Jesus loves you, but…
You need to recite the sinner’s prayer.
You need to stop doubting and asking questions.
You need to read the Bible more.
You need to go to church.
You need to be delivered from your addiction.
You need to believe this doctrine.
You need to share this good news.
Jesus loves me, yes, but He still has an agenda, certain expectations I need to meet along the way.
Thus, the focus remains on our abilities to serve Him, our right beliefs, and how early we can rise for a quiet time.
I am a magnet for this type of formulaic type theology.
My devotion + discipline + prayers + faith = God’s love.
For so long I prided myself in knowing how to achieve inner circle status with God. But if there’s striving can we call it intimacy?
Paul Young warns, “Bad theology is like pornography- the imagination of a real relationship without the risk of one. It tends to be transactional and propositional rather than relational and mysterious.”
I wonder how many hours we’ve spent trying to appease our Papa. Too many, I shudder.
This way of relating to Him is easier though isn’t? Everything computes. Based on our formula, we know which people are in and which of us are out.
Do you see how it places us in a sort of position of power over God?
From the moment I laid eyes on my babies I loved them fiercely and will forever call them my kids. There will never be any fine print or a contract they need to sign to stay in the family. They are not only accepted but thoroughly enjoyed and delighted in.
Why, then, do I act as if God’s love comes with fine print?
(Be sure you read to the bottom of the page, things are never that easy.)
For me, it’s a deep need for control. I function better with religious requirements and spiritual legalities. I am an older brother through and through, trying to tame and dilute God’s unquenchable Love, until its void of any richness or beauty.
Tell me what to do and I’ll do it, I say.
God replies, “Nothing.”
How unfair! I think.
Don’t you expect me to do something? If God is the most radical Giver, not expecting anything in return, then this Gospel is more inclusive then I would like it to be.
Richard Rohr explains further,
“The ego wants to be self-made, not other-made, which is our whole problem with grace. If grace is true, dear reader, and if we’re all saved by the mercy of God, then why do we constantly try to create certain cut-off points?
We project onto God our way of loving. Our love is determined by the supposed worthiness of a given person: she’s pretty; he’s nice. I, in my magnanimity, will decide to love you because you’re so pretty or so nice.
Of course, this has little to do with love, but it feels like love…”
If I’m ugly honest, I’d rather God’s heart not be open to everyone. Only a few. I want Him to pick favorites. I want to stand out from the crowd of billions of fellow humans- to sparkle brighter and turn His head and steal all the attention.
Tell me I’m not the only one who attempts to earn points with God, aiming for the perfect 10.0 score in my spiritual gymnastic routine?
I want to be the best and I have a plan to make it happen. How? Easy. I make the rules, write the formula, prepare the checklist, and determine the requirements for a good performance, and then I pass it out to everyone around me. God takes His place in my world as a fussy judge.
Of course, it’s all subtler than this, but you see it right? The absolute absurdity of it all.
We bury the real Good News underneath our dogma and doctrines, when God could care less about my back-hand springs. He’s not even slightly interested in my pointed toes or my flawless walk across the balance beam.
This Good News is offensive to the hard-working, striving older sisters, who carry around scorecards in our back pocket, while muttering, ”Jesus loves you, but you need to…”
How do you fill in the blank, what do you tell yourself and what do you expect of everyone else? Jesus loves you, but…
God is urging me to move my buts aside and let Him do the welcoming. To stop making His love manageable and reasonable, when it’s a raging river we were never meant to stand up in.
He smiles when I finally step off the performance floor where all is predictable and collapse into the unwieldy waters. The power of His love pummels me beneath the surface. I feel like I’m drowning, perhaps I’m dying? Dying to my small, carefully edited version of a love I can control.
“Surrender is the discovery that we are in a river of love that we float without having to do anything. Apart from such surrender, we always are in the grip of some degree of fear. Apart from such surrender we will always thrash about, trying to stay afloat by our own efforts. And apart from such surrender, we remain self-preoccupied as our willful attempts to stay in control cut us off from life itself.” David G. Benner, Surrender To Love
This is very Good News for every human on the planet. His welcome is wide. I wonder if anyone can escape His embrace? His love breaks every Pharisaical barrier I’ve tried to establish in my efforts to explain what can only be encountered.
Were we not all innocent universalists as a child? We dared to hope His heart held room enough for everyone?
What changed as we matured and became responsible adults? I think I wrongly started to assume God must have grown up too, becoming a crochety old man with a kink in his neck, loading us down with a million requirements and expectations before we could settle in next to Him. His glory and holiness was an overwhelming divide, usually uncrossable even on my best day. And suddenly I was more of a sinner and less of a beloved daughter.
Out here in these waters we learned to strengthen our swimming strokes and forgot floating was all we ever needed to do.