Is God Love?

Why is it that Christians say Jesus was crucified to pay the price we as sinful human beings cannot pay for ourselves?

Love does not seek repayment. Love gives and goes on giving even in the face of disappointment and disrespect.

It seems to me that the Biblical notion of sin arises from the ancient Hebrews’ understanding of God as wrathful and judgmental–especially at the national level.

Hebrews were freed by God from the slavery of Egyptian tyranny–was this not love? Was this not the overflowing of justice? Yet the Hebrews did not automatically enter into the promised land. They wandered for forty years in the wilderness. Was it love to let them wander? Perhaps they needed tough feet! Perhaps they needed to learn how to become a nation.

Yet, even after they finally made it into the promised land, their greeds and misdeeds doomed them to be overthrown and become dispersed far and wide by their enemies.

Does God do this to those he/she loves? Is God the enemy? God did not condemn the people; rather their choices resulted in calamitous effects.

Evil choices and evil thoughts return more evil.

So, why was Jesus crucified? There is no simple answer. This was a multifaceted event that speaks to humanity in myriad ways.

Jesus arrived on the Hebrew scene to tell the people: “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7: 9-12 NIV).

The Dalai Lama, in his book, Beyond Religion, says “…how people treat their fellow human beings, and indeed the world around them, largely depends on how they conceive of themselves” (p. 21).

God is good and will give to all who ask, but such goodness comes from a life lived through loving others. Yet first, one must love oneself.

When Jesus calls his contemporaries evil, he is reiterating their own negative view of themselves and emphasizes that when it comes to love of their own children, they are capable of good and thus they are capable of participating in God’s love which brings wholeness to everyone.

The sacrifice of Jesus was not God’s way, but the human way. It was the way of ignorance about God’s love. Those that perpetrated the crucifixion were caught up in their needs for power and control. Those that allowed the crucifixion also held responsibility for their lack of action to prevent injustice.

If we are to become one with God’s love on a national and international level, then we must hold up the loving God through our actions and thoughts in our everyday lives.

It is the task of all people, beyond our religious beliefs or lack of them, and beyond our cultural/societal boundaries, to find the means to bring goodness to one another–not merely to those people we find easy to love, but all those in other cultures with other belief systems, no matter how alien they may seem to us. 

This is where spiritual disciplines of prayer and meditation come in–such routine practices enable us to become aware of ingrained prejudice against others and against ourselves, so that eventually through awareness of how and why we are acting poorly, we are empowered to free ourselves from the chains of tyranny that enslave ourselves and those around us.

A simple meditation is to sit quietly for twenty minutes every day with your hands folded on your lap. With every inhalation, think peace for me, and with every exhalation, think peace for others.

Visualize your life filled with the most peaceful moments you have ever experienced, and pour those same moments out to everyone else, beginning with those you love, and moving on to those you know, to those you don’t like, to the people of other nations, and to all of nature too.

And pray to understand how others who seem so unlike you are really more like you than you realize and that you might see the world through their eyes, and that yours might become the eyes of compassion.

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