‘If God is Love’ – Part 9
This covers the final chapter of If God Is Love by authors Philip Gulley and James Mulholland.
The authors begin this chapter discussing their experiences with churches using the story of Christ’s reappearance in the book of Revelation – one that shows a returning Jesus who is the complete opposite of the one who appeared 2000 years ago – as a method of scaring and intimidating their congregations into repentance.
The Jesus who taught his disciples to turn the other cheek and love their enemies is going to return on a white horse and declare war. The Jesus who said he had sheep in other pens was going to destroy every lamb not branded a Christian. The Jesus who died for the world was going to kill most of its inhabitants.
The Messiah that came to Earth so long ago and preached unity and love wasn’t the one that the Jewish people expected. They expected a Messiah who would “clear his threshing floor and gather the wheat into his granary: but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17). The Messiah that appeared was so radically different from what they expected that John the Baptist sent disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
Jesus was more critical of his own religion that he was of the Roman occupation. He was more interested in healing people than attacking his enemies. His chief act of rebellion was to clear the Temple. He was a disappointment and eventually an embarrassment. He refused to be who they wanted him to be.
Jesus seemed intent on sharing his views that the kingdom of God is here on Earth and that we have a responsibility to help those who are less fortunate. The author speaks of how Christianity’s main objective has become preparing for the next world, while ignoring the problems in this one. We wait on the returning Savior to set the world in order instead of working to improve it ourselves now.
We see an injustice and we complain to heaven. Why doesn’t God intervene? We see a problem and we look for someone to solve it. Why doesn’t the government do something? We never admit that what keeps us from acting is our lack of courage.
It is much easier to wait on the Messiah or to predict the Second Coming that it is to be about the courageous work of making the world a more gracious place.
Applying this message of graciousness to the national and political arena, the author speaks of mere chance placing us in the countries of our birth and that we have no right to treat those from other countries as “third world” or unequal to ourselves. He says that nationalism causes much of this type of thinking and behavior.
Nationalism is patriotism without a conscience… When our nation is given such absolute allegiance, our nation becomes our religion and our religion becomes idolatrous… I believe a national flag has no business in any religious setting… The reason we should resist flags in our churches is because religion must always serve as the conscience rather than the cheerleader for the nation… We must abandon any allegiance higher than our responsibility to humanity.
When I’m convinced my faith is pure and yours is evil, or that my country is right and yours is wrong, I can do beastly things.
The book discusses the way the church community in Germany supported the Nazi party by displaying swastikas next to religious symbols, and many of the guards in the extermination camps continued to attend weekly worship services. This was enabled by defining anyone who wasn’t Aryan as sub-human.
Today, we witness the apparent blind allegiance of some to this country, even as we lose our own rights and horrifically infringe upon the rights of others through the use of intimidation and torture. We don’t care if others must suffer and die in our quest to remain supreme, and some of us even believe that God instructed us to wage war against the “infidels”. Instead of becoming outraged and demanding change, we slap another magnetic yellow ribbon on our car and hope that the end justifies the means.
The worth of individuals remains constant, no matter where they are born, no matter what their race, no matter what flags flies above them… It is when we see God in each and every person that we finally understand our kinship. We finally find the courage to belong to the human race.
The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. – Albert Einstein
I will be posting my final thoughts on this life-changing book within the next few days, and will begin discussion of our next selection in two weeks.