Can We Please Stop with the Technology Shaming/Scolding?

10305056_856003017760296_672094775602630175_n

What is this guy looking at, the world?

Okay, we’ve probably all seen it by now, the latest viral video making the rounds telling us how we are missing our lives, becoming hermits, incapable of “real” relationships and becoming less socially adept because of smart phones, Facebook and twitter. If you have yet to see the latest one (in a long line of them), you can watch it here. My favorite part about these memes and videos is the sheer irony of them being made specifically for people to post and share…ON SOCIAL MEDIA. WITH THEIR SMARTPHONES!

But first, a disclaimer: This post is not a rebuttal of Mr. Turk’s video. Nor is my intent to say we do not need to put down our technology and spend time with people face to face. It is important NOT to prioritize online activity over your partner, children, friends or other relationships. This post is  however a plea for us to stop picking at the speck in our neighbor’s eye while we have a plank in our own; for us to keep the baby and pitch the bath water; to eat the fish and discard the bones. As with so many things in life it all comes down to how you relate to something more than the thing itself.

Throughout human history people have loved scolding each other and themselves about the use of the latest technology.  Consider the following about the automobile:

The regime of mass car use is an offshoot of our historical aversion to civility itself. The car allows Americans to persist in the delusion that civic life is unnecessary. As a practical matter, this regime is putting us out of business as a civilization.  -James Howard Kunstler

“I’m not sure he’s wrong about automobiles…With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization — that is, in spiritual civilization. It may be that they will not add to the beauty of the world, nor to the life of men’s souls… I think men’s minds are going to be changed in subtle ways because of automobiles; just how, though, I could hardly guess. But you can’t have the immense outward changes that they will cause without some inward ones…I shouldn’t be able to defend the gasoline engine, but would have to agree with him that automobiles ‘had no business to be invented.’”  -Booth Tarkington

Every man on horseback is an arrogant man, however gentle he may be on foot. The man in the automobile is one thousand times as dangerous. I tell you, it will engender absolute selfishness in mankind if the driving of automobiles becomes common. It will breed violence on a scale never seen before. It will mark the end of the family as we know it…It will destroy the sense of neighborhood and the true sense of Nation.  -R.A. Lafferty

Cars, air travel, the telephone, the newspaper, the radio, electric lighting: They all were said to be the end of civilization as we know it. And you know what? They were. Everything ever invented and everyone ever born changes the world as we know it. Change is continually happening and continually feared. All these inventions plus computers, iPads, smartphones, televisions, texting and social media have the potential to be used for positive or negative ends. JUST LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE. What is important is how we relate to these things individually and collectively. Listen, our phones are no different when it comes to the commuters in the picture at the top of this post than newspapers were to an earlier generation. Look at this picture…BOOM. Historied.

newspapers

What is this women looking at, the world?

We humans enjoy beating ourselves up for things. It makes us feel better somehow to practice self-flagellation (extreme punishment or criticism of oneself) even when we have done nothing wrong. We watch a video or read a meme about how [fill in the blank] is ruining society and we think, yeah that’s bad often without actually examining ourselves or the facts. My friend Michelle A. posted a great reaction to the Gary Turk video a couple days ago in which she said,

Facebook has changed my life for the better. I have used it to encourage others, stay in touch with people I would have otherwise lost, tell funny stories and share pictures with family and friends. I have prayed with people over the phone I have met up with people I hadn’t seen in 15 years and we don’t miss a beat because we know each other’s Facebooks. I have logged my sons special moments I have had spirited debates and long phone calls and loved the downtrodden. It is growing my business so I can change my family tree. I put down the phone and my kids play outside, play with play dough, take walks, see friends and have fun. It’s not the app that’s the problem. It’s user error. To those with a dramatic goodbye letter to Facebook I shrug my shoulders.

Another friend, Matt eloquently pointed out (also on Facebook btw),

With all due respect to Gary Turk and his “Look Up” video, the reality may not be as simple as he puts it. Take, for instance, these Pew Survey results: “The average user of a social networking site has more close ties and is half as likely to be socially isolated as the average American.”

Let’s have a look-see at those Pew Survey results, shall we?

Controlling for other factors we found that someone who uses Facebook several times per day averages 9% more close, core ties in their overall social network compared with other internet users.

We looked at how much total support, emotional support, companionship, and instrumental aid adults receive. On a scale of 100, the average American scored 75/100 on a scale of total support, 75/100 on emotional support (such as receiving advice), 76/100 in companionship (such as having people to spend time with), and 75/100 in instrumental aid (such as having someone to help if they are sick in bed).

Internet users in general score 3 points higher in total support, 6 points higher in companionship, and 4 points higher in instrumental support. A Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day tends to score an additional 5 points higher in total support, 5 points higher in emotional support, and 5 points higher in companionship, than internet users of similar demographic characteristics. For Facebook users, the additional boost is equivalent to about half the total support that the average American receives as a result of being married or cohabitating with a partner.

In addition to all that Facebook users have revived more dormant relationships. As is often the case, there is so much more to things than meets the eye. So perhaps we should do ourselves and our friends a favor the next time we feel the need to pass along a “convicting”, tisk-tisk, fear-mongering or guilt inducing meme/video and examine our motives. Evaluate our relationships to the people in our lives. Ask for their input. Make adjustments if necessary. But perhaps we should not assume that everyone has a problem just because we do. Maybe we shouldn’t pass something on just because it makes us seem more evolved (Sometimes that backfires and just makes one look like one of those people who dislikes something because it is popular. Not unlike the Michael Jackson backlash after Thriller when I was in junior high or the way some of the hipsters of today reject something popular just to seem cooler than thou). Or maybe we should cut each other a little slack. Stop hating on each other. Stop shaming each other (or our kids) every time we look at our phones. Instead what if we could teach our kids how to have a healthy relationship to their tech by modeling a healthy relationship to our tech. And lastly I hope we can all agree to stop saying, “Those aren’t ‘real’ relationships.” Because, they are. Social media are certainly not the only way nor should they be the only way we connect to, relate or are there for each other. They are also not always the best way (although when I needed a bed for a teenager who was staying with us for six months I had offers for about 10 within 30 minutes of putting it online). In the end however, social networks, smart phones and iPads are a valid and often effective way to meet, connect, reconnect, reach out, ask for help and/or offer help. Let’s make sure we are using them for good rather than abandoning them or demonizing them out of fear.

 

Below you will find some excellent articles on the positive effects social media are having on teens specifically.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/oct/05/teens-social-networking-good-for-them

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-j-siegel-md/why-our-teenagers-feel-connect-on-social-media_b_4480817.html

http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/21/living/social-media-positives-teens-parents/

http://www.parentfurther.com/technology-media/social-networking/benefits

And yes, I wrote about something similar a while back…https://wordofawoman.com/2013/10/10/the-e-villes-of-smartphones-and-social-media/

Advertisements

What if Hell isn’t actually just Facebook? (a response)

Today Matthew Paul Turner wrote a post called, “What If Hell Is Actually Just Facebook?” You really should go read it before you read this as I have taken much of what he wrote and rephrased it into my response.

What if Hell isn’t actually just Facebook?
Think about it. What if Hell isn’t a literal place buried deep in the center of Earth, but instead, it’s just anywhere and any system that keeps us from loving God and loving each other? What if Hell sometimes is a place or a decision in the hearts of humans? What if Facebook on the other hand is neutral and can become either the Kingdom of God breaking through on my iPhone or a portal of ugliness and as Mr. Turner postulates, hell? What if, as so many things in life the answer is in what you bring to it? It bothers me when we as Christians blame something that is simply a mirror for the image we see in it. What if Facebook is actually just a mirror?

What if, rather than being a place that burns the souls of humankind, Facebook allows me to connect in ways I cannot in person? What if it allows me to maximize my time, concentrate my energies, and connect on an emotional level with people I would not otherwise have the occasion to see on a regular basis because of time or geography?

What if instead of Hell’s wailing and weeping being the silent plea to be “Liked,” that plea to be liked and approved of was just our normal human cry for community and what if it was met with the unconditional love of Christ?
What if Facebook isn’t scary at all, but rather another avenue for community and relationships that we keep open on our laptops and scroll through on our smart phones like so many run-ins with friends at the local grocery store or dog park?
What if instead of the gnashing of teeth being the mostly inaudible noise we engage in our feeds, the complaining, the opinion-making, the sharing, the selfie taking, the oohing and ahhing, and the liking? What if those again were opportunities to be enlightened, to learn something, to reach out to someone in their loneliness, their success, their joy or their sorrow and let them know they are not alone? What if the opinion sharing and pontificating and debating was no different than the public squares of days gone by where people have persuaded each other or agreed to disagree?

What if instead of demons being trolls or online friends who seem to constantly challenge our ideas and opinions, leaving mean-spirited (sometimes hateful) comments in reaction to our status updates and pictures they they were real people in need of real friends, or rescue, or sacrificial love?? Or what if instead of comparing the friends who really like us, who innocently “Like” our virtual stuff, join our virtual causes, and virtually tell us we’re awesome aren’t demons either but people who actually want to provide encouragement and support?

What if Facebook instead of being Hell or even an innocent distraction, something that we engage when we are bored, lonely, insecure, proud, angry, broke, empty, aroused, or merely awake…what if it was an opportunity to bring the Kingdom of God in yet another way? What if Hell/Facebook isn’t just a grand entertainment, a leisure activity that diverts our attentions away from the who(s) and what(s) and where(s) that are most important? But is another way of engaging those very who(s), what(s) and where(s)?
What if, instead of joining Hell, we’ve been given a powerful opportunity; An intimate invitation into people’s lives at the moments when they are most vulnerable, most open? What if it actually allows us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn? What if, amid  our best intentions to avoid Hell, we are blaming the mirror instead of the image we bring to it?
What if Hell is actually not just Facebook but a place within ourselves or a decision we make?
Would we be able to recognize it in our reflection instead of blaming the mirror?
Would we even want to?
Or would we rather go on believing that it is some thing outside ourselves, something we feel better about blaming rather than taking responsibility for the Hell of our own making.

The E-villes of Smartphones and Social Media

memememe

Is it just me or does it bug anyone else when people share memes on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr or Pinterest (or some other social media site) that say things like “This used to be social networking.” and then show a bunch of people sitting outside chatting around a campfire or having dinner together or hanging out drinking coffee? Ironically they are likely sharing these using the *gasp* that necessary evil…the smart phone. [cue foreboding music]

Last time I checked Facebook, people still go camping, sit around the fire pit on their patio with friends and talk, still go out to eat (actually probably more than before social media was invented) and I don’t know about you but every time I go to Starbucks there is always a line and the place is chock full of real live people having real live conversations. In fact, I personally know lots of people (one of them named me) that use social media to arrange to meet people for said, coffee, dinner or hang out time. Most of the people I know are going to concerts, traveling, meeting for a beer, going to the movies or participating in the Tough Mudder with other real live people. Know how I know? I usually see pictures, a check in or a call for more people to join the team…where? On said (anti)social media. (see what I did there?)

I mean who among us has missed the Louis C.K. anti smartphone diatribe on the Conan O’Brien show? If you haven’t seen it you can watch it here.

It is all about how smart phones are toxic, “especially for kids”. (we must save the children!) To hear him tell it, smartphones have a life of their own and cause people to do evil things. First, Louis believes that smart phones are making kids less empathetic. For my money, kids are exactly the same as I remember them when I was growing up. I have two kids (who both own phones – in the interest of full disclosure) and they are both kind and funny and have actual friends that they do actual things with. Louis makes the point that it is easier for kids to say mean things online where they can’t see the other kid’s face and maybe that is true. But here is the thing…mean kids are mean kids and they don’t just say mean things online. It is not as though, if smartphones and the internet didn’t exist these kids would have been kind, handholding, Kumbaya singing peaceniks. I don’t know about you, but I grew up in the 70s and 80s before everyone had a smart phone and most of the people I talk to who are my age or older were bullied by someone at some point. Does social media make it easier to be mean on a bigger scale? You bet. Is this the phone’s fault or even Facebook’s fault? Not by a long shot.

Next Louis argues that phones have taken away our ability to just sit still and be ourselves. Only if you let them. Listen, I love my iPhone, my iPad and my laptop. I am also a big fan of the social media. But my phone does not tell me who I am, it merely reflects who I am. If you are a selfish narcissistic ass, social media will probably showcase that.  If you are a politically active person, it will probably show that, etc., ad nauseum. I think sometimes we dislike social media because it can reveal a side of ourselves we prefer not to admit we have. It is sort of like being a parent. Sometimes when I am getting on to one of my kids about a flaw I perceive in something they have done or neglected to do, I have an “aha” moment where I realize the reason why I find that particular behavior vexing is because I see it in myself, too. And in that moment I blame my kid for all my inadequacies. Um, NO! Why? Because my shortcomings are not my kid’s issue. They are mine. Just as my neuroses are not because of social media, they are just reflected in it.

Louis also says we use our phones to combat the feeling that we are alone, to distract us from our sadness so that we don’t feel it in the same way. He talks about sadness being poetic, he says we are lucky to live sad moments, that we should stand in the way of them and let them hit us like a truck. Then he says something any person who has ever been truly sad knows is bullshit…”When you let yourself feel sad, your body has like antibodies, it has happiness that comes rushing in to meet the sadness. So I was grateful to feel sad and then I met it with true profound happiness.” All, ladies and gentlemen, because he didn’t pick up his cell phone when he started feeling sad listening to Jungleland.  While it is true we should not laugh in the face of what sorrow brings, have any of you actually been able to overcome profound sadness by hopping on Facebook for 5 minutes or tweeting? Probably not. I know I haven’t. But what social media has done for me in times of sadness is actually to show me I am not alone. It has allowed others to reach out to me. It has helped me feel connected. I personally think that is a good thing.

Does social media have the ability to hurt people? Sure, as much as any other way we as humans have devised to communicate.

Lastly, Louis asserts that because of phones we never feel completely sad or completely happy, “you just feel kind of satisfied with your products and then you die”. I have news for Louis C.K.: People have looked for ways to numb themselves to their pain for as long as there have been people and pain. Do some people use their phones to numb out? Sure. Does that make phones evil? Personally, I don’t think so.

I have seen this interview on Conan posted over and over…ON SOCIAL MEDIA. I see the memes about how much better life was and how much more connected we were before social media…ON SOCIAL MEDIA. And of course, I see statuses that say things about how social media makes them angry, or cynical or depressed…ON SOCIAL MEDIA.  May I humbly suggest to us all that perhaps the smartphones and the social media sites are not the problem; perhaps the way we are relating to them is.

First Ever Interview: Living in Chronic Pain with the Whiskey Preacher

“Every time I look for God amid sorrow, I always find Jesus at the cross, in death and resurrection. This is our God. Not a distant judge, nor a sadist. But a God who weeps. A God who suffers not only for us but with us. Nowhere is the presence of God more salient than on the cross. Therefore, what can I do but confess that this is not a God who causes suffering. This is a God who bears suffering. I need to believe that God does not initiate suffering. God transforms it.”   – Nadia Bolz-Webber from Pastrix

Recently I was invited by Phil Shepherd aka The Whiskey Preacher to be the subject of an interview for his blog.  Turn about being fair play, I asked if I could interview him for Word of a Woman.

In the last couple months Phil has been diagnosed with an auto-immune disease and is living with chronic pain.

Following is our discussion on living with that pain…

In the next day or two I will be posting the flip side of this video in which Phil talks to me about my personal evolution to becoming an LGBTQ ally.

Please look up Phil at:

Outlaw Theology on Patheos

On Facebook

On Twitter

The Eucatastrophe

Phil’s personal webpage

AWOL from the Christian Culture War.

“Let them vote ‘no’ to this ordinance, and ‘yes’ to the reign of the kingdom of God,” Pastor Charles Flowers said at the rally. He said this right before joining the crowd in booing Eric Alva, an openly gay Marine staff sergeant who became the first U.S. soldier injured in Iraq when he stepped on a landmine, spoke in favor of an ordinance that would protect people against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity at a San Antonio City Council meeting on Wednesday night.

Sigh. I find the culture war exhausting, distasteful and confusing. I am overcome with the cloud of war and have become convinced that the people who sit in the Christian War Room drawing up plans and maps are fighting for the wrong causes for all the wrong reasons.

So, as of today, I am going AWOL. I am out of here. I am trading in my faith fatigues for flowers and my Bible bombs for hugs.

In reality, I actually defected in my heart a long time ago, and have expressed my dissent and disagreement with the Christian Culture War Machine long and loud on many an occasion. The difference today is that I am declaring my independence and leaving the ranks.

I mean why do people who claim to follow Christ want to fight a war that Jesus never asked them to fight?

In Jesus’ day many people were looking for the Messiah to come in and politically and militarily take over and set up a physical kingdom right then. Many people were actually quite disappointed to find out that Jesus was not interested in removing Caesar or even the Sanhedrin from power. Almost as disappointed perhaps as some might be to learn that Jesus has no interest in impeaching President Obama.

Jesus was also faced with a woman caught in the act of adultery (an offence according to Jewish law that had very specific and dire consequences) he did not stand on the side of the powers that would have chosen to see this woman stoned to death. He stood on the side of the woman and extended radical grace to her. The men who accused her were testing Jesus to see if he would uphold the law. He did not. Do you think there would be the same level of disappointment  on the faces of people today when Jesus stands by the side of a woman who chooses abortion and extends radical grace to her?

When people were upset by the company Jesus kept and the parties he attended, when they called him a drunk and a sinner, he didn’t stop to please them. He didn’t cut them off either. He simply continued to be who he was and let people make their own decisions about him. I try to apply this principle on Facebook when people disagree with me. I have yet to sever ties with friends who disagree with me, I continue on being who I believe he calls me to be and allow people the freedom to choose to sever ties or stay friends. I always hope for the latter.

Jesus, though he was able to call down the power of heaven to free himself from the cross, instead chose to absorb the hate and give back forgiveness. I am afraid there were people there who were disappointed that he did not call down the fire and wipe out “the enemies”. Even people who had lived with him and had heard his teachings. How often are God‘s foot soldiers caught up in forcing people to conform to what they believe by passing laws which do nothing to change people’s hearts?

*side note: This isn’t just happening here at home. American Christians are also instrumental in influencing laws in other countries. A prime example of this can be found in Uganda’s Anti-gay Legislation, which you can read about here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/04/world/africa/04uganda.html?_r=0

As far as I can tell, Jesus was/is on the side of the lepers, the women, the overlooked, the underestimated, the ones who drink too much, say too much, feel to much. He also was/is on the side of the privileged, the zealot, the religious, the goody-two-shoes and the ones who are just too tired to go on. He loves us all. His kingdom is a kingdom of peace. His law is a law of love. His righteousness is a free gift that is neither bought nor earned by any of us.

My allegiance is to this king and this kingdom. Not to some misguided war machine that is dedicated to fighting against the people they were sent to love. Too often they have used Jesus himself as a weapon and his words to wound instead of heal.

The very people Jesus intends to be the Red Cross to a dying and imprisoned world; who he sends to deliver the good news that their imprisonment is over and that God is not holding their sins against them; instead point to the bars and make sure the prisoners knew their captivity is their own damn fault.

Here is the commission I believe Jesus offers and I gladly accept: Ambassador of the God who came near. I will willing and joyfully serve as the Minister of Reconciliation for the one who took all the wrath that humans could dish out and said, I choose love.

What if you came with me?

Image

A Facebook friend posted a status today that said, something to the effect of, “Sometimes you just have to trust that evildoers (I believe he actually said wrongdoers) will get it in the end or you would go insane.” (paraphrased)

This is a sentiment I have heard over and over my whole life. Every time someone does something ranging from merely inconveniently bad (stealing our wallet/phone/car, et al.) that we can’t do anything about to the flat out horrifically evil (the Castro brothers of Cleveland, Ohio) that we can’t think of a punishment awful enough for, we say something like it. We like to think that God‘s punishment will be worse than anything we could dream up. We say things like,

“Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.”

“He/she will get their’s in the end.”

“I hope he/she burns in hell.”

But what if there was another option?

What if wrongdoers are in the end made to understand their wrongdoing and then transformed into who they were always meant to be? Wouldn’t that be better? Isn’t that a more satisfying and complete defeat of evil? Is not the love of Christ enough to consume even the vilest offenses of the worst of humankind and transform the evildoer into something beautiful? Who they once were would cease to exist and who they always should have been would be all that remains. Doesn’t that type of justice also account for the wrongs done to that person that contributed to their descent into darkness? Don’t get me wrong, I agree that here and now there must be consequences to evil behavior and there are some acts so heinous they are difficult to even comprehend. I understand that some people cause a legacy of pain so deep that we as humans cannot see a way to redemption. But isn’t that why we are not fit to judge? Is not our love incomplete? As I said in an earlier post,

People always say you should fear his [Jesus] judgement as he will be the judge on the last day. Personally, I think you should be super relieved and overjoyed that he will be your judge. If he is anything like he was on earth (which was the exact representation of who God is), he will find ways to forgive that you cannot even imagine. He will judge with mercy and compassion. This is the man who came to save all. Who died for all. He took the full weight of all the worst the world and humanity has to offer and he absorbed it and he looked it in the face and he pronounced love and forgiveness.

Why does this idea, that the evil could be redeemed and made right, make so many people mad? I think it because most of us hurt so badly for the people (sometimes others, sometimes ourselves) that the evil have wronged that we just don’t see how it is fair for them to receive mercy. Not now; not ever.

Jesus once told a parable about about some workers. He said he told the story to reveal a little bit of what the kingdom of heaven is like. In the story, the owner of a vineyard hires groups of workers throughout the day. In so doing the groups all work different amounts of time. At the end of the day, he pays all the workers the same amount regardless of how long they worked. Some of them get angry, and think they should get more for working longer to which the man in the story says this, “‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”

I worship a generous God who forgives (thank goodness) when I would not, who loves when I cannot, and died for all regardless of what they had done or would do. He has set about making “all things new” and “restoring all things”, including humanity. Can you imagine a world where (insert the name of your favorite bad person here), instead of growing up to lead people to death, destruction and hatred, grew up to lead people to life, wisdom and love of the other? What if all their gifts had been used in the cause of love instead of hate? Wouldn’t that be a better world? What if in the end God gives us that kind of world? What if he lets us experience that kind of love? What if the people known to be most evil were transformed into who they always should have been? What if swords are really turned to plow shares, what if the lion does lay with the lamb? What if it is like none of us were ever damaged, or hurt or never damaged and hurt another? What if all evil is consumed by good, death is swallowed up by life and we each become who we were always meant to be? What if love wins?

What if as it says in 2 Cor 5 (*see footnote at the bottom of the post), Jesus actually died for ALL? What if God, through Jesus actually was reconciling the WORLD to himself? What if he really isn’t COUNTING THEIR TRESPASSES AGAINST THEM? And what if, what if God actually wants to make his appeal THROUGH US? As far as I can tell from the passage, Jesus, by dying secured victory over sin and death.

My husband pointed out an N.T. Wright quote and response he read online yesterday when he was proofreading my rough draft of this post. I thought it fit right in so I am going to share it.

The Quote:

“This is what happens when people present over-simple stories with an angry God and a loving Jesus, with a God who demands blood and doesn’t much mind whose it is as long as it’s innocent.“ You’d have thought people would notice that this flies in the face of John’s and Paul’s deep-rooted theology of the love of the triune God: not ‘God was so angry with the world that he gave us his son’ but ‘God so loved the world that he gave us his son’. That’s why, when I sing that interesting recent song ‘In Christ alone my hope is found’, and we come to the line, ‘And on the cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied’, I believe it’s more deeply true to sing ‘the love of God was satisfied’.”       –N.T. Wright

The Response:

It is not the wrath of the Father against the Son, much less the wrath of God against Himself, that is satisfied on the cross; but the justice of fair-togetherness: God willingly shares in the suffering both of sinners and victims alike. God doesn’t punish Himself, the Father isn’t punishing the Son (and especially not for something someone else did that the Son didn’t do!); but God is sharing in the suffering of punishment.

For sinners, the suffering is punishment. For God, the suffering is love for the sinners. (And abuse by sinners, too, willingly allowed by God. The sacrifice on the cross is a highly complex action. The intention isn’t complex, though: love for everyone, sinner and victim alike. :) )  –Jason Pratt

I do not claim to know for sure who all will be saved. But as Christine A. Scheller said in her article about Dallas Willard who passed away this week,  “A consequence of Willard’s academic honesty is his unwillingness to state who’s in and who’s out spiritually, which bothers critics who worry that he is a universalist. He says he doesn’t believe anyone will be saved except by Jesus, but he adds, “How that works out, probably no one knows.”

I like that. I like to at least consider that there will be more people in on this thing we call redemption than we think.

Perhaps in the future when I am confronted by wrongdoers (as my friend called them), I might change my responses to, “Won’t he/she be surprised in the end?” and mean surprised by forgiveness.  Or maybe, “Vengeance (repayment exacted for an injury or wrong) belongs to God” and remember that God tells me not to repay evil with evil. And rather than say, “I hope they burn in hell,” perhaps I will learn to say, “I hope they become who they always should have been.” I’m not there yet. I have a ways to go. What if you came with me?

*For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all,that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.