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Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

By Mike Edwards

Decades ago, I was taught things about God that I couldn’t imagine would be true of a loving God. See here.  I can imagine some had no reason to doubt what authorities were teaching them, which eventually lead to leaving God or making God less a part of their life. Why follow a God you couldn’t respect. Question if what you hear doesn’t seem to be right what a loving God would truly be like. You may be right! These are the main beliefs that nagged at me that I became convinced couldn’t be true of a loving God:

That God created a place such as Hell for those who didn’t accept God in their life here on earth. We human wouldn’t even create such a place and consequences for our worst enemies.

What Does God Believe About Hell?

That God actually believes women were not as gifted as men leading in at worship setting or at home. What Does God Think About Women?

That God condemns gays for a choice they have no control over – being gay. Gays no more than straights choose control being attracted to the same or opposite gender. What Does God Believe About Gays?

That God only lets into heaven those who believe in and accept Jesus into their hearts. Half the world born never had a Bible or knew of Jesus. What Does God Think Of Non-Christian Religions?

That God controlled the minds and pens of the writers of the Bible. A loving God who created freedom can never act controlling. Don’t believe everything the Bible claims God did. What Does God Think About An Inspired Bible?

That God foreknows the future. If God already knows what choices we make, this denies the reality of freedom. God actually joins with us with all the joys and pain of an unknown future. What Does God Know About The Future?

That God is a mystery sometimes, because the Bible contributes immoral behaviors to God. This makes assumptions about the Bible and implies God can be a moral hypocrite – “do as I say not what I do.” What Does God Think About Being Labeled Mysterious Or Hypocritical?

I am grateful for the relationship I have with my Creator, but the emphasis on we are obligated to constantly tell God how great they are doesn’t seem natural or relational. I am convinced God doesn’t like to appear egotistical. What Does God Think About Being Told How Great They Are?

Most would agree the Bible says to forgive. To one’s surprise the Bible can also be interpreted to suggest forgiveness requires regret. It matters what we tell others, especially victims. What Does God Think About Forgiving The Guilty Who Deny Wrongdoing?

The God That Turned Out To Not Be True!

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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By Mike Edwards

I am not going to attempt to answer this question with Bible verses. Most would agree the Bible says to forgive. To one’s surprise the Bible can also be interpreted to suggest forgiveness requires regret. It isn’t too presumptuous to imagine what a loving God is like through our moral intuitions, our consciences. We aren’t always certain how to best love, but most sense that we or a Creator ought to love others as we want to be loved.

Why it matters whether to tell others to forgive or not

Victims can feel more victimized, and feel God must not understand their pain, when told to forgive their abuser no matter what. What is there to forgive when one denies wrongdoing? Easy forgiveness can allow a husband’s abusive behavior to continue. When a sexual abuser doesn’t acknowledge their actions, secret behaviors continue. Isn’t the whole point to do whatever helps control bitterness and stop more victimization, though forgiveness doesn’t wash away memories.

The Bible surprisingly says to not forgive sometimes

One may be surprised to see the Bible can also be read to suggest forgiveness requires regret thus admission. The implication is we don’t necessarily have to forgive those who lie about their actions. God is said to forgive if we forgive others (Mt. 6:14-15). Forgive if they repent (Lk. 17:3). God in the OT is often said to not forgive the rebellious (i.e. Josh. 24:19). It’s hard to defend a loving Creator would ask us to do something God doesn’t – forgive the unrepentant.

The Bible isn’t a question-and-answer Book

My point is not to insist one should or shouldn’t forgive in their circumstances. Usually, there are different opinions on meaning and application of the same passage. The Bible was never meant to be a rules book but for reflection in one’s circumstances. “Turning the other cheek” doesn’t mean a women should accept abuse at the hands of her husband. The Bible is valuable because it suggests not always handling certain circumstances naturally, humanly-speaking. Bitterness or revenge can worsen a victim’s circumstances.

But Jesus said to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39)

Some scholars suggest Jesus advising to “turn the other cheek” (Mt 5:39) was illustrating how to respond to insults, not that we can never respond to violence against us or others. Other scholars have suggested a possible literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means.” This doesn’t mean nations can’t defend against evil dictators. Jesus often used hyperbole for emphasis without stating exceptions. It seems best to neither seek vengeance nor to ignore possible justice. If one is truly sorry, shouldn’t they readily admit their guilt?

When do we forgive?

For some forgiving can cause feelings of further victimization and bitterness; for others forgiving can control bitterness and possible acts of revenge. Many may be haunted with thoughts whether they must forgive their violator at the urging of others. We are free to make the wisest choice we know without being guilted by others about God. God may not be as non-empathetic as thought. Consider forgiveness if one admits guilt and seeks to make amends. Whether a future relationship is possible depends. Seek the mind of God what actions in relationship difficulties lead to your best interest in the long-run in a world full of disappointments.

What Does God Think About Forgiving The Guilty Who Deny Wrongdoing?

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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By Mike Edwards

Victims can feel more victimized, and feel God must not understand their pain, when told to forgive their abuser no matter what. What is there to forgive when one denies wrongdoing? Easy forgiveness can allow a husband’s abusive behavior to continue. When a sexual abuser doesn’t acknowledge their actions, secret behaviors continue. Isn’t the whole point to do whatever helps control bitterness and stops more victimization, though forgiveness doesn’t wash away memories.

The Bible surprisingly says to not forgive sometimes.

Most would agree the Bible says to forgive. To one’s surprise the Bible can also be interpreted to suggest forgiveness requires regret. God is said to forgive if we forgive others (Mt. 6:14-15). Forgive if they repent (Lk. 17:3). God in the OT is often said to not forgive the rebellious (i.e. Josh. 24:19). God wouldn’t ask us to do something God doesn’t – forgive the unrepentant? It’s complicated!

The Bible isn’t a question and answer Book.

My point is not to insist one should or shouldn’t forgive in their circumstances. Usually, there are difference opinions on meaning and application of the same passage. The Bible was never meant to be a rules book; the Bible was meant for reflection in one’s circumstances. Who ridicules the example Jesus set? The Bible is valuable because it suggests not always handling our circumstances naturally, humanly-speaking. Bitterness or revenge can worsen a victim’s circumstances.

But Jesus said to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39).

Some scholars suggest Jesus advising to “turn the other cheek” (Mt 5:39) was illustrating how to respond to insults, not that we can never respond to violence against us or others. Other scholars have suggested a possible literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means.” This doesn’t mean partners or soldiers can’t protect themselves and others.  Jesus often used hyperbole for emphasis without stating exceptions.

When do we forgive?

For some forgiving can cause feelings of further victimization and bitterness; for others forgiveness can control bitterness and possible acts of revenge. Many may be haunted with thoughts whether they must forgive their violator at the urging of others. Not forgiving doesn’t mean you are full of bitterness or you wouldn’t forgive if one admits guilt and seeks to make amends. Whether a future relationship is possible depends. Seek the mind of God what actions in relationship difficulties lead to your best interest in the long-run in a world full of disappointments. God may not be as non-empathetic as thought. We are free to make the wisest choice we know without being guilted by others about God.

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by Rocky Glenn

When James Hunter mirrored the skills of leadership listed in The World’s Greatest Leadership Principle: How To Become A Servant Leader to Paul’s attributes of love from 1 Corinthians 13, he provided more than simply how to be a great leader. He spelled out practical ways of showing love and provided insight on being a great human. When I first set out to detail each of the skills here, I naturally thought the eight traits would divide into four posts of two skills each. However, as I begin studying them more, the breakdown I’ve used seem to fall off the pages right before me.

As I’ve stated in each post, Hunter’s ultimate definition of love is the act of extending yourself for others by identifying and meeting their legitimate needs and seeking their great good. Patience and kindness are the first traits listed and are the first steps on the road to extending oneself. For most of us, patience and kindness come rather easily, at least externally, as we always strive to show our best face to strangers and others we seek to hide our true selves from. The act of extending was further displayed as we then discussed humility, respect, and selflessness. These three skills provide the motivation to allow us to be patient and kind as the more aware we become of treating others with respect and seeing we are human and all the same the more patience and kindness flow naturally from us. I truly believe the last three skills discussed cause the greatest extension of ourselves when practicing love.

To once again borrow the words of C. S. Lewis:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

Extending yourself makes you vulnerable. In other words, to love is to be open to hurt. These last three skills guide us in dealing with hurt.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is defined as letting go of resentment. It’s one of the most important character skills for a person to possess: because people are human and will make mistakes, a lot of them. Your spouse, your kids, your parents, your boss, your coworkers, your teammates are going to screw up and let you down. We must be willing to accept limitations in others and develop the capacity to tolerate imperfection. The skill of letting go of resentment that lingers when people have hurt us, falsely accused us, threw us under the bus, and generally let us down is not about being passive or letting people get away with bad behavior or pretending the bad behavior is acceptable. Forgiveness involves going to people and communicating how what have done has affected you, dealing with it, letting go of any lingering resentment. Resentment destroys the human personality. Harboring resentment, seeking revenge, and obsessing about what others have done to us often causes us to become spiteful and hateful. When our pride and feelings are hurt, we justify not letting people off the hook.

Hunter explains forgiveness occurs when we separate people from behavior. We all do bad things but aren’t necessarily bad people. Are we as willing to let others off the hook as easily as we do ourselves? I was once told by a man I loved dearly, “Rock, we only accuse others of what we are capable of doing ourselves.” I hated hearing those words. I refused to admit the judgments I made mentally against others were only because I had the ability to do the exact the same things. Then the words of Paul is his letter to the Romans wafted through my thick head, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”

Honesty

Honesty is simply being free from deception. Trust is the glue that holds relationships together. Trust is built by behaving with honesty, it requires effort, and comes through communication of listening and speaking. One major aspect of honesty which is rather difficult is accountability. Failure to hold people accountable for their actions is deceptive and is not living up the responsibility of helping others be the best they can be and provides the false illusion that everything is okay. Dishonesty and deception take root in our heart as unforgiveness is allowed to dwell. Gandhi stated, “One man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole.”

Commitment

Commitment is defined as sticking to your choice. Practicing the skill of love requires commitment and passion for personal continuous improvement as well as a passion for doing what you say you are going to do, following through on promises, and finishing what you started. Commitment is about being loyal to people on the team and being there for others when they fail or when they need your help. It’s not about blind loyalty – doing the right thing always trumps loyalty. Commitment is having the moral courage to do the right thing regardless of friendships or alliances, even if its unpopular or comes with personal risk. Moral courage is the resolve to subordinate anything that gets in the way of doing the right thing. When all is said done, that right thing is always love.

Forgiveness, honesty, and commitment require vulnerability. To be vulnerable is to be capable of being physically or emotionally wounded and possibly open to attack or damage. It’s not a popular idea today to love to the extent of being vulnerable and possibly exposing yourself to hurt; however, as Paul reminds us in the closing of his famous words on the subject, “Love never fails.”

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by Rocky Glenn

I recently shared a trio of posts from 2017 detailing Paul’s definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13.  Unbeknownst to me in late September as I was meditating upon Paul’s words and what I had previously written, I was about to embark on a nine to twelve-week training with my company which would cause further reflection on the famous passage.  As part of my employers’ ongoing and relentless commitment to the personal betterment of their staff both professionally and personally, we have been on a journey through James C. Hunter’s The World’s Greatest Leadership Principle: How To Become A Servant Leader.  Hunter concludes leadership skills and character development are one and the same.  He builds his writing upon a foundation of the most sought-after leadership skills mirroring the same attributes of love described by Paul and therefore devoted the largest chapter of the book to detailing and defining each of these characteristics.

I was honored to be selected to present this chapter to the staff and discovered Hunter’s words to be some of the most practical applications of love I’ve yet to find.  If truly applied and practiced, I believe the qualities and skills he details can impact not just one’s workplace, but every relationship, interaction, and encounter we experience in life.

Depending on one’s personal preference of scripture version, the exact terms listed by Paul may vary although the meanings remain.  Due to this, for simplicity’s sake we will define the eight attributes of love as the leadership skills Hunter lists:

Patience – Kindness – Humility – Respect

Selflessness – Forgiveness – Honesty – Commitment

Before examining each of these, it’s important to understand a key distinction of love Hunter declares in his writing and why it is considered a skill.  Love is not about feelings, it is about how we behave.  While feelings have the power to influence decisions and behaviors, they have nothing to do with the choices we make to practice the qualities listed above.  According to C. S. Lewis, “Love in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion.  It is a state not of feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people.” Notice how Lewis embodies the words of Jesus to love our neighbor as ourselves.  He points out love is a matter of will we have naturally about ourselves and should choose to have towards others.  These words of Jesus, recorded as the second greatest commandment, have been etched in my brain from an early age, but Hunter’s determination of love being a skill shines a light on the command I’ve yet to see until this point in my life. Feelings have no effect on our skills and therefore should have nothing to do with the choice to remain kind, respectful, forgiving, and committed.  By definition, skill is the ability to do something well, based upon one’s knowledge and practice.  As followers of Jesus, we should be known as those who love well and therefore love should be a skill in which we are most proficient as we practice patience, kindness, humility, respect, selflessness, forgiveness, honesty, and commitment.

In his book, Hunter embodies the words of both Jesus and Lewis in defining love as the act of extending yourself for others by identifying and meeting their legitimate needs and seeking their great good.  In simple terms, love is as love does.  It’s of little use for me to make a claim of loving someone if I do not embody the skills of love.

Love looks like Patience.

Love looks like Kindness.

Love looks like Humility.

Love looks like Respect.

Love looks like Selflessness.

Love looks like Forgiveness.

Love looks like Honesty.

Love looks like Commitment.

The journey through Hunter’s book has been an unexpected experience.  Previous leadership books I’ve read have done little more than provide how to lists of being a better leader while causing reflection upon those I may have once reported to and making determinations of I will or will not be like them.  Servant leadership, as described by Hunter, becomes more of a mirror into one’s own life reflecting what is truly present or may be lacking in efforts to become not just a better leader, but a better person.

Over the next few weeks, I will take a closer look at each of these skills and discuss them in greater detail sharing more of Hunter’s thoughts.  I will note, however, this discussion is not in efforts of making a to do list or checklist for the sake of proving whether one is loving.  It’s simply to share a new glimpse of love which has given me pause and made me consider my own behaviors towards others regardless of what I may be feeling.   Love is not about feelings, it’s about how we behave.

Rocky

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By Mike Edwards

I am convinced there are beliefs claimed about God that lead to many tuning out God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our understanding of God. I have written HERE how we can decide what God is really like. One’s understanding of a Book may be the only reason to think human and godly perfection are different.  Why would a Creator not love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others?

It can be confusing by the way we talk about the Cross. A death doesn’t magically heal the pain we have caused God or others. The most healing we can hope for is when there is confession and forgiveness. A partner can never undo their betrayal, but taking responsibility and not blaming others can be a start toward healing. Many growing up in church may not have a problem with the idea of a child being sacrificed to appease God, but an outsider using common moral sense has to wonder why a God who truly loves requires blood before forgiving.

Requiring a debt be paid isn’t really forgiveness.

If you owe a monetary debt and you are required to pay it off, how is that forgiveness of a debt? God can’t both forgive a debt and require repayment. Demanding the blood of an innocent party doesn’t legally resolve another person’s guilt.  My going to jail for a friend’s wrongdoing doesn’t somehow clear my friend of their crime. Guilt is not somehow magically removed by someone else’s confession of a sin they didn’t commit.

Jesus and the Bible sometimes contradict the necessity of blood to forgive our sins.

Jesus forgave the paralyzed man before His bloody death (Mt. 9:6-9). Jesus sure seemed to accept supposedly evil people in society before His blood was spilt on the Cross. Why does the Bible talk so much about the Cross defeating evil, rather than the Cross defeated evil so God could forgive us (Gal. 1:4, I Jn. 3:8, etc.)? Jesus seemed on a mission to help us battle ongoing evil, not to pay for a once-for-all crime.

If blood was necessary for God to forgive, why did even OT writers over time begin to write that God doesn’t like animal sacrifices but contrite hearts (Ps. 51:16-17, i.e. Jer. 7:22, Amos 5:21, Micah 6:6). Even in the NT God is said to not desire or be pleased with sacrifice and offerings though offered in accordance with the law (Heb. 10:8). These passages contradict passages that supposedly teach God required Jesus’ death to forgive us.

But, don’t Bible verses also say Jesus died for our sins?

Many passages insinuate that Jesus died for us (I Pe. 3:18, Rom. 5:8, I John 3:16, etc.). They don’t say Jesus died for God’s sake. Jesus could have died because of our sins rather than for our sins. Jesus’ death actually proves violence doesn’t solve differences. Jesus’ message was acceptance and forgiveness lead to healing. If the Bible was crystal clear the purpose of Jesus’ death, why do so many theories exist as to why Jesus died?

Why did Jesus die? 

It is okay to speculate why Jesus was willing to die on the Cross. Biblical scholars haven’t figured it out. Jesus jumping off the Cross or overpowering His enemies was expected or hoped for but we would have learned nothing. We may still be talking about Jesus’ message of radical love as the best path for reconciliation, because He was willing to die rather than power over others. Jesus’ desire to inspire unselfish living empowered by our Creator is what really changes the world.  Jesus’ death rather than His power has inspired billions to live unselfishly.

Jesus’ death can enable us to not feel overwhelmed by guilt and truly loved by God by what God willing to do. Terrorists blow others up for a message they feel strongly about. Jesus only blew Himself up for a message He believed very strongly in. Soldiers often sacrifice their lives because they are convinced certain freedom are that important. Jesus died in hopes we may understand true freedom is found by understanding what God is really like.

God forgives if we seek God’s forgiveness – no strings attached!

God is dying to forgive you of wrong doing in hopes to inspire you to change for your interests and the interests of others. God’s love and mercy, not God’s need for punishment, is our necessary nourishment in being the person we desire to be. That doesn’t get you a free out- of-jail card for a serious crime. That doesn’t mean when forgiving a friend that has betrayed you, that you have to pretend the relationship is back to the way it was. It takes two to tango. Unfortunately, many don’t seek forgiveness from humans or feel a perfect Creator accepts us and could simply forgive us for sins we have a hard time forgiving ourselves for.

  • God only ask us to do what God does – freely forgive without demanding punishment first
  • God didn’t kill Jesus by requiring Judas betray Jesus; we killed Jesus
  • God does not need violence, much less an innocent victim, to be satisfied
  • We don’t forgive one child by punishing another child
  • Jesus not responding violently sought to stop the cycle of violence – violence begets violence

Why I Doubt God Is An Excluder Of Religions

Why I Doubt Heaven Is Closed To Anyone After Death

Why I Doubt Hell Is Real

Why I Doubt God Is A Homophobe

Why I Doubt God Is A Sexist

Why I Doubt God Is A Mysterious, Moral Hypocrite

 

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by Susan Adams
https://blog.gracepodcast.cafe/surveying-the-carnage/
https://gracepodcast.cafe/about-us/

I’ve been thinking a lot about the carnage that has come out of evangelicalism. More specifically, Reformed theology, Calvinism, the homeschooling movement, the purity culture, and complimentarianism.

Who has suffered the most?  I believe without hesitation, that the children raised in these systems have been and continue to be, its greatest casualties.  We continue to receive emails from parents who have been broken by the system and who have grown children who have walked away from the faith and sometimes into atheism or agnosticism. Some of these children cut their parents off for a season.  Some, permanently. It’s painful, but I think necessary for the child to figure out who they are apart from how they were raised.  Some feel as though they have been brain washed their whole lives.  And maybe so.  Did we present one set of beliefs and hold them hostage to those beliefs, living in fear that they would somehow be corrupted by the world or even worse, another church with different theology?

I’m thinking too of the many who homeschooled like we did.  Many believed they were raising up little warriors for God.  Girls were taught that their value before God hinged on their presenting themselves as virgins to a man.  And if they weren’t virgins on their wedding day, they were damaged goods, considered less than.  They were also taught that their entire identity as women was gauged by their constant submission to a man, regardless of how abusive the relationship might become. They were compelled to follow that man, helping him to achieve all of his hopes and dreams while she stayed home and had babies.  I’m not saying that staying home and having babies is bad, I’m thankful I was able to stay home with my children.  But what if I had a choice to pursue my dreams too?

So not only were they held hostage to our theology, but to our worldview and political agendas as well.  We presented a life and a God that fit neatly in a box. Our children lost their identity, if they had ever known it to begin with.  I see one of the biggest results of being raised like this is anxiety and sometimes depression along with it.  They don’t know who they are.  They don’t know what it’s like to be belong to something, only how to fit in so they can be accepted.

So they leave.  Leave the church and sometimes their families.  And many leave their faith and sometimes stop believing there’s a God.

I came from a broken home.  Deserted by my dad.  Raised by an abusive alcoholic.  I was a shattered human when I met Jesus.  So why was I able to have an adult relationship with my parents and care for them when they died?  What’s the difference?  Why are kids who were raised in homes where divorce didn’t happen, where mom stayed home to cook and clean for them and sometimes homeschooled them, walking away from it all?

So I think for me, even though I was abused as a child, often told I was worthless and would amount to nothing, when I met Jesus  He was presented to me as a Savior, not a judge.  Loving, not critical.  And so I experienced real healing and I understood real forgiveness.  I was not a disappointment to God.  So I had someone to go to after my abuse – Jesus. 

I think the difference is their perception of who God is.  From an early age these kids have had it drilled into their heads that God is a legalistic God who is easily offended, usually angry, disappointed, and vindictive.  And our children are taught to conform.  They are taught to drink the Kool-Aid  and if they don’t they are labeled as the rebellious ones.  The outsiders. The outcasts.  That’s a lot for children to grow up under.  That’s a lot of expectations put on the small shoulders of children.  They aren’t encouraged to find out who they are but instead told to be like those we want them to be like.

And let’s not forget that each child in our families is different,  unique in their temperaments and personalities.  That while some kids seemingly make it through and carry on the traditions, their siblings may have been crushed and broken under the weight of it all.  But when we say our children have walked away I believe you can never leave Jesus.  Nothing separates us from him.  He’s with them.  He’s got them.

When this generation of kids hit rock bottom, who do they run too?  The God they’ve been told about isn’t loving.  He’s disappointed in them. So they leave.  Leave it all.  You may be thinking this isn’t true.  This isn’t what was taught!  Until we’re willing to admit that this was the message caught nothing will change.  At some point we need to examine why this is happening in such large numbers.  I think we need to admit our culpability in this.

So what do we do now? How do we handle what’s happened to our children?  We love them.  We support them.  We give them space when they ask.  We respect their boundaries.  We be there for them when they come back.  We don’t expect this to happen fast. It may takes years but we love.  We pray they can see how kind and sweet Jesus is.  We don’t judge.  We don’t try and fix.  We just be there.  Accepting them as they are.  Just like Jesus did with me back when I first met him.  He continues to accept me just as I am.  No matter where they are, we love, we support and we respect their journey.

I regret ever having raised my children in religion.  I wish I would have looked at each one as the unique person they were created to be and encouraged them to live their lives.  I wish I would have never picked up a Christian parenting book or program where the only goal was to tame and train children to live in a box.  A box created by a religion of morality. 

When I was at my darkest  and I thought I had lost everything, a very wise friend said to me – “Just because its like this now, doesn’t mean this is what it will be like five years from now or even a year from now.” She was right.  So I encourage you to rest in the One who loves your children far more than you ever will or could.

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By Mike Edwards

I am convinced there are beliefs claimed about God that lead to many tuning out God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our understanding of God. I have written HERE how we can decide what God is really like. One’s understanding of a Book may be the only reason to think human and godly perfection are different.  Why would a Creator not love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others?

A Universalist believes God welcomes all to spend eternity in Heaven after death here on earth. Some may make a choice here on earth to have a relationship with their Creator and continue on after death. Some may not believe in God here on earth but misconceptions about God will be cleared up when meeting God. Some believe in Purgatory where some exist until convinced of God’s true love for them. The truth is only God knows what happens after death. Be open-minded!

Hell, as a place for unbelievers, doesn’t really exist according to the Bible.

One main reason many don’t believe in universalism is because Hell supposedly exist. A Book may be the only place one would think such a place exist. Jesus used the Greek word Gehenna that was translated into the word Hell in some of our Bibles. Gehenna was the name of a real valley near Jerusalem that was filled with garbage and even dead bodies. Fires were set to get rid of the garbage and smell. We don’t normally translate names of valleys with a different name. Gehenna should be translated as Gehenna. Jesus used the word Gehenna symbolically to illustrate what kinds of lives here on earth lead to hellish living, not what happens to people in the afterlife. Hell’s non-existence allows hope for heaven for all.

The Bible suggests that believers and unbelievers will face some kind of judgment after death. Fire in the Bible is used more metaphorically than a literal fire where people are tortured forever after death. The Book of Revelation is the only place Lake of Fire is mentioned, but if dragons with seven heads are considered figuratively why wouldn’t the Lake of Fire be a metaphor? Why would a loving God torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose? Hitler was condemned for torturing millions of Jews for a brief time; God is said to torture billions not briefly but forever. A moral God can’t be a hellish, sadistic, torturer!

Eternal life in the Bible isn’t about one’s destiny after death.

Jesus didn’t think of eternal life as something after death but a quality of life that begins here on earth to avoid future regrets. Jesus was asked by a religious expert how to have eternal life. Jesus simply said to love God and your neighbor (Lk.10:25-37). No one is going to Heaven if such actions are required according to God’s standards. If entering Heaven depends on certain beliefs or saying the sinner’s prayer, wouldn’t Jesus have responded differently? Jesus talked about how true living begins on earth by knowing how much your Creator loves you. Such knowledge can empower one to be the unselfish person we desire to be deep down.

Can there be justice if all go to heaven?

Punishment doesn’t bring back a victim’s robbed memories of the future due to the murder of a loved one. Real justice is being forced to understand your victim’s pain and accept the harmfulness of your actions. After death God may bring to memory every action of betrayal and how it felt to their victims. The cleansing and educative effect may take longer for some than others. Humans like God may forgive their enemies if they truly regret their actions and seek forgiveness. Justice from a fair, merciful God is possible despite people being given a second chance after death.

A loving God would never determine one’s destiny on chance encounters.

Did the thief on the cross get lucky while others were out of luck because they didn’t sin enough to get a Cross next to Jesus. Believing our destiny depends on a set of beliefs has led to some wacky baptizing practices or hoping your skeptical child hasn’t reached that age of accountability before being thrown into Hell. Do you really think God is going to judge all based on their beliefs during a short time here on earth influenced by so many random factors?

  • Why would God pretend that every reason for a person refusing God in this life is equal? Does God really forgive a serial killer who may have warning of their last breath but not others, who commit far less heinous actions in this life, but were killed suddenly in a car accident? Some rightly despise their Heavenly Parent because of the abuse suffered by their earthly parent. Some have numerous opportunities to respond to God while others have very few times. Is God’s grace dependent on circumstances or God?
  • Our beliefs are often determined by where we were born or the family we were born into. Our destiny cannot be based on certain beliefs about Jesus in the Bible when the majority of people born into this world died without any knowledge of the Bible or who Jesus was. Those with a Bible may have misunderstood God either because of poor role-models or what others taught about God. God is not going to let one final destiny be controlled by others. Meeting God will clear up any confusion and remove any causes that led to erroneous thinking.

A loving God can’t all of a sudden stop being forgiving at the moment of one’s last breath.  

Thinking an eternal God can stop being forgiving is doubtful, even according to the Bible. We are told to forgive our enemies as many times as necessary but God doesn’t do the same? God can’t stop being God somehow after our last breath by refusing to forgive any offense. I cannot imagine even imperfect human parents ever cutting off a child when finally accepting responsibilities for their actions. There isn’t a deadline or time limit on God’s love.

Even the Bible possibly suggests all go to Heaven eventually.  

Why wouldn’t one want to believe God is a Universalist where all are allowed to have eternal life if freedom and justice can be defended in such a scenario? Several biblical passages can be plausibly interpreted to suggest all enter heaven one day: “For as in Adam all died, so in Christ all will be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22, i.e. Rom. 5:18-19, Philip: 2:10-11).  God is obviously full of second changes. Heaven may be more populated than many people imagined. I doubt any reading this or their loved ones would deny such an invitation by God. If the Bible can possible be interpreted this way why can’t the possibility be entertained.

The one main reason Universalism may not be true.

Some people, even if they were given infinite chances in eternity, may still reject God forever. Sometimes our choices made for a long period of time define who we are. Others may argue no one in their rational mind would not want to live with a God truly loving. But, how can universalism be true unless God’s love in the end is coercing or controlling?

The truth is we cannot know for sure what happens after death when we meet our Creator in person. Bible scholars have used certain verses to lean on either side of the fence about whether God gives second chances or not. I suggest therefore we take a stance based on an understanding of a loving God. All have some inclination what a good God would do when it comes to second chances after death just as we think how a loving parent should respond to a child in such circumstances.

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by Jordan Hathcock

“Non-Violence is one of the byproduct of “loving your enemies”

In the history of our American culture, the “Hero” motif has always captured our imaginations in the cinema world.  We love to see the good guys prevail and the bad guys lose.  It is just the dichotomy that we enjoy to see in the movies. Take for example the new film: Avengers: Endgame (amazing movie, I recommend it.) This is the ending to a twenty-two film and over a decade span, which stunning cinematic magic has brought the hero genre to the forefront of pop culture.

Now, I get it. Bringing these cherished comic book characters to life has definitely sparked the familiar essence of good vs. evil–which has been imbedded in us as a species, since the beginning.  Evil must be defeated for the good to survive and thrive. But, is the only way to destroy evil by violence?

As I mentioned in a previous post, the use of violence to prevent violence just doesn’t work. As participants of the way of Christ, the use of violence is antithetical to what Jesus taught and died for. It is really a tough pill for our American way of life to swallow. Human history is soaked in the violent-blood of Cain instead of the enemy-loving blood of Christ. I get it. We all want to survive and not be destroyed and wiped out. But, are we willing to really believe in resurrection? Are we trusting on a death that leads to life?

We “Christians” have taken the violence a little further along in the spiritual evolution of Cain to following the blood of Abel. It’s vengeance instead of just all out violence. Theologian Michael Hardin points out why we do the Eucharist for this very reason:

“How many times have you read in a news report about someone being killed and the family calling for justice? How many times have you read or heard others say that someone who committed a criminal act ‘got what they deserved?’ Retaliation, eye for eye, lex talionis, is the way we humans do justice. This is the voice of Abel crying out from the ground for vengeance. “Cain bombed my city and killed innocent me, O God, now kill him to balance the books of the universe.” We hear this voice in many of the Psalms where the singer, who is persecuted, cries out for revenge.

Yet, when we take the cup to drink the blood of our Victim, Jesus, Son of God, True Human, Lord of the Universe, is it revenge we hear? No, it is the cup of forgiveness. In his blood we find only forgiveness. There is no hint of revenge either now or in the future. All revenge or retaliation by God is forever forsworn. As the writer to Hebrews says, “Jesus’ blood speaks a better word than that of Abel’s.” Jesus blood does not cry out for justice, his blood cries out for mercy”.

Beautiful! Mercy and forgiveness is what this new creation in The Universal Christ is all about! This is what stops evil. When we let go of the violence of Cain and the vengeance of Abel, we step into the flow of love that Christ showed on the cross: Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing. What a profound statement and a whole new way of interacting with our so-called “enemies”. If the cross shows us anything about God, it’s revealing how God reacts to enemy violence: LOVE.

Yes. It’s love that defeats evil. This love is a non-violent resister to the principalities and powers of darkness that come about when we think violence solves the issue. We must come to grasp to the reality of the Spirit that always loves–brings joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is a meaningful trajectory to this way of enemy-forgiving love.

This changes the whole concept of hero. The hero of the story is always the enemy-loving symbol of forgiveness not revenge. We are not here to survive but to thrive. Look, violent marvel hero movies always tickles my fancy (along with the rest of the western world). I am not trying to stop you from going to the movies for God sakes. All I’m pointing out is to truly be the hero who saves the day, it comes by non-violence. Let us be Forgivers that bring new life, not Avengers that end it…

“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

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By Mike Edwards 

It can be confusing or turn others away from God by the way we talk about the Cross. A death doesn’t magically heal the pain we have caused God or others. The most healing we can hope for is when there is confession and forgiveness. A partner can never undo their betrayal, but taking responsibility and not blaming others can be a start toward healing. Many growing up in church may not have a problem with the idea of a child being sacrificed to appease God – neither did the OT gods – but an outsider using common moral sense has to wonder why a God who truly loves requires this. Does the Bible really teach God requires blood before forgiving?

Requiring a debt be paid isn’t really forgiveness.

If you owe a monetary debt and you are required to pay it off, how is that forgiveness of a debt? God can’t both forgive a debt and require repayment. Demanding the blood of an innocent party doesn’t legally resolve another person’s guilt.  My going to jail for a friend’s wrongdoing doesn’t somehow clear my friend of their crime. Guilt is not somehow magically removed by someone else’s confession of a sin they didn’t commit.

We may need to rewrite John 3:16 if Penal Substitution is true.

“For God was so filled with wrath against the world, that he sent his only begotten son to take the beating that we all deserved. That if anyone would want to escape eternal suffering, and would raise their hand and repeat this prayer after me, they would escape this horrible wrath. For the son was not sent into the world to change our minds about God, but to change God’s mind about us. So now that Jesus has taken the punishment for us, God can now finally love us, and forgive us.”  https://www.patheos.com/blogs/keithgiles/2018/11/for-god-so-hated-the-world/

Jesus and the Bible sometimes contradict the necessity of blood to forgive our sins.

Jesus forgave the paralyzed man before His death (Mt. 9: 6-9). Jesus sure seemed to accept supposedly evil people in society before His blood was spilt on the Cross. Why does the Bible talk so much about the Cross defeating evil, rather than the Cross defeated evil so God could forgive us (Gal. 1:4, I Jn. 3:8, etc.)? Jesus seemed on a mission to help us battle ongoing evil, not to pay for a once-for-all crime.

If blood was necessary for God to forgive, why did even OT writers over time begin to write that God doesn’t like animal sacrifices but contrite hearts (Ps. 51:16-17, i.e. Jer. 7:22, Amos 5:21, Micah 6:6). In the OT sacrifices were for unknown sins while known sins were punished not forgiven. Even in the NT God is said to not desire or be pleased with sacrifice and offerings though offered in accordance with the law (Heb. 10:8). These passages contradict passages that supposedly teach God required Jesus’ death to forgive us.

But, don’t Bible verses also say Jesus died for our sins?

Many passages insinuate that Jesus died for us because of our sins (I Pe. 3:18, Rom. 5:8, I John 3:16, etc.). They don’t say Jesus died for God’s sake. Jesus could have died because of our sins rather than for our sins. Jesus’ death actually proves violence doesn’t solve differences. Jesus’ message was acceptance and forgiveness lead to healing. If the Bible was crystal clear the purpose of Jesus’ death, why do so many theories exist as to why Jesus died?

Why did Jesus die? 

It is okay to speculate why Jesus was willing to die on the Cross. Biblical scholars haven’t figured it out. Jesus jumping off the Cross or overpowering His enemies was expected or hoped for but we would have learned nothing. We may still be talking about Jesus’ message of radical love as the best path for reconciliation, because He was willing to die rather than power over others. Jesus’ desire to inspire unselfish living empowered by our Creator is what really changes the world.  Jesus’ death rather than His power has inspired billions to live unselfishly.

Jesus’ death can enable us to not feel overwhelmed by guilt and truly loved by God. Terrorists blow others up for a message they feel strongly about. Jesus only blew Himself up for a message He believed very strongly in. Soldiers often sacrifice their lives because they are convinced certain freedom are that important. Jesus died in hopes we may understand true freedom is found by understanding what God is really like.

God forgives if we seek God’s forgiveness – no strings attached!

God is dying to forgive you of wrong doing in hopes to inspire you to change for your interests and the interests of others. God’s love and mercy, not God’s need for punishment, is our necessary nourishment in being the person we desire to be. That doesn’t get you a free out- of-jail card for a serious crime. That doesn’t mean when forgiving a friend that has betrayed you, that you have to pretend the relationship is back to the way it was. It takes two to tango. Unfortunately, most of us don’t seek forgiveness from humans or feel a perfect Creator accepts us and could simply forgive us for sins we have a hard time forgiving ourselves for.

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