this is dark…

Death is horrific.

It is purposeless and devoid of meaning. Death is violent and visceral. It’s abusive and unyielding.

We strive to bring meaning to it. We hope and pray for purpose in the darkness, but there is none. And that’s terrifying.

We say it’s all a part of Gods plan, but it’s not.

It was never the plan.

The loss that comes with it is crushing. If it hasn’t yet, death will fundamental change the way you see the world. The world is never the same.

The relationships is lost, and with it part of you is lost. It can’t be redeemed, it’s never coming back.

And how do we feel?

Sadness? Nothingness? Profound pain? Less than whole?

We call this grief.

Greif is the response to the loss of that which we love. When we love and that love is ripped from us, torn away in such a permanent manner that it cannot be reconciled we grieve. It’s what our love pushes us to do.

From time to time I volunteer with grief support groups.

I can’t tell you often I’ve heard people struggling through their loss say “I wish it was me.” How many people would give anything to bring the wholeness back into their lives. Who plead for anything the fix it, willing to give up everything, knowing in the depths of their soul there is nothing to do.

Death is darkness in a way nothing else can be. It’s to permanent. It’s to one sided. There is no going back and there is no way to process or reconcile once it’s happened.

What’s done is done and it can never be undone. That relationships can never be anything more or less than it was. Old wounds can’t be address and past trauma can’t be reconciled. They will remain open and unfinished.

This is the power of death. What death takes with it, we can never get back.

I told you this was dark.

But it’s love that longs for an answer. It’s love that desires renewal and change. It’s love that demands we try to find meaning.

But we’re powerless. This darkness has no meaning and it’s everywhere we turn. We are left with the simple reality that we must accept that we can do nothing more. That horrific, pointless pain has come and we cannot change it.

But what if we weren’t?

What if we could redeem it? What if we could reconcile all that was lost?

Wouldn’t you, even if it cost you dearly?

It’s the deep and unwavering love God has for us that caused Him to reconcile the death now a part of all of us. It was the crushing grief over the loss of relationship with us, the undeniable change in how we now interacted with Him that drove Jesus to do something.

Hate had nothing to do with it. Sin so greatly grieved the heart of God that His love motivated Him to do whatever it took to make redemption possible.

We so desperately miss the point when we make it about sin. It wasn’t about abolishing sin but about redeeming all that was lost. It was about a love so deep and a God who could do something we can’t.

Who could bring life to the dead and redeem the unredeemable. Who loved all of us, the dead parts as much as the rest.

It was grief motivated by love.

How did we ever let hate into the equation?

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sin and death

What is sin?

Many of us would say something like “it’s missing the mark set by God.” While practically true I’ve found it to be increasingly less helpful when we can’t seem to decide what that mark is.

We don’t need to think hard to find vehement disagreements in Christian circles around what “the mark is.” So many of the issues the church talks about (read, argues like children) come down to differing opinions on sin.

One thing I don’t find a lot of disagreement about is the result of sin. Sin equals death. Now what death means and the imposition of some kind of post death justice is not even sort of clear even if you yourself think it is.

But there is this funny little part of sin we seem to all agree on. Sin, while we can’t define it, causes death and after death something happens but we also can’t decide on what that is.

So let’s talk about death since there is some semblance of agreement on that.

Death is horrible. It is darkens in its purest form. It is the result of the brokenness that now ravages this world. And while we may hate that people die, do we hate the one who dies? Especially if we really love them?

No, we grieve.

The more I struggle through this idea of God and hate the more I wonder if God responds to sin in us the same way we do to death.

Death is loss.

Death is disconnection.

Death is the severing of relationships.

And that all sounds a lot like what sin does between us and God.

Because of sin we are disconnect and it was sin that severed our perfect relationship with God. And so how does God feel about the parts in our lives where sin still has control? Does he hate those parts of us or does He grieve the loss? The loss of perfect relationship, grieve the disconnect it causes, grieve the trauma He knows the sin will cause in lives.

While we may hate an idea I think when that idea takes on a face, if we truly love that person, our response is no longer hate but grief over the profound loss that sin causes.

ideas with faces

Can God hate?

The more I think and pray and roll the idea around in my mind the more and more ridiculous it seems.

How can love hate?

Part of this entire issue is around what love is. We all use the word but when we say it what do we mean? While many would simply say “Go read 1 Corinthians” there’s more to it than that, and not just because I like to think there is more to everything.

Is love a feeling?

Is it an action?

Peter Rollins has said that love doesn’t exist but is the thing that allows other things to exist.

I took a course in university every so many years ago now and I was presented with a view on love that resonated and worked on so many levels that I’ve used it ever since.

Love is a motive.

Love is why I am patient. Patience is the action of my loving motive.

As a motive I can choose to let that be the reason I act or not. I can choose love. I don’t need to feel it. Which means I can’t opt out when love doesn’t work for me. When I’m mad, offended, scared, I can choose to be motivated by love.

Is hate motivated by love?

Is it love of God that motivates hate?

Is it love of the church that motivates hate?

Is it love of the one we hate that motivates the hate?

I can see how our love could motivate a choice to hate. A deep love of family could cause some to hate those who would mean to do harm to my family. It seems to be working until those that would mean to do harm have a face. Until I ask how my actions towards are motivated out of love towards them? How is love causing me to act towards them?

I feel like this is where it always gets muddy. The notion of hating an idea works. But ideas wear faces.

I could see God hating the idea of sin. This thing that separates us and has corrupted His creation. But once that brokenness became a part of us, once sin wears a face, I struggle to see God hating us, no matter how ugly.

Perhaps its in this dichotomy we find how a God of love can hate. Hate ideas that separate and harm, but once that idea is manifest in a person I continue to see an issue with God hating that part of them. Loving only bits and pieces rather than the entire whole.

If God doesn’t hate parts of us, how does he feel towards sin in us?

This is going to take some more thinking.

a hateful God

This idea is far less formed than usual and that’s saying something because few of my ideas or things I write about here are particularly well formed.

They are often more of a glimpse into something I’m currently considering, but have been pondering for a while.

This is a far more raw kind of thought. While in some way or another it has crossed my mind, it’s never been exactly this clear.

Can God hate?

I feel like I write the follow sentence every time, but I guess it’s just part of my charm (or lack of creativity, whatever works for you).

It’s seems like the obvious answer is yes, but I’m starting to worry that it creates some serious problems.

And this is the raw nature of this particular idea. I’m working and thinking about the implications and possible problems that a God how can hate creates, but these ideas are really new and not fully formed at all. So if you see an obvious issue here I’m interested. I’m just starting to roll this idea around in my mind so any new ways to approach it are helpful.

I’ll lay out how I got here and the starting point for the possible problem I see.

It started with justice. Specifically the notion that we may put our idea of justice onto God rather than look at God for what He means when He talks about justice. Quick recap, so much of God’s work is restorative it stands to reason that His justice would be similarly restorative rather than mimic our punitive process of exacting justice.

This idea stems from a God who describes Himself as love.

God is love.

And so God’s justice must be love. It must take the form of love and be a display of love. Everything God does is an expression of love because He is love. To do something that isn’t loving would be counter to His nature and His essence.

As a tree can’t be any less a tree, God by virtue of His nature will be love.

So how is the hate we often ascribe to God an expression of love?

How is hate a loving act?

How is hate not counter to the very nature of God?

Most we agree that we shouldn’t hate people. We should love them, but I’m wondering if the type of love we are showing is God’s love of a projection of our broken understanding of love.

I was reading a blog earlier today and the writer was talking about how we should react with love no matter the situation. The write then went on to describe all the people we should love.

Gays, lesbians, transgender people, heterosexual adulterers, atheists, white-lie tellers, good-churchgoers-without-a-shred-of-grace–any and all people who have issue with the hard words of Scripture–these are not our enemies.”

I posted the following comment

“I know for myself. If the way I was defined, labeled and grouped was based on a list of things people hate, I would struggle to find any reaction not matter how well intended as a loving one.”

And so again I’m left wondering, how do we lovingly hate?

Are we called to only love parts of people? To parcel them into pieces, those worthy of our love and those that we get to hate.

Is that the radical love of Christ or ours?

It may be, but I’m far less sure that’s how it’s supposed to work than I was in the past.

does sin matter?

I was talking with a rather clever high schooler I know about church, Jesus, the bible, all that good Christina stuff. She brought up a really common, but never the less interesting issue for Christians. How do we know what’s sin and not?

The question went something like this “how can someone say everyone is equal and woman should be able to do everything a man can, but then say you can’t be gay?”

To her there is some obvious inconsistency. In her mind the way we decided what is and isn’t sin isn’t being properly or equally applied. There appears to be a glaring inconsistency.

But too many there isn’t.

And to me that’s fascinating.

Both of these topics touch on defining what is and is not sin. The argument can be made for both sides, and as such it makes identifying sin in either of these situations hard. It’s the fact that good people working hard to understand the scripture and can come to very different understandings that leads to these debates still existing.

As I tend to do I asked a question that appears to not be particularly helpful. I asked the obvious to me question “does it matter?”

Clearly to a lot of people it does or the conversations wouldn’t come up. But the question and the reflection it dictates are important.

Does it matter if homosexuality a sin? Does it matter if woman in leadership is sin? Most would start with an obvious yes.

But why?

I may be wrong but I’ve never seen the exhaustive list of all sin. Is there a website we are listing them all so we know? Like supersinlist.com or something that we are all working towards so we can make sure we agree on them?

If it’s not for our super sin list, it’s got to be about leadership. Because no one who sins is worthy to be in leadership……..

So if it’s not about sin in leadership (because it can’t be or no one ever could lead anything), what is it?

Remember these are not actually all that clear. Most of us see these issues as clear but there is a wide divide in the church so it’s not. People are praying, reading, struggling and coming to entirely different opinions.

So back to why it matters, because I think most of us would agree it does.

Is it about accountability and love? Calling out sin in love for our brothers and sisters who have been led astray? This strikes me as ultimately the most prevalent reason. We can’t allow someone to continue in their sin. We see a better life and need to bring them into that new life.

Maybe but there is very little I would call loving in the way most people talk about sin in other people’s lives. We are really good at calling it out and expecting people to change while we do nothing about the obvious sin in our lives. In fact we often become indigent when someone does it to us.

Jarrod McKenna recently tweet a picture of a slide that I believe he is ascribing to Brad Chilcott. It reads:

“If it sounds like hate, feels like hate and makes people feel hated then it’s certainly not love. “

Do we live a life that looks like the life of Christ or one that we can defend with a verse in the bible? Do we act in love or in something that is certainly not love? Do we live a life modeled after the one who is love or one that we use to try and justify and sanctify beliefs and ideas that may not be as great and loving as we once thought they were?

Remember, those are different and I worry too often we try to live a life that we can defend with scripture rather than one that is modeled after Christ. Sure we sprinkle some Jesus in there but it’s right along with some old testament practices we like, an in or out perspective on a certain sin we find particularly offensive, and a belief that 7 days were 7 literal days.

Somehow all of those beliefs make us Christian or not rather than the obvious, is our life more like Jesus’ example of how to live than it was before?

This isn’t about salvation. That’s a big topic and to be honest I have no idea how it works. I don’t know when you cross the line form saved to not.

This is about being a Christian.

This is about being Christ-like.

This is about being love.

So, does it matter?

It’s hard to say, but I can be sure of this. Unless I’ve been invited to working it out with a person I know and love, I’m going to try and not make any judgments on what is and is not sin in their life.

Too much in my own to sort out.

looking beyond

Whenever I think about forgiveness I think about grace. The two just seem to go hand in hand.

So after talking a little about forgiveness I’ve been thinking about grace.

Grace is hard, I think we all know that. We are taught that we must get justice. People need to get what they deserve.

But that’s not what we’re called to.

So why do we act that way, aside from the obvious?

I was chatting with my home church on Tuesday and we talked about an idea that I think is worth some pondering. We tend to look at the sin, or the fault, and not the person.

So perhaps then the issue is the way we look at sin then.

We look at sin the same way we look at crime. While it may all be crime, some is worse. We rate it.

Yes lying is bad but murder is worse.

But what if sin was binary? A yes or a no. Would grace be easier?

Consider two people for me. They are in every way the same. They are literally perfect. Blameless in every way they could be but for one.

Person one is a compulsive liar. He lies all the time about everything.

Person two is murderer. It was a bad choice he made years ago but still a murderer.

Which will it be easier to show grace to? Be honest it’s person one because while we know both are bad we rate murder as worse. We don’t see the person or God in person two. We have trouble looking past the sin to see the exact same person behind it.  A person made in God’s image, needing love and grace and forgiveness.

I could make the argument person one is worse because they keep doing it. They keep sinning where person two sinned once.

When we live a life of compassion we called to see what God sees, and God see us beyond our sin.