Hell no! Torture is not loving.

Good morning lovelies. Today, we have a rare treat. A guest post by my awesome husband Kent Krabill! Enjoy.


 

hellI’ve been thinking a lot lately about why people believe in a “loving” God who they simultaneously believe will torment the majority of people who have ever lived for ever and ever in a fiery place called hell.  If there is such a “loving” God (I don’t believe there is, of course), then nobody should willingly worship him (if, at some point, there is actually an all-powerful God who torments people for ever and ever in a fiery place called hell, and my “choice” is worship or be tormented, I guess I might change my mind and give in.  I mean really, eternal torment in a fiery place?  That sounds really bad).

Anyway, where was I?  Oh, yeah.  So, lots of my friends and family are seemingly okay with this disgusting, monstrous caricature of a god.  They go to churches and sing love songs to him (honestly, a lot of these songs sound like they are singing to their lover, but that is for another post).  But have you ever really thought this thing through?  Have you ever sat back and considered what it would be like if this “loving” God actually tormented and tortured millions of conscious souls forever?  Some of you get upset that the government water boards a few people for a few minutes to get key intelligence.  But this “loving” God you are worshipping is apparently going to do much, much worse, and it will be for ever and ever.  And you are ok with that?

If there is a “loving” God like this and he is actually going to torture people for ever and ever, this “loving” God is much worse that any notion of “Satan” or the “Devil” that we find in the Scriptures (or anywhere else, for that matter).  I mean, that creature called “Satan” or the “Devil” wreaks havoc for a while, but at least his cruelty has a stopping point.  Right?  I mean, he ends up getting tortured forever, right?  So at most, he gets to wreak havoc for what, say a few thousand or million years (shout out to all the young Earth folks reading this!).  But this “loving” God you are singing sappy love songs to is going to be torturing people forever and ever.  Let that sink in.

Maybe, just maybe, if there is a “loving” God, this being actually loves.  Maybe, just maybe, this being is a merciful God and a compassionate God.  Maybe, just maybe, this being isn’t against humanity, but for humanity.  Maybe, just maybe, this being isn’t out to torture you, but to suffer and die and take all the shit humanity has to dish out in order to show you how much he/she/it loves you.  Hmmm.

The writers of Scripture used powerful language to convey important concepts.  We do this all the time today, both in writing and verbally.  I mean, read a couple of sentences back.  Humanity didn’t really serve up Jesus a dish of shit, right?  So maybe, just maybe, this God you are so fond of isn’t really planning on tormenting and torturing the bad guys (or, actually, all those folks who never heard of or believed in Jesus) for ever and ever.  Yes, there are verses in the gospels and Revelation that contain strong language about eternal torment.  But maybe, just maybe, that strong language is used to emphasize the extent and power of the warning.  In fact, if we look back at much of the strong language used in the Hebrew Scriptures, we see examples of this all the time:

Isaiah 34:9-10

And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch,

and her soil into sulfur;

her land shall become burning pitch.

Night and day it shall not be quenched;

its smoke shall go up forever.

From generation to generation it shall lie waste;

none shall pass through it forever and ever.

Of course, we all know that this isn’t true.  Many of you have visited this very area, passed through it, and know there is no smoke going up today.  But the message of the passage is clear, right?  We don’t have to pretend it is real.  In fact, doing so totally takes away from the power of the language.

So, to recap, God is not a total asshole like you have been taught.  This loving being isn’t going to eternally torture or torment anyone.  In fact, this loving being isn’t going to torture or torment anyone.  Ever.  At anytime.  Why?  Because this loving being is about good news, not bad.  This loving being is for humanity, not against it.  You are loved.  Just as you are.  So embrace that love.  And pass it on.

Oh, and stop worrying about spending an eternity in hell.  There is enough hell right here on Earth to worry about.  So let’s take action to end that hell.  And bring peace on Earth and good will to men.  Sound good?

What’s love got to do (got to do) with it?

1_corinthians_13_4_8_by_yods-d4r0d51There is lots of talk about loving your neighbor going around. There are a lot of thoughts about loving your enemy. There are questions about how we can love members of ISIS, megachurch pastors and even that relative you secretly dread spending time with.

So I got to thinking, is there anything to be learned in scripture about loving well or what loving someone actually, practically looks like? One famous passage immediately springs to mind, 1 Corinthians 13. You may have heard it before. It goes something like this:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

If we assume this to be true and an accurate depiction of love, what does that say about who God is seeing as the scriptures tell us that God is love? Let’s sub in God for the word love in the 1 Cor. passage and see what we get:

God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

God’s love never fails.

That phrase “is not self-seeking” is also translated “does not insist on its own way”.  Can you imagine? God does not insist on his own way. BOOM. WOW. INSANITY.  I don’t know about you but that was a revelation to me this week.

What about us? How does that help us? Does this have direct application that helps us love the specific people mentioned earlier? Let’s see. I’ll try it with myself. (I don’t know about you but this is actually one I have done before).

Michelle is patient, Michelle is kind. Michelle does not envy, Michelle does not boast, Michelle is not proud. Michelle does not dishonor others, Michelle is not self-seeking, Michelle is not easily angered, Michelle keeps no record of wrongs. Michelle does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Michelle always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Michelle’s love never fails.

If you want you can take it a step further by inserting the person(s) you aren’t sure if you’re loving. Can I confidently say:

Michelle is patient, Michelle is kind toward her enemies. Michelle does not envy her neighbor, Michelle does not boast to her frustrating family member, Michelle is not proud when someone offers advice. Michelle does not dishonor he enemies, Michelle is not self-seeking, Michelle is not easily angered with her children or spouse, Michelle keeps no record of wrongs. Michelle does not delight in the megachurch pastor’s wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth that allows healing to begin. Michelle always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Michelle’s love never fails?

Honestly, sometimes I can say those things and sometimes I can’t.

However, I can confidently say, this is the kind of love I aspire to. This is the kind of person I want to be. And for real, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we were all these kind of people?

In the end, what’s love got to do with it? Absolutely everything.

 

 

Doing it all for others (at least some of the time) & the #genuinequotient [*props to James Michael Devitt*]

0genuine-stamp-1Yesterday a friend of mine posted a video of Victoria Osteen on Facebook. In it she said, “When you worship (and obey) God, we’re not doing it for God, we’re doing it for ourself, because that’s what makes God happy!” The comment section was predictable and contained the usual comments saying things like:

Yeah, there’s just really not much that comes from that man that’s biblical… if we’re to take God’s word literally, that guy’s gonna have some ‘splainin’ to do when he leaves this earth.

It’s all about positive thinking with them and happiness and bunny rabbits and lollipops when people need to hear good old fashion hell, fire and brimstone again!

That’s all America needs is an ‘excuse’ to be selfish bc we don’t have enough of that already… And I think they have the largest congregation in America.
How about do it bc u want to – please God. Surely that’s what she ‘meant to say’ – sigh…

Today in the car all of this came back to mind and I started examining what I believe about this and what my motivation is when I do the things I do. Here is what I came up with…

The good that I do, the love that I share, I don’t do that “for God”. God and I are already cool. Because he loves me no matter what (and before I did anything good or bad) he sent his son, not to condemn me but to save me and everyone else. I also don’t do it “for myself”. Sorry Victoria, for me loving people often isn’t easy and/or doesn’t make me happy. The good that I do (when my motives are right) I do for others. Jesus gave us two commandments; love God and love each other. Paul later distills these two down to one, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” When we do this one thing we fulfil all the law including loving God. After all, how does God say people will know that we are his followers? By all the stuff we do “for him”? Nope. By how happy we are? Nope. He says followers of Jesus will be known by one thing. L-O-V-E. So how is that going?

This week I was party to a Facebook conversation in which the term “genuine quotient” was thrown out as a compliment. Kent and I thought it was an excellent and very descriptive term so I am totally advocating that we, lovelies, make it a thing. Here is my attempt at defining “genuine quotient.” “Genuine” means authentic or sincere, what something or someone truly is. “Quotient” is the degree or the magnitude of a specified characteristic or quality. If we put these together we have:

Genuine Quotient – The degree or magnitude to which someone is genuine or sincere.

It is my contention that people have a pretty good bullshit meter when it comes to the #GQ (catchy, huh?). People know when my motivation is love and care for others vs. doing something to make myself happy or look good to someone else vs. doing something “for God” (as if God needed me to “do something” for him) either to earn his approval or stay out of hell. When we do things out of obligation or selfishness we will never be known by our love even if our actions seem good on the surface. Like I said, b.s. meters yada yada. However, it is my contention that when my motivation is love for my neighbor, I raise my genuine quotient. And isn’t that a good thing?

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You’re Damn Right I Believe in Another Gospel.

Since beginning this blog, I have had several Evangelical friends accuse me of believing “another gospel”. At first, I bristled at their accusations. But here today, I would like to say to them all, “You’re damn right. I believe in another gospel.”

If your gospel is that God is some sort of abusive parent who loves you “unconditionally” unless you die without accepting his love and then he sentences you to eternal conscious torment in hell, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel says some people aren’t good enough to help feed, clothe and educate children simply because they are married to someone of the same gender; if your gospel says you can cut off these kids like a subscription to Good Housekeeping because “Ewww, the gays.”; if your gospel closes the doors of heaven in people’s faces because of who they love, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel says women are eternally subjected to men because Jesus is eternally subjected to the Father; if your gospel says women are equal, but men are more equal; if your gospel excludes women from any area of ministry, leadership, service or vocation, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel allows you to feel oppressed when other people gain rights you have always enjoyed, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel encourages you to pass laws that discriminate against others, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL

If your gospel encourages you to identify and exclude people who disagree with you, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel permits you expelling a little girl from school for not being girly enough then, YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel teaches that women are responsible for the sexual sins of men, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel teaches that everything in the Bible is to be taken literally, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel teaches that God is some sort of genocidal terrorist who condones the killing of entire races, including children, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel features a God wrapped in the American flag, who always votes Republican, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel features an AR-15 toting, cage fighting, ass-kicking Jesus, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel is one of “us versus them” or “in versus out”, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel puts anything above loving God and your neighbor as yourself, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

The Gospel I embrace is one of love; one where we are all equal in the eyes of God. One where neither how much you’ve blown it or how perfect you’ve been is what matters; one where everyone gets to play. One where the Father loves without an unless; one where grace and generosity trump fairness; one where we do not get what we have earned or what we deserve but one where we all get to belong. The Gospel I embrace is truly good news, and if THAT is “another gospel” I am guilty as charged.

 

 

 

A Christmas Love Story

love-winsThis year, Kent and I decided not to do Christmas gifts for each other since we had just spent a bunch of money doing several projects around the house. Instead, we each wrote something for the other. And now lovelies, I would like to share our words for each other with you.

From me to Kent – You make me want to:

You make me want to
Sit in the dark and stare at the stars
Go dancing late into the night
Or Drive up the coast in a rented convertible
See the scenes from far off lands
Eat fine dinners from trucks or linens
And feel the sand between my toes
One look at you and I’m off to Paris
Or stuck in a London fog
You are like the most arresting lyrics, the most beautiful picture,
the most thought provoking article.

Somehow I don’t know how to describe you but I must try

You are like a rainforest downpour
or the sprinkles in the desert on a sunny day…
You are rare and you make me want to dance
Or stop and lay in the grass and stare at the clouds

You are

That thing I can’t describe from that violinist whose music stole my breath.
The experience of a new kind of delicious taste or sound or feeling  that I have never experienced before.
You are exhilarating like a walk in San Francisco or New York City
You are calming like dinner on the beach at sunset

You are

Like a dream I wish I could fall back into even though I can’t remember exactly what happened
when I can still remember the feeling and I want that same lightning to flash again;
Like the first time you kissed me
Like the way that you need me
Like the sound of your voice when you say my name

I like

The way my food is better and my laugh is longer and my faith is stronger because you exist
The way Nate Ruess sings even better when you stand beside me.
Songs and singers ring truer because they sing about you and I even though they don’t know our names.
The way you are exactly the same yet nothing like the man I married.
You are somehow more, much more than the sum of your parts and your years and my memories and the present moment.
I like that together we are much more than all of me + all of you

You are

My happiest place on earth
My Disney World and my swim up in Puerto Vallarta.
My Vegas and my rural Ohio
My Newport Beach and my Washington DC
My trip to Europe and my Hawaiian vacation
My hometown and my favorite getaway
You are the part of me that is good at basketball and hates coconut
You are the part of me that does the things I never could
That part that makes me more than I knew I could be
I love that because of you I have become more me and because of me you have become more you.

I like

How when I look at you, I see it all
Everything we have ever done and all that makes us who we are, heartbreaking, ecstatic, melancholy, joyful, mundane, content,
boring and spectacular…
It is somehow all more real,
This life, my life because I found you.
I love how even at the end of all this I still struggle to find the right words that will say it all but I can’t find them.
You cannot be contained in mere words; you who are made of stardust.

You are simply too majestic for that.

From Kent to me –  How long have I known you?

How long have I known you?
How long have you stayed?
How long have I annoyed you?
How much have you paid?

For my heartache, my selfishness, my pain and my pride?

No matter the words, no matter the deeds
No matter the hurts, no matter the pleas
You stayed by my side

What makes you love so?
What makes you see?
What makes you so sure?
That there’s beauty beneath?

All of the layers
All of this junk
All of this pain
Everything, so .. fucked .. up

About me
About my mind
About my words
About my heart

This glimmer of beauty
That you see beneath
I hear it too
Screaming to be released

I am in here
I really am
Is there anyone who hears me?
Anyone to understand?

And then
In that moment when all seems lost
When no one answers
And no one is willing to pay the cost

When all any one sees
Is the ugliness and pride
You look down deep in my heart
I mean way, way down inside

And you see
You see
You see all the guts and intestines and muscles and blood

You see cancerous cells obstructing the path
But you see past it all
You see way down inside
And you pull out the best of me

As I writhe in pain
As I fight you because it hurts; it hurts; it hurts so deeply
You stand
You stay
You love

Sometimes it’s impossible to believe
That someone could love me so, deeply; so completely
As they see the infected flesh
As they smell the rancid guts
As they endure the waging war
And yet you do

You reach right in
You pull the goodness out into the light
You don’t ignore my pain; you feel it with me
You endure the sting of my decaying flesh, with me
You don’t ignore the putridness, you smell it, too
But you persist

You pull
You never shrink back
You never give up
You stand, and love
You wage a war
And then, my beauty arises
Even love unfolds

And there I stand

Here, I stand
Who am I?
How did I get here?
I am now a man
Perfect? Oh no.
Better? Oh yes.

Only you know the real me
Only you have endured
Only you have really believed
Only you are a part of me
Only you have truly loved me

Just as I am
I am yours
All of me
Just as I am
You have loved me

You saved me
You made me believe
You are saving me
I will always be yours

And now my new year’s wish for all of you…

I hope your holidays were beautiful and that your new year brings you joy unspeakable.
I hope you find someone who learns the words to your sad and your happy songs and then sings with you.
I pray you will know the all surpassing love of Jesus.
I trust that you will learn new things, spread joy and practice deliberate acts of kindness.
And in the end I pray that 2014 leaves you a better version of yourself…
Happier, healthier, more generous, more satisfied, more humble, more thankful, more joyful than ever before.

Thank you for sticking with me through another year. I am honored.

Here and There

here and there header 9

When in the end we end up

Apart

There will never have been enough nights that I lied in your arms

When the moments of furious and sweet passion

With longing

I must wait to have with you again

Will I even be able to breathe?

No matter how many we share now they will never seem enough then

When in the end you are there and I am here

or

I am here

and

you are there

So in the while, whilst yet I breathe

Whilst your heart beats within your chest

I must savor the moments as they come and treat them with the

All consuming importance they deserve though I may be tempted to rest alone instead

Instead

I must treasure up every drop of passion our souls allow

And soar

On the wings of our quantum entanglement

So that when

Here

And

There

Have arrived

We will have enough of the brilliance of our love to survive the night

And touch the dawn

Of the other side

 

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.