Hitler. Theresa. You. And me.

God loves Adolph Hitler.  He loves him as much as he loves Mother Theresa.  And as much as he loves you and me.

That this is mind-boggling and bordering on the offensive does not make it less true.  And it should be observed that love does not preclude other emotions.  I suspect that God rejoices in the selfless service of Mother Theresa.  I suspect he weeps for the hatred of Hitler.  I suspect he does a little rejoicing, a little weeping when he looks on my life and considers what I have done with it.

None of these, or any of the other reactions that God might have change His love, though.  His love for us is something glorious.  In the very best moments of my very best days, I come somewhere in the solar system of wrapping my brain around this with my own kids and my wife.

One of the reasons it is hard to get there is that this utterly unconditional love flies in the face of everything we experience from the first moment we leave the womb.  Before we even have words, we begin to engage in these transactions with the people around us.  When we eat the vegetables on our high chair tray, when we say “mommy” when we clean our room, complete our homework, save the company money… when we do these things we are rewarded with smiles, treats, deserts, good grades, pay check bonuses.

Because we are broken, and because we lack imagination, we come to see these things as love itself.  We come to tie up our value in the things we provide for others.  And the truth is, that there are positive sides to this.  Because life is hard.  If we contribute half as much to the world, somebody else will need to contribute twice as much, or someone else won’t get their needs met.

There is value in helping keep track of who provides value.

One of the greatest tragedies of this world, though, is that we lose sight of the fact that we have a worth that is so much more fundamental than the things we do.

God made mankind and he declared it good.  He made you, and he made me, and he declared us good.  He breathed his perfect breathe into us, placed the very reflection of himself in our very most basic essence.  And this goodness is more basic to what we are than all the brokeness that came after.

If we– if I– could fill up with this most basic conviction:  God loves us.  Not for what we do.  Not for what we have.  Not for the choices we make, or the rules we follow, or the things we say…   What sort of force would we unleash on the world?

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

2 thoughts on “Hitler. Theresa. You. And me.”

  1. While I’ll agree with you that God loves us all equally, I think you have it/people wrong when you say their expressions of love are only seen as love due to “lack of imagination”. Unless I’m misunderstanding you, to me, it is offensive. Yes, God is pure love and our love does not touch His love but certainly you cannot downplay the love & kind acts people receive & bestow upon each other. It almost calls God a liar when, as I see it, the second greatest command of the Bible is to love one another in truth AND in action.

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  2. Thanks for commenting! I think I must have been very unclear! My apologies. Here is what I meant: One of the reasons that people do kind things for each other is to show thier love. These little acts of kindness, they are a sign of love. But we broken people, we come to see the acts as love itself, not a symptom of that love. Sometimes, we get very wrapped up in these acts. We take there presence to mean that their is love, we take their absence to mean that their is no love. It becomes almost like an economy, where we are buying acts of kindness from people with our own acts of kindness. Obviously, God doesn’t need anything from us. His love might include acts of kindness for us. But his love runs so much deeper than these acts. If we forget that love runs deeper then we lose sight of the nature of God’s unconditional love for us. I am not saying that these actions do not matter. I am saying that they point to something deeper. A place, I think where we see this, is when we are surprised by a gift, especially one we didn’t expect. Sometimes, our sense of joy and surprise is really out of proportion to what the actual gift was. I suspect that this is because we are delighted that the person cared for us enough to notice, that they went out of their way to do something, never mind whether the gift was what we wanted… This points to the idea that at these times, we are thankful for the love underneath the gift, not the gift itself.

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