For someone like me knowing (and knowing is more than just an intellectual assent) that God’s love wins in the end provides the only reason to do the stuff God invites me to do in the world.
I mean, if it were up to me I would spend all my time driving around in fast cars, hanging out with friends examining the trivia of life, and constantly be in search of the next good time. I wouldn’t help friends who are threatened by natural disasters, much less strangers…I wouldn’t care that children in this world go hungry…I wouldn’t be bothered that people who make money want to see people who don’t put into jails and slavery…but God’s love wins…
And that changes everything. For one, it means that I don’t have to fear the future as much, and for me that means I can spend time taking care of this planet. (I believe one of the reason we abuse the planet is because we fear the future, and so we want to get all we can out of this planet while we can). I joined a conservation organization (the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation) when I realized God loves this planet too…
Because God’s love wins out in the end I don’t have to fear strangers, and I can trust my friends…because even should a stranger or a friend abuse that trust, God’s love still makes the betrayal into something of value. So I can make some sandbags for folks I don’t know…I can donate money to places of need…I can offer my home to those who need a bed…and should my body, should my money, should my home be taken advantage of–well, there is always God’s love to carry me onto the next day.
It is true that I drive a fast car (a really fast one these days)…it is also true that I hang out with friends and examine the trivia of life…and my beautiful wife and I are always in search of a good time…but they are encompassed in the eternal reach of God’s outstretched arms of love though Jesus the Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit…because to say God’s love wins is to say God wins…the one in whom we live not only for ourselves but for each other.
May your tables be full and your conversations be true.
I am so glad God’s love broke through to me, enjoy the Keith Green song…
Nice post, Scott! It reminds me of that line from Rob Bell’s Love Wins book. I don’t have the book in front of me so this may not be an exact quote: “Hell is resisting the invitation to let God retell your story.”
Given the spirit pierces and transcends time, the phrase, “Love wins IN THE END,” is an odd one for me. It seems that this essay is saying that God is saying, “Things will be okay in the end, for I am with you. Your story will have a happy ending.”
But this is not how I experience God’s promise. Love wins, especially when things are darkest. For is it not God’s triumphant love moving in us, that not only carries us past the threshold of despair, but deeply into the beauty of the divine working IN the bleakest hour (versus AFTER the bleakest hour)?
This is why the Sacrifice still remains for me the moment of triumph, not the Resurrection. For me, Christ opened himself to God in the bleakest hour and was answered and filled with the spirit. It was here that Jesus knew that Love Wins, not after he rose.
I think we should take a lesson here. God’s promise is not fulfilled in some ultimate heavenly afterlife, but present deeply here and now. God’s strength is not displayed most starkly when justice prevails but in the rending of our hearts, the challenging of our courage and compassion in dwelling with and in recovering with those abused.
We abide with God when the love of God is moving in us, with no thought of eventual triumph, but triumph in the here and now. We triumph over death in our courage to put our vanities, our possessions, our reputations, and indeed our lives on the line for the present emergence God in ourselves, in others, and in the kingdom world.
I tend to see victory in terms of process.
God creates Light; Light becomes photons; photons become mass; mass creates gravity; gravity creates quarks; quarks become particles; particles become atoms; atoms become molecules; molecules become elements.
The universe evolves from chaos to organization. Inorganic molecules become organic molecules; organic molecules become proteins; proteins become DNA; DNA becomes cells; cells become creatures; creatures take on new and varied forms.
Non-conscious beings become conscious beings; conscious beings become self-conscious beings with the power of choice. The first self-conscious choice in the universe is made. It’s a choice to reject God.
Chaos comes back and threatens the organization and complexity of the universe. Self-conscious creatures continue to make choices to reject God, and the chaos grows.
Then a woman says Yes to God.
The ability to make a self-conscious choice has been emerging from the chaos of the beginning of the universe, from light to molecules to creatures to this woman. Her Yes is the first self-conscious Yes to God–and because of her self-conscious choice to say Yes, Love wins. God is able to enter the universe through her and prevent it from returning to chaos. Each step in the process, from the beginning of the universe to this woman’s Yes, is a step toward God finally being able to pitch a tent in the universe He set into motion when He created Light.
This was the true light that enlightens every person by his coming into the world.
Much of what you say appears to be intuitively true. Spiritual process elaborating itself in changing form/creation creates possibilities for further enlightenment and openings to God/avenues from God. In fact what you have written reads positively like it could have come from Buddhist Thich Nhat Hahn and his attractive concept of “interbeing.”
To accept God self-consciously, however, first requires separation from God, for the self is only possible as a principle in separation. I do not bewail our ostensible eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We are curious are we not? Even divinely so.
But as we experience separateness, we have a choice: to open and rejoin, to make our way back to God. This cannot happen from the auspices of our separateness. We cannot call the shots. We cannot be the masters of our own joining with the higher and larger, though we can be the masters of our separation to the lower and smaller. Evil is attainable by us alone, while the good never can be.
Frankly, I think this drives much of the attraction around rejecting God. We can do this by ourselves (and thus leave ourselves alone, but to hubris we are no stranger). We as people can appear to be gods in this endeavor. We can reject the greatest power in the universe.
We can cut off God to spite our spirit, and we do, and Christianity has (as Diana Butler Bass mentioned) for the last one thousand years: Hate, violence, and intolerance have temporarily won, not love, in the depiction and administration of institutional Christianity, which has chosen to hate the gays, lock out the women, and abuse the children.
But we can do other. We can open to God. Our hearts can become transformed. Curiosity was not the crime and eating from the Tree (initial rebellion) was almost guaranteed in our adolescent spirituality, but persistence in error after we have experienced the effects of these choices is condemnable.
This is where love truly wins, yes, in terms of our learning and experiencing that love truly is more powerful and fulfilling and transformative for us, but also because when all is said and done it remains the organizing principle of the universe.
You do a good job articulating the point I’m trying to make. God, in allowing the universe to evolve with free will, offers us choices. We can choose to love or we can persist in error. It may look like our rebellion gives us power over God, but God always wins because God can take our choices for Him or against Him and transform them into something good.
Love doesn’t win because in the end, we all ultimately choose God. Love wins because when we reject God, God transforms that rejection into our redemption. We can’t separate ourselves from God by rejecting Him, or even in an eternal, persistent rejection of Him because the universe always evolves toward the good, and all our choices, good and bad, contribute finally to the goodness of creation. I believe this is what Gregory of Nyssa was getting at in his theory of epektasis.
Everything that rises must converge–Teilhard de Chardin
All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things shall be well–Julian of Norwich
I am glad my post could be part of such a great conversation, and I resonate with much of what is said…but I also remember a quip from one of my teachers who used to say, “If I wasn’t a Christian, I would be a process theologian.” Although said in jest, he meant that there is something unique about Christianity that the rest of the world (universe) has yet to see. That uniqueness, in the words of someone like Will Willamon is “Jesus got up.”
In other words, Christianity posits that all of what we know, experience, understand, or even think we believe is penultimate to God’s reality inaugurated in the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth to the Christ of God. In this way, all immanent or process theology and life is a “stage” (you can choose a better metaphor if you wish) on creation’s relationship with God.
This is why, as you both note, it is so important to see that love wins, whether in the bleakest times of today or in “the end.” Love is the energy that carries us with God throughout our existence. Love becomes the tangible reality that connects us with God…and we assume God has an ultimate purpose and meaning for everything…and it’s God love that will reveal it for us…glimpses of it in the here and now…face-to-face in the end. Thanks for reading and thinking about this with me.