I think I was in high school when I became troubled by exclusive truth claims professed by some Christians. Perhaps I wondered how my good friends who happened to be Jewish would be left out of heaven. Or how Christians of a certain stripe could have a monopoly on the Divine. The notion of an all-loving God coexisting with a place of eternal damnation especially left me short. Slowly I began to see the Sacred in a new way, characterized as having an ongoing love affair with the world – a God who participates and delights in creation and calls us into holistic ways of being and relating to each other, the Spirit, and all of creation.
Brian McLaren relates a similar journey. He came to see that the narrative arc of the Bible isn’t about saving sinners from hell. “No,” McLaren says, “The Christian faith – and the basic message of the Bible – is that we human beings are in a mess. We’re in a mess individually, but we’re in a mess as a species and we’ve plunged the whole planet into a desperately serious crisis. And God is with us, and God is guiding us, and God is leading us to deal with it in constructive ways. The story is about God’s love for the world and healing of the world. “
This realization can be liberating. We don’t have to live in fear. God is for us! Isn’t that the Gospel in miniature? And it’s an invitation to actively participate in what Jesus called the Kingdom of God, what our Jewish sisters and brothers call tikun olam, “the healing of the world.”
As McLaren says, “I can’t help but think that if we participate with God in God’s redemptive healing, reconciling work then whatever happens after we die is gonna’ be ok. But, if we become so preoccupied with our own little eternal outcome, so that we don’t care about what God’s doing in this world, we don’t join in it, that can be pretty counterproductive.”
I too believe the overarching message of the Bible concerns God’s ongoing care for creation and invitation to all to help bring about God’s dream for the world. “Please join me,” it’s as if God says to each and all. “I need you!” Each and all, blessed to be a blessing!