God Doesn't Hate Me!

This is, perhaps, the Part Three referred toearlier. I have been trying to write a post like this, on and off, for months. I’ve had so many goes, but until now none of them have satisfied me to the point where I've thought ‘This is almost publishable - I can work with this.’ They have all been frustratingly incomplete and at the same time ‘unfinishable'.

What I’ve learnt - in my heart rather than (or as well as?) in my head - is both complicated and very, very simple. Theologically, it’s complicated. I’ve read, I don’t know, more than twenty theology books recently. And that has allowed me to reach a fairly nuanced position - I know what I believe…

Umm. No, perhaps that’s not quite right.

Part of this process has been about decoupling my thoughts about God from my faith in God. The two need not be the same. The first is complicated; the second is simple. Looking back over recent months, I’ve been trying, mostly, to write about the first in order to explain the second. But I can’t. Well, to be honest, I probably could, but I’d have to write a book rather than a couple of blog posts. And it wouldn’t be a very good book - there are much better books, written by much wiser heads than mine, on that subject. What I think I can write about, meaningfully and (hopefully) helpfully, is my experience - my faith in God. So that’s what, for this attempt at this post, I am going to do. And I am going to endeavour not to write about the theology - because I’m not very good at it, and it’ll make the whole thing far too lengthy - and probably incomprehensible. I might, at some point, try to explain some of those ideas - but not now. For now, really, I have just one thing to say.

God is love. The end.

That, really, is it. That is all I have to say. We can read it in the bible, in John’s first letter. But, perhaps, it’s not clear - to some people at least - it certainly wasn't clear to me for ever such a long time. Have we grasped what it means? Can we grasp it? On one level, it looks dead simple and easy to ‘get’. But on another, I suggest, we absolutely don’t ‘get it’ - or not without a good deal of effort. And that’s partly because we need to ‘deconstruct’ a lot of old, and wrong, thinking; thinking which has been handed down to us, through generation after generation of the church, sermon after sermon. I’ve been worrying away at this process, like a terrier with a rat, for years. It takes time to ‘untangle’ it all.

Basically, I didn’t believe that statement. I read it, and said I believed it - because it’s supposed to be true - heck, it’s in the bible! But deep down, my beliefs and my practices gave the lie to that. Secretly (or perhaps not so secretly) I think we suspect that God hates us…

!!!

The gospel which is preached to us tells us that, until we ‘accept’ Jesus as our saviour, God can’t stand us. Even after we ‘accept Jesus’ as our saviour, it continues - we’re only part of God’s kingdom because Jesus’ death protects us from God, whose terrible, righteous, indignation makes him want to fling us into a lake of fire to be tortured for eternity. And the feeling we get is that God is searching hard for excuses to keep us out of the Kingdom, or kick us out once we’re ‘in’, and start the whole torturing thing the very first chance He gets - and so we have to be very, very, careful to avoid upsetting Him. He comes across, in this narrative, as not unlike the angry drunk in the pub who wants to smash your head in (and you really don’t know why), but who is stopped, at least temporarily, by his mate.

It’s hard to truly believe that ‘God is love’, when that’s effectively what you keep being taught. At least, it was for me... Your experience may vary.

What I have learnt, instead, in recent years and particularly recent months, is that God is love. He absolutely doesn’t hate me. He isn’t even angry with me. He isn’t looking for ways to trick me or trip me up. Instead of looking for any possible reason, however trivial, to exclude us from His glorious Kingdom, God is looking for a way - any way - by which He can include each and every one of us. He actually does want a relationship with each of us.

With everyone: Pol Pot, Donald Trump, the Dalai Lama, the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Tony Blair, Geraint Thomas, Elton John, Desmond Tutu, your granny, but most especially with…

You and me!

God is a relationship as much as anything - and He simply can’t get enough of relating. We Christians believe in a concept called the Holy Trinity. It’s another thing which is both dead simple and terribly complicated. Basically put, God consists of three persons, bound together by love, so that as well as being three different ‘persons’, He is/they are indivisibly one. That is the nature of God - relationship is God’s Big Thing™. And He wants to share that with each of us - He wants us to join Him in the ‘divine dance’ of love. He wants a relationship with us.

He’s prepared to do anything at all, up to and including being tortured to death, to (re)establish good relations with each of us.

The gospel, whatever you may have heard to the contrary, is about unconditional love. God loves you. Period. Nothing you can do about that: you can’t make Him love you more; nothing you could ever do would make Him love you any less.

It doesn’t matter whether you believe in him or not; it doesn’t matter whether you obey the Ten Commandments or not; it doesn’t matter whether you’re straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or questioning; it doesn’t matter whether you’ve grown up in the church or have never darkened its doors; it doesn’t matter whether you’re good, bad or indifferent...

God loves you.

Anyone who tries to tell you different isn’t telling you the truth.

How you respond to that love doesn’t, in one sense, matter - He’s still going to love you, whether you accept or reject His love. And, unlike what many in the church would have you believe…

He always will.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2016