go to hell the last night; that you suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.”

Later on he says “And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God”

My question is this; Is this what you bought as your understanding of God?

Think about it for a second. Were you called by his love or by fear?

I have become convinced that this understanding of God is the reason so many tune out. Also that this is the reason that churches preach the in/out view, as if we are a part of a nifty club with pretty heavy repercussions for not joining which is not the original understanding of the Good News.

Is it true? I know some reading will be like “yes, what are you peddling here?” I want to suggest that maybe just maybe our western, protestant, alter call view may not be the only way to view things. Is God really itching to destroy you while Jesus stands in the way? I have heard it said that Jesus came to clear up God’s reputation and I agree. However, thanks to sermons like the above it seems as if that is the only representation of God being proclaimed in most protestant churches, I think my catholic brothers and sisters may be more on track. Look at what Paul said in Colossians1:15-20

15  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[f] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

So Jesus is the Image of God. Does that mean that God and Jesus have the same loving character? Or do they like the good cop/bad cop game? If we continue to only focus on  heaven/hell. WE become the judges of who is in and out. We study the book and determine what is right and wrong, who is in and out. While claiming the Bible is what is doing the judging. We completely miss the reconciling of all things to God which IS the Good news. ALL THINGS. Look at this new version of John 3:16 with some changes to match the in and out club of today:

“For God so loved straight people that he gave his only Son, that whoever is straight and believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

We can do this with anything, insert the word that you identify with the most and see if you are comfortable with it. Or as a reminder, put what you believe as an enemy in there to challenge yourself. Such as: Liberal, Conservative, American,Terrorist,drunk, intolerant etc.

I think it comes from a negative self image. If you don’t measure up to your own standards how could God even look at you? So we plug away at making sure we believe the “right” things or else. Then we focus on the “not right’ of others (usually ignoring greed, coveting, gluttony and lust) that is easy to identify as in different belief systems, sexuality, political party, or economic status.  What if God loves you right now as you are? What if he loves those you wish he didn’t? Or are you firmly entrenched in being “right”? Do you squash the difficult questions the Spirit puts in your heart?

What if we are all sinners in the hands of a loving, caring, compassionate loving God who always chooses inclusion before exclusion?  Can you accept that? I know there are those that would want to argue that God is not as good as that but I would be curious how that works for them. I mean without fear of hell what are we being saved from? Good question….