It hurts me when I see churches and religious people misusing the Bible to make others feel excluded, unwelcome, and unloved.
That is not God’s truth.
God’s truth, expressed from the first page of the Bible to the last, is that he loves us with an unquenchable, undying love. He will do anything he can to show us how much he loves us and bring us back to a loving relationship with himself. All of the Bible fits into this paradigm. It’s easier to see in some places than others.
If you have been presented a picture of a harsh, judgmental, or unloving God, please take time to get to know the real God of the Bible. Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). So take some time to get to know Jesus.
The Real Jesus
When Jesus was here on earth, he didn’t hang around only with “religious” people. In fact, most religious people didn’t like him much. They spent their time gossiping about him because he was partying with notorious sinners (see Mark 2:15-17, for example).
When the religious leaders challenged him, he said straight out that tax collectors and prostitutes were more likely to enter the kingdom of God because they were open to God’s voice and willing to be real about their flaws (Matthew 21:28-32). The religious leaders were so invested in maintaining a outward veneer of holiness that they couldn’t develop a real relationship with Jesus.
And when Jesus was confronted with a woman caught in flagrante delicto — red-handed in the act of adultery — and asked to pronounce judgment on her, how did he respond (John 8:1-11)? He did ultimately tell her to “go and sin no more,” but what he did before that is even more significant to me.
First, he got down in the dirt next to her and created a space of safety where she was protected from her accusers. He assured her that he (the one who legitimately could accuse her) did not condemn her. He, the omnipotent, sinless God of the universe, looked into her heart and recognized not only the selfishness or lust but also the societal forces, the unmet emotional or financial needs that had driven her into that man’s bed that morning. And he did not condemn her. Instead, with compassion he set her free from her past.
Jesus even loved and wanted to forgive the men who killed him (Luke 23:34). As he was dying, that’s what he was thinking about.
From start to finish, the driving force of Jesus’ life was love. Love that brought him here to live with us, love that held him to the cross to die for us, love that conquered death so we could live with him, love that will bring him back one day to rescue us from this world and the incomprehensible sadness we live in.
To get to know more of the real Jesus, I think that the best place to start is with the writings of John, often known as The Beloved. In his gospel, he presents the picture of the Christ who transformed him from a “Son of Thunder” to “The Beloved”: radically loving, sacrificially serving, unconditionally accepting.
Here is the real Jesus, the real passionately loving God of the Bible. I think that once you’ve met him, your life will never be the same. I know mine hasn’t been.
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