Monday, September 05, 2016

The Big Picture

Love can be commanded, or stated as an expectation for continued relationship. In fact, the covenant with Israel established loving YHWH as a condition for continued blessing. The essence of love however, love the thing we call love, cannot be coerced or manipulated. It cannot be produced as a result of a command. Love, to be love, must be freely given. Ultimately, loving someone "because you have to" is nonsensical.

The ultimate desire or intent of God is what it always has been. That is, a community of voluntary, self-denying lovers, with God in their midst as the chief lover, the life giver, the sustainer.

YHWH has demonstrated a desire that the people he blesses (but more importantly and by extension the people he has created) should both acknowledge his graciousness toward them, and use that divine grace as a model for their own lives. The location of this community (earth or Heaven) is irrelevant because the expectation is the same - an expression of the economy of God. We aren't waiting for Heaven to pull this together - it's supposed to be reality now, just as it is in Heaven.

Reconciliation or redemption (salvation) is not primarily about sin or damnation. It is rather, about restoring the object of the redemption to a previous state. That is accomplished by the gracious, unforced act of God. Having been restored or redeemed, or saved, the expectation remains as it always has - gratitude toward the redeemer, and a life modeled on the redeemer's life. Forgiveness of sins is a consequence, not a prerequisite for salvation and no longer being damned.

The cosmic redeemer says, "I have set things right, come back to me." As has been demonstrated through Scripture, life with God then becomes an open question for those who have been redeemed or reconciled to God. Deuteronomy 30 and Jeremiah 18 provide two examples of God's urging people to remain faithful to him and live in the world of his blessing. The relationship they have with YHWH exists because he wants it to exist, but they have the opportunity to reject the relationship. Similarly, we can accept the reality of redemption and reconciliation, or we can reject it. If we reject it, we separate ourselves from God and his life. There are natural consequences to choosing to not live with God, but they remain the result of our choice, not an imposition by God.

Why would God want you to live with him, as a cosmic lover yourself? Well it seems there are two interconnected reasons:

That is the best sort of life for any sentient being, and
That is the purpose and design for which you have been made. To become such a lover is to become most fully your true self.

God has created people in his image. We have, as our core values, desires, wants, drives, and ultimate satisfaction, to live as God lives - in his character; reflections or icons of God himself. Sin, at its basic level, is not behavior, but character fault. Sin is a failure to live as love itself. In Scripture, we can be both saved from our sins (having God reconcile us to him) and saved from sin (returning to live as the image of God we are).

This is the offer of God - return to me and live the most satisfying life possible for you. Salvation isn't primarily about sin, but being restored to real, full life. That life is the ultimate life for which you are made and is lived with the same characteristics as the very life of God. It is simply, the most natural for you and is the purpose or telos of your creation.

The ball's in your court.

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