This week, Jen Luitwieler, Kristin Tennant and I are each taking turns blogging about writing, community and solitude. Check out Jen’s take today (link supplied at the bottom of the page).
A young boy (maybe four, maybe five) walks into the house of his great-grandparents. It is crowded with people he does not know – his family recently moved back home, from Texas, and his memory only goes back so far.
His great-grandmother has a kind face and the snow-whitest hair he’s ever seen. She is Amish, as are most of the people in the house, but the boy’s grandparents left the Amish church when his mother was a child, so he does not understand their ways, or their language. Or why they are dressed that way. He feels out of place.
The boy’s parents walk him into his great-grandparent’s bedroom. His great-grandfather is asleep in the bed, dead, dressed in all white. His Santa Claus beard spills down over his chest like so many years. His eyes are closed and his skin is gray, like flaking paper that’s been burned to ash. People cry quietly, the muffled sound that tears make when they are absorbed into a sleeve, or a handkerchief.
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I’m not even sure why that scene from my childhood came into my mind on this hot summer evening. I’m writing at the dining room table. A box fan sits in the window behind me, swelling my shirt.
Yesterday was week three of our “Love Wins” book discussion, and we traveled through the chapter on hell and then the chapter Rob Bell entitled, “Does God Get What God Wants?”
Bell infers that God desires reconciliation, and that if we believe he is all-powerful, then we can safely assume that, at some point in eternity, all humans will be reconciled to him.
At some point.
In all eternity.
(Those two mini-paragraphs are done in Bell’s honor).
My mind spins back to Bell’s question, from which his rationale seems to spring, and I wonder.
How can we possibly know exactly what God wants?
Reconciliation. What if that is what God wants? The great conundrum of reconciliation is that it always requires the active participation of both parties. I cannot reconcile with someone else unless they desire the same thing.
The two questions I found myself asking after these chapters were:
Does scripture allow for people to begin following God after they die, as opposed to the more traditional teaching of simultaneous death-judgment? Perhaps, given enough time, every person would desire this kind of reconciliation with God.
But then I wondered, could someone who hasn’t chosen to follow God during their lifetime encounter something in the afterlife that would change their mind, or by the time we die are we so set in our ways and beliefs that there’s no going back, not because God continually accepts or rejects us for eternity but because we are so determined to accept or reject him?
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I wonder where my great-grandfather was when that five-year-old boy (me) stared quietly at his long beard and closed eyes. I wonder if he was joyfully working in a field, marveling at the pain-free body he had been given. Or perhaps he sat around a table with his own great-grandparents, sharing stories. Maybe he was walking and walking and walking over rolling green hills, eager to see beyond that next horizon.
Or maybe he had already passed through the open gates of a great city, where every single person lives the life they were created to live.
What does God want?
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I would love to know your thoughts on the questions above (based simply on your opinion, philosophical logic, scripture, or all three), especially on the nature of the afterlife, the ability or inability of our spirits to change after death and “What does God want?”
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Now head on over and check out Jen’s take on “Community or Isolation?”
5 Replies to “What Does God Want – “Love Wins” Book Discussion, Week Three”
First, man am I glad we’re friends. I really enjoy your writing. Second, the first thing I think is that when we say we know with certainty what God wants and how He makes decisions, then we become little gods unto ourselves. How in the world can we know what God wants?
That whole “sending Jesus to die for our sins” thing would certainly indicate that God’s desire was for reconciliation. If his desire was soley for justice, Jesus isn’t really necessary.
As for the “as long as it takes” part, I don’t know about that. As far as I know, there is only a little throw away line in hebrews 9(?) that talks about people dying once and facing judgment but it is used as a comparison for something else so I am not going to put a lot of weight on it.
“That whole “sending Jesus to die for our sins” thing would certainly indicate that God’s desire was for reconciliation. If his desire was soley for justice, Jesus isn’t really necessary. ” –Love this.
not that this really answers your question but one thought that someone said to me recently was: “a God conceived, is no God at all.”
Certainly none of us is privileged to know the mind of God, but all of His actions (sending His son, etc.) would indicate that He is a God of love who would desire reconciliation above all things.
It’s interesting that much of Christianity insists on a death/ judgement, saved/damned scenario, while the Hindus see our souls as coming back (through reincarnation) until we get it right. Even the Catholics, as shown in Dante’s “Inferno,” postulate a Purgatory, where we can scale the seven story mountain, work off our sins, and, when worthy, be united with God. Interestingly, the first story of Dante’s seven story mountain can only be climbed by acquiring Humility. We can never reconcile with God as long as we are our own gods.
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