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My new podcast is happening at Soundcloud. Click the image or the little cloud-looking-thingy over there to the left.

The Seed of Anxiety-Ridden Religion

I've often heard God is love, but... and then some religious opposite of love is inserted into the end of the sentence to prove, well, I guess to prove that He's not fully-love. For ex: God is love, but He is holy. God is love, but He is just. God is love, but He is wrathful. This kind of thinking used to trip me up until I started unpacking those "opposite" words a bit.

We've tended to explain holiness as something separate, pure, untouched, or perfect. And we've tended to view ourselves as something impure, or imperfect. We paint the picture that something has to be done in order for God to accept us into his perfect world. What is that something? It always boils down to sacrifice. First, God needed to sacrifice His Son, and second, we need to sacrifice ourselves. I no longer look at it that way. I do believe God is separate and wholly other in the sense that He is of a different essence, but I don't think He's separate in the sense that He's distant from us. I do believe He's perfect, but I believe His perfection is His willingness to live with our imperfection. In other words, love completely influences His holiness.

And God is certainly just. The problem is violence and punishment has co-opted our sense of justice. But it hasn’t co-opted His. God doesn't punish without hope for restoration. Love is always seeking ways to redeem. You might think that kind of love is scandalous. Yeah, me too. Love wholly marks His justice.

And there is wrath language in the Bible. Romans 1:18 speaks of God showing wrath against the wicked. But three different times within the Romans 1 passage it says God abandoned them over to their hearts/desires/foolish thinking. It's not God punishing them for the sake of anger or wrath. It's God allowing them to do what they want. I like Brian Zahnd's definition, "Wrath is God's divine consent on our self-destructive choices." Call it wrath if you wish, but it's not in competition with love.

In summary....

God's already with you.

God's not interested in punishing you.

God's not angry.

The religious people who tell me, "God is love, but..". are generally well-intended. However, the truth is a distant, angry God looking to punish us has been the seed of all kinds of anxiety-ridden religion. Does that sound like love?

Love is patient. And kind; doesn't envy or boast. It's neither self-seeking nor easily angered. Love keeps no record of wrongs. It's true and faithful. Love never gives up.

There is no second half of the sentence. God is love.

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