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• Greg Boyd

In this sermon, Greg addresses the problem of hell and how many have walked away from the faith because they cannot reconcile a God of love with a place of endless torture. Greg gives a biblical understanding of hell by demonstrating its metaphorical language, how we bring hell upon ourselves, and how it actually is related to God’s love.

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One of the reasons why people struggle with and walk away from the faith is the traditional teaching of hell. Greg approaches this by first reading a passage from the famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards. This sermon depicts the dominant view of hell throughout church history. Hell is conceived as the worst nightmare imaginable: unending, hopeless, relentless and merciless torment. Many have raised the question that if God is all-loving, then how can there be such a thing as a hell? They reject a God who will torture people endlessly.

The question that we must ask is, what does the Bible actually teach on hell? Greg uses three points to flesh this out.

First, the language about hell is metaphorical. The word in the New Testament for hell was “Gehenna” which was a literal place in the valley of Hinnom outside of Jerusalem. It was a place where pagans had burned children to false gods and had served as a garbage dump. For Jesus and others, this location became a metaphor for the ultimate fate of all who reject God and make themselves unfit for the kingdom. No one believed the wicked would literally be thrown into this specific valley. Rather, following God’s ways leads to life in the city among the living. Breaking from God’s ways leads to death, thrown out into the valley of wickedness and destruction. Gehenna is terrible. To reject God is to reject the source of life, goodness, love, joy, peace and harmony. The opposite is death, evil, hate, despair, turmoil and conflict. Rejecting the ways of God brings about truly terrible consequences in this life and in the next

Secondly, we bring hell on ourselves. There are two kinds of judgment in the Bible. The first is judicial, a judgment that is extrinsic to the evil act, as there is not direct relationship between the action and the punishment. The second is organic, where the consequences of the act are built naturally into the act itself because the punishment follows naturally from the crime. The latter is how Scripture most frequently speaks about God’s judgments.

When we find depictions of God pronouncing sentences on people, if we read closely, we can see that God is simply allowing people to experience the destructive consequences of their own rebellion. This is illustrated in Psalm 7:12-16:

If one does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and strung his bow;
he has prepared his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
See how they conceive evil
and are pregnant with mischief
and bring forth lies.
They make a pit, digging it out,
and fall into the hole that they have made.
Their mischief returns upon their own heads,
and on their own heads their violence descends.

It appears that God is directly doing something against those who reject him. But if we read closely, we see that the judgment is actually a natural result of their actions. Our sin is inherently self-destructive as judgment is woven through the action itself. C.S. Lewis wrote in The Great Divorce, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”

The third point is that hell expresses the love of God. There are three main views that have been taught about hell. Greg offers an overview of these three views and asks if these views are compatible with the love of God expressed on the cross. The first view is that hell is eternal conscious suffering, and it has been the dominant view held in the church, as illustrated by Edwards’ sermon. Greg questions how eternal, conscious suffering can align with the love that God has demonstrated on the cross.

The second view is called annihilationism, where the ultimate fate of the wicked is non-existence. The natural consequence of sin is death, the ending of one’s existence and forfeiture of the right to eternal life. In this view, if someone is hopelessly set against God, to go on existing would be hell, for they are incompatible with God and his kingdom. This is compatible with the love of God revealed on Calvary in some ways because the God of love gives rebels what they want. However, it also means that we must accept that love doesn’t always win.

The third view is called universalism. There is biblical support of this view (Rom. 5:18-19, 1 Cor. 15:22, Eph. 1:9-10). The great thing about this view is that it fully embraces that God seeks all and works for all to be included in his love. But there is also a concern in that it can result in cheap universalism. We don’t have to worry about how we live because it all ends well. If this is the case then why are there so many warnings about hell? Some have argued that God, in his relentless love, will let you sin to whatever nightmarish level you need to sink to in order to have you eventually wake up to the folly of your way and accept God’s gracious offer of love and life. They warn against Gehenna as strongly as any hell fire and brimstone preacher, saying that hell will last as long as you want it to, but God’s love will win in the end.

Whatever view you hold, it has to be rooted in the love of God. Living in God’s love has intrinsic results of life and peace. Living outside of God’s love is Gehenna. This natural consequence of rejecting love is actually a loving process of letting consequences of decisions slay the old person in order for God to restore them in Christ. It’s better to enter the process of burning away all that stands against God’s love now and purge ourselves of sin now than it is to have it purged later. Today, we have the opportunity to let go of hell and move into God’s life and love.

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Topics: End Times, Forgiveness, Hell

Sermon Series: Unraveling Truth

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The MuseCast: June 20

Focus Scripture:

  • Matthew 18: 8-9

    If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire.

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13 thoughts on “Gehenna

  1. Jan says:

    Great sermon! Always happy to hear a takedown of Calvinism’s inherent sadism (by analogy to spider-scorching).

    From the written summary on why some reject Universalism (through Jesus where we are One in God, John 1): “…concern in that it can result in cheap universalism.”

    Looking at Barna Group’s research on those “done” with church plus growing numbers who claim “none” for religious affiliation (and my own experiences of decades traveling and living across the U.S.), “cheap” grace as man-made doctrine drives many more away from following Jesus than universalism ever could.

    The typical American evangelical throughline promises “salvation” in exchange for nothing more than a stated belief that Jesus is Savior and Lord (some version of the “Jesus prayer” for individual sin forgiveness). This typical throughline does not specify, as Jesus taught, the importance of changed actions from a repentant heart turned to love.

    By “cheap” grace doctrine, merely saying certain words will put you in the church for end-times rapture with hell-fire insurance. But this “cheap” grace of words without behavioral change does not turn anybody into a “kingdom (basileia)” person — churchgoers believing words are all it takes to “save” them too often act as hypocrites (if not oppressors) in their churches. They may involve themselves in church hierarchy for social, cultural or business reasons, but not to follow the teachings of Jesus because that absolutely requires behavioral change coming from egalitarian love.

    The “cheap” grace of claiming justification by God simply for parroted beliefs (man-made doctrinal “sanctification” to happen later at some undetermined time if ever) disheartens people actually wanting to be part of a group that follows the full teaching of Jesus. The “cheap” grace that fills those church seats also drives people away from church in general because they found it populated with members whose behavior was as unloving and self-serving organizationally about money, power and prestige as found outside the church.

    WH can be credited for doing church as lived community that acknowledges the deepness of the loving task (to follow Jesus) in reaching beyond the church building’s boundaries. Meanwhile the original unchurched Way of Jesus, organically unfolding through peer-led groups to meet our challenging times, has begun quietly to proceed wherever there aren’t organized churches like WH. Thank God — praise to the One from whom all blessings flow. Raise a hallelujah!

    1. Matthew says:

      I would agree with what you describe as cheap grace doctrine, but then the question becomes how much following of Jesus Christ is enough, how many good deeds are enough, how much faith worked out in love is enough, to truly be saved?

      If salvation is understood as union with God through Jesus Christ, a process the Eastern church calls deification which also doesn´t end in this earthly life, then things begin to make sense to me. If we do as much as we can to love Christ and live like Christ in this life, even if it isn´t perfect, we will indeed experience God as love in the afterlife and will continue our journey toward a fuller union with God for all eternity. For those who completely reject God in this life, I believe there will still be a chance for them in the afterlife to repent and come to Christ, though I admit I am not clear how that all will work out.

      1. Matthew says:

        I´m also not sure, Jan, if those who reject God in this life will go through some sort of purgation in the afterlife in order to prepare them for the glorious radiance of God in Christ? I mean, who with a perfectly redeemed and restored will, would ever reject God in Christ? To me, the notion of free will this side of eternity is nonsense really.

  2. Matthew says:

    I find this excerpt on heaven, hell and the afterlife to be rather compelling and interesting. It is from the Orthodox Church of America (Eastern Orthodox):

    For those who love the Lord, His Presence will be infinite joy, paradise and eternal life. For those who hate the Lord, the same Presence will be infinite torture, hell and eternal death. The reality for both the saved and the damned will be exactly the same when Christ “comes in glory, and all angels with Him,” so that “God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15–28). Those who have God as their “all” within this life will finally have divine fulfillment and life. For those whose “all” is themselves and this world, the “all” of God will be their torture, their punishment and their death. And theirs will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt 8.21, et al.).

    The Son of Man will send His angels and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father (Mt 13.41–43).

    According to the saints, the “fire” that will consume sinners at the coming of the Kingdom of God is the same “fire” that will shine with splendor in the saints. It is the “fire” of God’s love; the “fire” of God Himself who is Love. “For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12.29) who “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim 6.16). For those who love God and who love all creation in Him, the “consuming fire” of God will be radiant bliss and unspeakable delight. For those who do not love God, and who do not love at all, this same “consuming fire” will be the cause of their “weeping” and their “gnashing of teeth.”

    Thus it is the Church’s spiritual teaching that God does not punish man by some material fire or physical torment. God simply reveals Himself in the risen Lord Jesus in such a glorious way that no man can fail to behold His glory. It is the presence of God’s splendid glory and love that is the scourge of those who reject its radiant power and light.

    Those who find themselves in hell will be chastised by the scourge of love. How cruel and bitter this torment of love will be! For those who understand that they have sinned against love, undergo no greater suffering than those produced by the most fearful tortures. The sorrow which takes hold of the heart, which has sinned against love, is more piercing than any other pain. It is not right to say that the sinners in hell are deprived of the love of God . . . But love acts in two ways, as suffering of the reproved, and as joy in the blessed! (Saint Isaac of Syria, Mystic Treatises).

    This teaching is found in many spiritual writers and saints: Saint Maximus the Confessor, the novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. At the end of the ages God’s glorious love is revealed for all to behold in the face of Christ. Man’s eternal destiny—heaven or hell, salvation or damnation—depends solely on his response to this love.

  3. Jan says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful commentary, Matthew! Couldn’t agree more with your words: “If we do as much as we can to love Christ and live like Christ in this life, even if it isn´t perfect, we will indeed experience God as love in the afterlife and will continue our journey toward a fuller union with God for all eternity. For those who completely reject God in this life, I believe there will still be a chance for them in the afterlife to repent and come to Christ, though I admit I am not clear how that all will work out.”

    In retirement I don’t live where there’s an Eastern Orthodox congregation, although when I was in Eureka, CA, I fellowshipped with St. Innocent’s Orthodox church. The loving communion, amazing Sun. potlucks and, yes, the Theotokos imagery influenced me positively after growing up in SBC churches (not then, thankfully, what they’ve become doctrinally) with a foray into R. Catholic parochial education when the public schools didn’t suit my parents.

    As I’ve gotten older and more comfortable with all that cannot be confirmed about God, I rather enjoy the “ah, mystery” of being a created being of a Creator whose divine intelligence is so much vaster than the aggregated intellects of the smartest people over our entire run as a species on earth.

    In my first career as a trial lawyer, I butted heads plenty of times in mental gymnastics and logical convolutions. Now in retirement I sidestep the similar feel of theological conflicts and wrangling except to the extent that cruelly discriminatory doctrine (and a promoted view of God that’s intrinsically unloving) pushes people away from following the Way of Jesus to God.

    Sincere followers of Jesus who enjoy academics explore the boundaries of theodicy and other components of theology until we satisfy ourselves that we trust enough of God’s love to take joy in the mystery. For all of us perfectly imperfect humans, it can be a decades-long journey to the mysterious heart of infinite Love. Embracing mysticism in religious practice can connect our head with heart and shorten the traveled road.

    Once there we can relax about dogma because for most of it, nobody human (and that includes the humanly flawed biblical Paul) has ever known for sure all that is true about the mind of God. The red-lettered sayings of Jesus in context of the gospel narratives can point us to some of it, and experience (prayer, meditation, mysticism, collaboration with others) can ground us in everlasting love—but ultimately we just don’t know. There’s humility and the Holy Spirit’s comfort in accepting this.

    Hopefully we’ll get to find out more hereafter. But even if we don’t, knowing God’s love is its own priceless gift in this life on earth. And we get to share that love!

  4. Matthew says:

    Thanks Jan. Good advice I think. I wrap myself up in theology and thinking a lot (often too much). Simply resting in God´s love is often difficult for me.

  5. Jan says:

    Thanks back to you, Matt! In a fallen world at this technocratic mass-media (arguably inverted totalitarian) stage of wetern civilization, simply resting in God’s love is difficult for all of us. But so worth it.

    Maybe it took as weird a time as this (in its own fashion as filled with hypocrisy and oppression as the Roman Empire of when Jesus walked) to wake more of us up to leaving dogma behind for the heart of God’s love. If I didn’t know God and find “spirit and truth” refuge in divine love, I’d experience the despair so common to much of today’s humanity. And that’s why it matters to share the simple (but not easy) Way out of this mess and back to our Maker! Keep it up — your thoughtfulness is a thing of beauty and actual grace.

    1. Jan says:

      Typo “wetern” phonetically Freudian because we are turning (many of us) away from institutional religiosity and into infinite Love!

  6. Sarah Houpt says:

    How do you know a deep sinner won’t stay stubborn forever, Greg? Again I ask, why bother being good? If Love Wins in the end, then there isn’t really any urgency, is there? To me, it sounds like God’s Grace IS cheap no matter how ya slice it!

    1. Matthew says:

      Where´s the urgency?

      Well … I don´t see coming to faith in Jesus Christ as being about getting to heaven, avoiding hell, dealing with deep sin, etc. That shouldn´t be the driving motivation or force behind a desire to believe in and follow the Master.

      I tend to think that the call to the thirsty to come and drink which Revelation 22 describes is an ongoing call even after one´s death. As such, it would seem there is then no urgency in this life to come to Christ right away; no incentive to be good. So I ask again … where is the urgency?

      Jesus Christ is the Lord of all the universe. Love incarnate. The giver of all good things. The Way, the Truth, and the Life. The One who shows us the Father´s heart; in fact the One who enables us to connect directly with the the Father who is love in his very essence. Why would anyone want to delay such a relationship?

      God´s grace is never cheap. It is extremely valuable; so valuable that God is willing to wait an eternity, if need be, in order for it to be rightly received. That said, why wait, even though love ultimately wins?

      1. clueless says:

        MAT 5
        23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

        25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

        1 COR 3
        12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

        Luke 19
        8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

        9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

        Luke 16
        22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

        Greg concerning Matt’s statement— “I tend to think that the call to the thirsty to come and drink which Revelation 22 describes is an ongoing call even after one´s death” — is that right away or only after Jesus’ 2nd coming?

        Matt 7 13-14
        “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

        Greg: I believe you said only ‘LOVE’ the fruit of the Spirit can enter through the gate everything else must be left at the gate. Is Lazarus among the few technically inside the gate?

        I like Comer’s thought that sin is anything that hurts you or those around you.
        Greg in your episode on Climate change my take is the above statement also has effects on the climate, plants and animals. Is that true?

        “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!” Sir Walter Scott

        Greg: As far as “paying every last penny or barely escaping the flames” how entangled is this mess and is there any – (Are You Saved?) – cheap grace? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjHGtCHyBrU&t=529s

      2. Jerry says:

        consider Revelation 22 as echoed from Ezekiel 47 8-12

        He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Mediterranean Sea. But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”

        The Lake of Fire is a loaded historical reference to the Dead Sea, the scene of Sodom and Gomorrah’s fire and brimstone destruction.

        Ezekiel 16:53-55 “‘However, I will restore the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters and of Samaria and her daughters, and your fortunes along with them, so that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all you have done in giving them comfort. And your sisters, Sodom with her daughters and Samaria with her daughters, will return to what they were before; and you and your daughters will return to what you were before.

        Consider the reference to fishers in Ezekiel 47 might be a backdrop to Jesus’ “fishers of men” (Matt 4:19; Mark 1:17). Imagine symbolically fishers of people on the banks of what had been the lake of fire.

        This parallels Revelation 22: 17 and the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

        Unlike Luke 16:24-26 there is now water offered freely.

        So in the end death and hell (the patterns of this world) get thrown into the lake of fire and some of us until we come to the point of letting go (suffering loss) of works of the flesh.

        So considering Comers’ thoughts from the prior comment, why not deal with our planks while we are still on the road?

        If we don’t deal with our own [planks ] Matthew 7:3-5 we will take them into our future where they’ll go into the cellars of our soul and they will lift weights.

        Ephesians 4:26-28 “In your anger do not sin” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, so that they may have something to share with those in need.

        Other’s planks, their pieces, become our ongoing baggage. So why not work on, so to speak, closing the gym now?

        Ephesians 4:31-32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

        Jesus is not inviting us into the water cooler of heaven for a little pep talk and then sending us back out saying call me if you need anything. Jesus is inviting us to discipleship: to follow, walk and learn from him. Spending time with him learning his ways, his rhythms, and his priorities so that we can rest in his grace and he promises to shoulder and bare the weight as we learn a brand new way to shoulder the weight of life.

        You will be yoked to something so if you don’t yoke with Jesus, while you are still on the road, what might be the future condition of your soul?

        The option you want to tell as a permeant part of your story in coming out of a mess is the virtuous one over a lie, hypocrisy/duplicity, or an eye for an eye expedient one. Jesus says follow me out of your messes and we are going to walk around a whole lot of bad options and leverage on a virtuous one.

        Former senior, of EagleBrook, Pastor Bob Merritt has an interesting fishing story, a messy situation with bad options, and the value of URGENCY in addressing it, from his book “7 Simple Choices for a Better Tomorrow”.

        He is invited to a cabin to work on this book. On the way up it rains cats and dogs, so to speak, and when he arrives he has no WFI connection, and the landline phone, in the cabin, is on the floor in a few inches of water.

        So after a long day of driving to a cabin in the rain only to arrive at a mess, Bob had this unrelenting urge to go trout fishing in a nearby stream, but the problem was he did not have a fishing license. He had planned to go to town the next day, a 45-minute round trip, to buy one but the stream was only a mile away so he rationalized, would the DNR really care if I made a few casts today? He suppressed his conscience and started his short drive, but being mesmerized, by the scenery along the way, landed in a ditch, muddied by heavy rains, and sank his Explorer up to the axles.

        Bob walks down the road and finds this farm and a willing person to pull him out of the ditch. Elated, that he has saved himself a $100 tow, he offers the farmer $20. This should’ve been enough to convince him to go into town and get his license, but he continued to push back his conscience. Then the farmer asked him if he had a fishing license. He was shocked by the question because who does that, God was in on it, but he skated the question by saying everybody needs a fishing license. As soon as he said it a small voice inside spoke. “You’re a Christian pastor who just deceived this man that helped you out. How low are you going to go?” Unaltered, the flesh is still winning over spirit, Bob gets to the stream makes his first cast, right into a high-hanging tree branch, and loses his fly. I few more casts another fly.

        Finally, he stopped and took inventory of how he was doing. So far sunk his truck, lost twenty dollars, deceived a farmer, lost two flies, and caught no fish. So he decided to turn around and take another direction. He left the stream, and drove eight miles to town, but was three dollars short of the cash he needed to buy a license so he had to use his credit card, with a $5 dollar fee added, so now one more thing: down another 5 bucks.

        But now with his license in hand, he drove back to the stream and on the very first cast caught a ten-inch brook trout with gorgeous red spots on its side. He caught seven more that day. Bob was on the wide road landing in a ditch, suffering some loss but by addressing, while still on the road, closed the gym, so to speak. God’s favor, mercy, and grace were recovered, so in finishing writing his book, he decided that’s exactly how life works!

        To state the essence of the book in a sentence: In order to have a Hog Hole Heaven on earth you need to understand indiscretions are habitual in that the little stuff leads to the big stuff so, if you want a little more Heaven to come down to earth, you need to not cut corners, manipulate the truth or allow yourself these little indiscretions for if you do God’s wrath will be, not to punish you but, to remove his protective presence, letting you have your own way, so you now become liable for your own mess.

        It’s NOT just about going to Heaven, down the road, at a future date but also bringing some Heaven down to earth now while you’re still on the road and that might just shorten your layover, down the road, in the lake of fire.

  7. Jan says:

    More gratitude — thank you, Matthew and Sarah — that tech signup lets me see additional comments to the excellent Gehenna sermon! The freedom and free will to ask questions points us each to what we need to unpack in order to receive and give back love with the infinite cosmological compassion only God can bestow.

    Loving the way God does, as taught by Jesus, isn’t my human default, or anybody’s. We may love ice cream, our kids or spouse, the MN Vikings, or Austin Butler playing Elvis, but the quality of love when supernatural becomes so much bigger, more satisfying, extended everywhere (even if we need behaviorally to detach for safety from harmful behavior of someone we love).

    Agree with Matt — the experience of infinite love is the highest reward. And there’s always potential for growth and expansion. I’ve been on this journey for decades, happy to write about how it’s worked for me, yet just this week realized I needed God’s help to know myself consciously as more securely attached to Jesus with the Savior’s love at the forefront of each circumstance. Attached so securely that nothing, not even my erroneous thought, can seemingly separate us when trouble arises.

    This lesson arose when a troubling old left-side work injury and personal miscalculation left me on the floor away from a phone and immobilized two days ago — in the first few minutes of panic, I tried all the logical methods to regain my footing. (Zeke, my normally lovely cat, tried to help by biting my leg.) As nothing worked, I realized I hadn’t thought about or turned to Jesus for inspirational ideas or extra help from God’s spiritual realm. And so I cried out to Jesus, recalled some healing gospel passages (like “your sins are forgiven … rise up and walk”), prayed the Lord’s Prayer and spontaneous words for the Holy Spirit’s help (while weeping), and alternated holding my head in my hands with petting Zeke’s head (because he had only been distraught too). Within minutes my limbs started moving again, I scooted over and pulled up on the sofa, began walking. Last night there was no leg pain from the old injury that I’d had for years.

    Several times today I’ve consciously realized a closer tethering to Jesus, the compassionate Christ. As a result it’s been easier to behave lovingly with tradespeople, strangers and neighbors, and (not that there’s a 1:1 correlation ever) some have reciprocated with their own happy feelings.

    Chances are I’ll do some backsliding (being human) on this level of secure attachment with Jesus but you cannot know how grateful I am to God for this loving result because — being highly allergic to general anesthesia — instead of exploratory surgery, getting no younger I may need this kind of divine help again, called up in the moment of emergency. Think also of the many people in the U.S. and worldwide who for systemic or personal reasons lack meaningful or affordable medical care.

    My biggest issue with “cheap” grace as some churches teach is that many of their constituents believe falsely there’s nothing they can or need to do other than believe some parroted faith statement about Jesus saving them from their sins. (But hey, pass that collection plate for the get-out-of-hell-free card!) Too seldom the spiritual richness of rising fully and completely into God’s love isn’t taught as a life’s work, worth everything once experienced with the hope to actualize even more infinite compassion.

    When we tell our stories about how God’s love works in our lives, we encourage others to see if there might be something bigger and better behind standard litany on Sundays — and we find out, yes, there certainly is, with Jesus as God’s living Word/Logos (John 1).
    We also experience that when intersections of God’s irrevocable grants of free will (because real love cannot be forced) do not allow for God’s intercession to change outcomes, we can still approach God for the Holy Spirit’s comfort and solace as close as our next breath.

    Joy, peace and love to all this week and always,

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