Does God love everybody, even those who do immensely evil things?
God's love is freely given to everyone
The Rev. Darrel Proffitt, lead pastor, St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, 5700 W. Sixth St.:
There is no doubt that people do evil things.
It is difficult to make sense of the evil that we see everyday. In the midst of this, God appears to offer us his love. God's love is so immense and deep that we simply struggle to understand it. Too often we apply our own experience of love onto God and expect him to act the same way we do. When we do that, we simply create a god in our own image.
Fortunately we are not left with trying to figure out God's love on our own. We have Jesus, who is described in the Bible and who comes to all who accept his invitation to experience the truth of his love. The first surprise from the Bible and our encounter with the risen Christ is that his love has nothing to do with the good or bad things we have done. Popular thought would have us believe that God's love is something that we earn. If we are good, then God will love us. If we are bad, especially if we do horrible things to ourselves or others, God will stop loving us. The cultural icon "Santa Claus" is like that. He makes a list, checks it twice. He is looking for who has been naughty and who has been nice. While that makes for an interesting, and somewhat demanding "jolly old elf," it has nothing to do with our God who has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
The recent movie "The Passion of the Christ" depicts a Jesus that loves despite the bad things people were doing to him. In the midst of the horrific beating and subsequent execution, Jesus looks at his accusers and executioners and prays, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." This scene is an accurate portrayal of the Gospels. Jesus came to show us how to live, how to love and he came to lay down his life so that we might be forgiven and receive eternal life.
In Jesus we see God who asks us to receive that love and allow it to transform our hearts. Transformation of heart is the only way that we can live into his call to not only accept his love but, in turn, love in the same way. Being open to the person of Jesus, who always shows up when he's invited, is the way into the depth of God's love who loves us just as we are. Being good or bad isn't the point. God's love is freely given, which is both unexpected and radical.
Send e-mail to the Rev. Darrel Proffitt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Healing power allows unimaginable love
The Rev. Judy Long O'Neal, pastor, Centenary United Methodist Church, 245 N. Fourth St., and co-director, Martha & Mary's Way, a Lawrence ministry to women:
It is tempting to confine the capacity of God to the limited expectations we have of ourselves. It is tempting to use our inability to perceive or imagine as proof that inconceivable, unimaginable possibilities do not exist. It is tempting to confine the activity and character of God to the actions and thoughts of human experience. It is tempting to judge and condemn on behalf of God. It is tempting, but unfair -- to God.
Most of us are raised with limited language for God. We are taught to speak to and of God as though God has human characteristics, motives, actions. We want to relate to God on anthropomorphic terms. Humanness is what we know best. The limitation of language threatens to compromise our imaginations, and God's possibilities.
I minister within a religious tradition that professes humans are created in the image of God -- male and female. It is not my understanding, however, that human creation exhausts or represents a comprehensive image of the divine. Therefore, as a Christian, I look to a specific human experience as prototype of divine/human love. The life and teachings of Jesus the Christ are clear and profound on questions of love. Those to whom he personally extended the love of God had been determined to be socially and religiously unworthy. Jesus' audacity to love without condition and/or prerequisite was dangerous, life-threatening, ultimately deadly. No wonder we are afraid to love.
Yes, the love of God extends to everybody, even those who do immensely evil things. Perhaps the healing power of that possibility will expand within us so that we can accept, for ourselves, such unimaginable love.
Send e-mail to the Rev. Judy Long O'Neal at email@example.com.