(Editor’s note: Here’s a bit of a break from the UCG vs. CGAWA debacle. Current author and inspirational speaker Annette Hunsberger Presley(who was also a member of WCG many moons ago) discusses the “love of God” for humanity. I have called her the George MacDonald of the 21st century and there is good reason why I said so and it is my hope she will go far in her gospel of the love of God that George MacDonald never gone before.)
Christianity as a whole believes its mission is to preach the Gospel to keep people out of hell. That approach is fear based and gives us a God who doesn’t really like us; a God who is mad at us and wants to punish and torture us if we don’t get our act together. Jesus never told us to fear people into believing the Truth. I think we miss the heart of God when we turn the Gospel into fire insurance instead of a new and permanent lease on life.
Ephesians 1:4 tells us that before the world was even made, God loved us and choose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. What we need to see here is that God created out of love, just like the love of a husband and wife produces life, so God’s love produced life. God is the example for parents. He loved his children, dearly. In our world, we often see parents abusing their children and we think God is like that with us, but God’s parenting skills are far above and better than ours. God is kind to his children and patient with them. God does not resent his children. God does not brag about himself to his children. God is not rude to his children nor does he demand his way with his children. God is not angry with his children. God does not record the wrong doings of his children or bring up past mistakes. God does not delight when evil things happen to his children. God rejoices when his children grow, learn and become who they were meant to be. God protects his children and trusts them. God hopes the best for his children and will do whatever it takes to abide eternally with them. God will never fail his children. So, God loves us, he wants us and he desires to be with us first and foremost. Everything else we believe must fit in with that love.
God’s plan for us has always been good, pleasing and perfect. He did not want robots or slaves, though, so he gave us a choice. He put two trees in the Garden of Eden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. Because of his great love, his desire was for us to choose the tree of life, so he warned Adam of the consequences of each choice. One tree led to death, the other to life. He set the tree of life up as the better and more desirable choice hoping Adam would make that choice and live.
Despite God’s best efforts to help Adam see the truth, Adam fell for the lie that God did not have his best interests at heart; that God was keeping something valuable from him; that God did not really love him. If we are honest, we still fall for this lie. We don’t really believe God loves us, wants us or desires us. We don’t believe God’s plans for us are good. We are just like Adam; we have all fallen for the lie.
Growing up, I was always taught that God was angry at Adam for disobeying him and eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge, but that is a lie also. When God came looking for Adam that day in the garden, he came as he always did, for the regular evening stroll in the garden. God did not come looking for Adam in anger or with lightning bolts ready for the kill. God came for relationship but Adam could not see that God. He could only see an angry judge which made Adam afraid. We are all afraid of the ‘angry judge’ God and are hesitant to engage in a relationship with that God.
Adam’s sin and fear did not make God angry, it grieved him greatly. Now, there was no hope for relationship. In Adam’s mind, God was now an abusive husband rather than a lover; he was an angry judge rather than a loving Father. Adam was no longer able to receive God’s love because he could not see God the way God really is. Adam missed the mark and plunged the entire creation into death. We died the day we could no longer receive God’s love because it is his love that gives us life. Without his love we are dead.
But, there was still hope because God was the kind of parent who would go to great lengths to be with his beloved children. God had a plan ready and waiting. That plan was Jesus. God would send his own son to us, to be one of us, to be with us, to forge a union that could not be broken between God and man. Jesus did not come to absorb God’s wrath and anger in our place, he came to undo Adam’s mistake; to undue Adam’s warped mind, blindness, bondage and inability to see God the way God really is that led to his death. He came because the Father loved his children so much he could not stand for them to be separated from his love forever. Since we have all inherited Adam’s warped mind and blind eyes, his bondage and death, Jesus came to give us a new mind, to make us see again, to set us free, to raise us from the dead.
The Gospel is Good News and it sets the captives free, raises the dead, gives sight to the blind so they can see God the way he really is, heals broken and disbelieving hearts so they can receive God’s love, and makes the deaf hear so they can hear the truth over the lies; the truth of God’s ‘I love you, I want you, I desire you, you are precious to me’. Those of us who have been raised from the dead and set free to receive God’s love get to participate with Christ in raising our brothers and sisters from the dead so they also can receive the love of God and live. I cannot imagine a greater joy in life than that.