God is Love; Christ is Pain

We who are Christian believe that God is love. We believe it with our souls because we feel the enduring truth of it — and we believe it with our minds because in the Bible (at 1 John 4:8), it says, right there in black and white, “God is love.”

Which pretty neatly settles it.

But wait! There’s more!

And we all know what that “more” is, of course. That “more” is the whole rest of our religion. That “more” is Christ’s willing sacrifice for us on the cross.

Chocolate and candies can really send a message, for sure — but nothing says “I love you” like volunteering to trade the spiritual well-being of another for having yourself slashed, beaten to a pulp, and then hammered to a giant cross so that you can die a slow and unimaginably agonizing death.

That is love. If they could figure out a way to package and sell that at Hallmark, then … well, then Hallmark would have some pretty dramatic window displays.

Of course, that would mean that instead of flowers and chocolates for Valentine’s Day, we’d all have to give our beloveds Band Aides and iodine. So … not so good.

The point is: Christ slaughtered himself for us. And he didn’t do it as a God, because (I assume) that would have caused him a great deal less physical pain than it did. Instead, he let himself be tortured as a man, complete with at least as many nerve endings as you or I have. And when it happened, Jesus didn’t bleed sunlight, and he didn’t cry tears of rain, and he didn’t sweat beads of gold.

He bled real blood; he cried real tears; he sweat real salt. And you won’t read about it in the Bible, but I’m betting he also wet himself with real urine.

What happened that day to our Lord was as ugly as ugly gets.

We know that. And we know Christ had to die exactly as he did, because he knew that that’s the kind of hard truth and imagery we would need in order to make and keep perpetually real for us the fact that he did virtually everything possible to ensure that we understood that, for all of eternity following the moment he said “It is finished,” the price of every single nasty, selfish, destructive, mean thing we ever did or ever could do was paid off, by him, in full.

God became a man who allowed his skin to be torn from his body so that those who believed in the miracle of his being and purpose would never have to live with the caustic, grueling, ferociously destructive force that is unrelieved guilt. He took into his body the totality of the negative ramifications for everything wrong or evil that any of us would ever do or think, and he forever put all of it to rest. In terms as true as they are simple, Jesus Christ traded his life for our freedom.

So yeah, I think “God is love” pretty effectively covers it. To be honest, I’m almost surprised there are any other words in the Bible at all.

*****************

Follow-up: Why did God have to sacrifice himself?

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Leif Sr.

    Thank you for calling it like it is.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Thanks for saying that.

  • http://skerrib.blogspot.com Skerrib

    Yep. What you said.

  • Catherine M. Howell

    There are no more words to add, except…Amen…and, Thank you, Jesus.

  • http://hoppingintopuddles.wordpress.com Michael

    I think this post may have nudged me back towards the direction of faith. at least a step.

  • Second Michele

    If I be lifted up, I will draw all men….

    Thanks for reminding us of the cross.

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    John, I have a question and I want to keep it as respectful as possible. If I cross over in to disrespect, I'm sure you'll let me know.

    "And we know Christ had to die exactly as he did, because he knew that that’s the kind of hard truth and imagery we would need"

    Are you saying that the reason Jesus died, and did so relatively horribly, was for the sake of imagery?

    Even when I was a Catholic the reason for the event always baffled me. I suppose that if I were a supremely powerful god, human sacrifice (which is a hard term, I understand, but essentially is what the crucifixion was) would be the last thing I would do.

    If a god who is omnipotent wanted to forgive us, couldn't he just forgive us? Why sacrifice himself to himself?

    Just curious as to your understanding behind it.

    And again, I in no way am trying to bring you or anyone here down during Lent.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Morse: You've been reading me long enough to know that I sure don't mind questions, especially ones asked in the respecful tone you've here assumed. I appreciate that. Thank you.

    To your questions: Obviously, I'm not saying that Jesus died for the sake of imagery. I can't imagine anyone reading this and NOT getting that I'm saying what all/most all Christians believe, which is that … well, everything I said in the four paragraph from the bottom.

    By dying in the manner he did, Christ knew he was creating an image so vivid, and so visceral, that it would forever last in people’s minds, hearts, and imaginations. God couldn’t ‘just’ forgive us without getting personally involved, without bringing it down to our level—without, ultimately, his very graphic mortal expiration on the cross. Because he knew that nothing but something that extraordinary would stick with us. He knew that people tend to forget, that we naturally get so focused on our own lives that the reality of God—which is, after all, a fairly nebulous conception—tends to slip first from our minds, and then from our hearts. Jesus didn’t want that to happen. He wanted us to remember what he had done for us. So he made the means by which we are eternally forgiven as real for us as he possibly good—and that meant availing himself of the sheer, raw, dramatic magnitude of the crucifixion.

    Jesus didn’t sacrifice himself for his sake. He did it for ours. And so he made sure to do it in a manner that we’d never be able to forget. And, sure enough, we haven’t.

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    "God couldn’t “just” forgive us–without getting personally involved, without in every last possible sense of the phrase bringing it down to our level, without his very graphic mortal expiration on the cross–because he knew that wouldn’t stick."

    Why?

    Assuming god could do whatever he wanted, couldn't he just forgive us and make it so we never forget?

    Or am I wrong to assume that god can do whatever he wants, at least according to your theology?

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Morse: I'm sorry; I've expressed these truths and articulated the answers to your questions to the best of my ability. And this point with you, I'd only be repeating myself. Jesus did what he did so that what he did would remain new to every person of every new generation–so that it would forever and freshly inspire people to make the CHOICE to believe in him. If he just "made it so we would never forget," that would rob us of our free will. He loves us too much to take our ability to choose him away from us.

    If you're really interested in how I personally would further articulate this, I can only recommend you buy my book "Penguins, Pain and the Whole Shebang." That's where I said ALL of this in the best way I know I ever will. Thanks.

  • Jeannie Campbell

    Morse and John…it seems to me that if we dwell too much on the type of death, we lose sight of the purpose. Jesus could have died in many different ways…but of course, crucifixion was the worse death reserved for the worse offenders during his day. The thing I focus on during Lent and every other day is what happened AFTER his death. He ROSE AGAIN. That's the issue at hand. If he had been shot for us, drawn and quartered for us, or whatever death FOR US and then ROSE AGAIN, the impact would still be the same! Yes, the imagery of the cross is haunting…but it should be the empty tomb that refrains in our hearts and minds the most. Just some of my own musings….

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Yeah, I mean … I wasn't actually meaning to in any purposeful way dwell on that one aspect of the Christian reality. But I did feel obliged to as comprehensively as possible address Morse's question.

  • http://odgie.wordpress.com odgie

    My two cents on Morse's question: God wouldn't "just forgive" because He takes our sin too seriously; sadly, more than we do. The death, burial, and ressurection not only satisfies His justice while redeeming us from our sin, it shows the world that (pardon the common language) He mans business.

    And John, an excellent and moving post. I intend to share it with my friends.

  • http://charleschristian.wordpress.com Charles

    Yeah, inspiring…

  • http://chrisbrewster.wordpress.com chrisbrewster

    I stumbled on this somehow and I'm glad I did. I think it is pretty ridiculous that God forgives us. Simple as that. HE (God) forgives US (sinning humans).

    The concept is so simple yet I can't grip it. I'm thankful that he does forgive us time and time again. A simple question I have about that (rhetorical) did he forgive us one time, or is it a constant thing? I would think that the power of his death and rise would be more than enough to cover us for good, but at the same time, God is very interactive and it would seem non-interactive if it was just one-time thing.

    Again, thank you for this word and I look forward to reading future posts.

  • Dan Cartwright

    It seems that every time I take a detour from His path it’s the vision of the cross, seeing a falling drop of His precious blood with my name on it – the currency with which He purchased me for God (Revelation 4 & 5) that most readily sends me to my knees.

    I find it incredibly sad that most of today’s evangelism revolves around the notion that ‘sin’ is just about ‘things’ when the Bile tells us that it’s our very NATURE apart from Christ. We glibly recite Eph 2:8-9 and bask in His grace, yet ignore the preceding verses that tell us that apart from Christ we are DEAD and deserving of God’s wrath!! And my friends, dead men cannot see, they cannot hear, and they certainly CAN’T choose God.

    In John 6 we find Jesus saying that all the Father ‘gives’ to him WILL come to him, and the Son will lose NONE of those given him. A few verses later we find that we still CANNOT come to him unless God gives the us the very ABILITY to come! (vv. 37-39, 44, 65)

    So GREAT is our God!!!!!

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    It's both a one-time and a constantly ongoing, definitely interactive thing. It's one time in that it's always available to anyone, ever. It's ongoing and interactive in that every person who WANTS to avail themselves of the atoning grace of Christ has to ask for it. And MEAN it.

  • http://www.sisterfriends-together.org anita

    Ah…a brand new name but the same great writing. That's the kind of change I can handle. I really do appreciate what you wrote John and your reflections on Christ's suffering and death. While I see it somewhat differently I think both perspectives lead to the same place. I suppose I'd only use different words; those being that Jesus chose to die in the sense, not that he orchestrated his death, but that every time he opened his mouth to speak his radical message of God, a message that defied the religious power of the day, he knew it would come at a cost. He knew to speak of God as he did, to challenge the norms, to embrace those deemed unclean and outcast, and to dare live out each and every moment the realities of what he proclaimed, would lead most certainly to death and the worst possible death, reserved for religious blasphemers and those who were judged as a threat to the political system and status quo. Such a death sentence was certain. There was no mystery to it. No divine design because the cross and such hideous torture was the invention of humanity, yet another of our less than great accomplishments in which to boast.

    I'm most moved, not that Jesus died on the cross one day, but that every morning when he lifted his head off a smooth rock and slapped the dust from his robe, he made the decision that in the day before him he would continue to speak and act and live out all that he knew of God and God's love, grace, and righteousness. He choose each day to ultimately die one day in the future for a cause that seemed worth it to him, the cause being so that the world could know the extent of God's love made manifest in the world in his life lived, his death on the cross, and one very empty and deserted tomb.

    That's my take on it at this moment anyway.

    • Robert Meek

      "… that Jesus chose to die in the sense, not that he orchestrated his death, …"

      When you think back to Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed to his Father, in Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (NIV), he clearly indicates that he does, indeed, have a will in this matter, that he chooses to submit to his Father's Will.

      To me, this shows, very simply, that Jesus did make a choice, to die that way, the way his Father willed. Now whether that constitutes "orchestrating," or not, is another matter. It certainly is, however, a choice he made, to accept this route, for the sake of all of humanity.

  • http://melcartera.wordpress.com melcartera

    Beautiful post, John. Beautiful.

    I think the Pope's alleged comment on Mel Gibson's movie would apply to your post: "It is as it was." God bless you!

    Mel

  • http://michaelscomments.wordpress.com/ Michael

    Why?

    Assuming god could do whatever he wanted, couldn’t he just forgive us and make it so we never forget?

    Not without renouncing Himself. God is absolutely holy, and cannot tolerate a single sin. Rebellion against God merits His righteous wrath, and His wrath will be satisfied.

    Thus, the necessity of a blood sacrifice sufficient to accomplish the vicarious justification of all of us.

    Read Romans.

  • http://michaelscomments.wordpress.com/ Michael

    Anyway, melcarta said it better than me.

  • http://andychristensen.wordpress.com Andy Christensen

    Great post, John.

    Jesus' earthly ministry showed us how God is and how He wants us to be.

    Jesus' crucifixion demonstrated God's love and provided the way for us to be saved. God did forgive us; Jesus' death was the 'mechanism' — to put it crudely — that God employed for this forgiveness to be possible. "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (Hebrews 9:22) A price had to be paid; sin could not just be swept under the rug as though it was of no consequence.

    Jesus' resurrection provided proof to his disciples and us that He was not just a good teacher who was executed by the authorities, He was — and is — the Son of God; it proved that the promises He gave regarding salvation and life are true and trustworthy.

    Forgiveness is not automatic but is available for all who will believe (John 3:1-21, 6:35-40; Romans 3:21-4:25). It is conditional on our remorse and our desire to be forgiven.

    On that road, He walked for you and me

    On that road, through all the pain and misery

    He knew when it was finished

    We would have the victory

    On that road, the road to Calvary

    – John Schlitt, "The Road to Calvary"

  • Trisha

    hmmm, as I understand forgiveness* is conditional on our recieving it (past, present, and ongoing) and on our forgiving every person who hurts us. Jesus prayed "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" Matthew 6:12. That too Christianese?

    *( to us free and unmerited, but purchased with His life to satify His justice, thus providing us access to relationship with our sinless God)

  • http://www.praisefree.com Sukky Fagbohun

    Thank you John, for an excellent post.

  • http://melcartera.wordpress.com melcartera

    Mr. Morse,

    I hope you don’t mind my butting in. I certainly hope you don’t mind, too, John. Just wanted to say that God couldn’t “just” forgive us.

    He is love, but he is also just. There is a punishment for our sins which couldn’t go unpaid—death. If he forgave us without the punishment being exacted, he would be violating his own nature.

    As the widely-respected Christian leader Rev. John Stott says: “The cross is where God’s love and justice meet”.

    I unpack this a bit more in my post “Will Dead Babies Go To Hell?” at my site.

    (I’m sorry that I’m citing my post in here, John. I just want to share with Mr. Morse a bit more on God’s love, His justice, and the cross, without reproducing my own post. If I crossed the line by referring to my site in this comment, then I apologize and I would understand if you deleted it, or the sentence pointing Mr. Morse to my site. God bless you.)

  • http://michaelscomments.wordpress.com/ Michael

    ^

    Just to avoid confusion — there are now two Michael’s on this thread. I’m a first-time interloper.

  • http://russellaroberts.blogspot.com Russell Roberts

    Another good post John,

    I just wish more people understood what Jesus was doing on the cross. He truly was love on display.

  • Cliverty

    Morse is right that God "could" have chosen any solution he wanted. But oddly enough God always chooses a solution that causes long term success given "free will".

    Lucifer is allowed to fall – to wage war in heaven to cause trouble on earth – to then be "destroyed both body and soul" in fiery hell as Matt 10:28 says of all the wicked placed in hell.

    Adam and Eve are allowed to "choose to sin" and condemn "all mankind" such that only the death of Christ can be "real rescue" and still preserve as free will system where sin will not rise again after the Earth's sin experiment ends.

    God's long term plan is total success. But getting there is painful — even for God through Christ.

    As we see in the free will system with Job in Job 1 and 2 — God is challenged the "evidence" is provided with real life data.

    in Christ,

    Bob

  • Cliverty

    Speaking of the resscue of earth from sin, death and suffering and the "necessary" substitutionary atoning death of Christ for our sins so painful to God Himself – and the REAL fact of the fall of man (condemnation of all mankind) – it is "instructive" that John starts out his Gospel in John 1:1-5 with the fact of God the Son – Christ as Creator.

    We see John doing the same thing with the "everlasting Gospel" in Rev 14:6-7. Making the role of Christ as Creator key to the Gospel, Key to Worship.

    If that is true – there must be cognitive dissonance for Christians trying to marry evolutionism to the Bible and still hold the Gospel intact. According to John 1:1-4 that should be impossible.

    Why would God endure such a painful solution to save mankind if in fact mankind was simply a brute beast eating monkey-brains and dwelling in caves "in Eden" a condition "from which man FELL??" a condition to which man needs to be "restored"?? A condition that is so desireable that God would DIE to get us back to it???

    In Christ,

    Bob

  • http://deltachord.tennerblog.com/ Deltachord

    Good post, John. You have a unique way with words.

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    Thanks John. Amen. Right On and all that.

    This made me laugh: "well, then Hallmark would have some pretty dramatic window displays."

    The rest just makes me think, wow… for me?

  • Sabina

    God is good! Bless you John for this post.

  • Billy B

    Since the covering of sin was always accomplished with the shedding of blood and loss of life, it appears to me, in my limited understanding, that God considers living creatures to be the most important of His creations. I'm reminded of the saying, "It wasn't the nails that kept Him on the cross it was Love."

    Great post today John.

  • http://kayoungblog.wordpress.com Kathleen Young

    John – Thank you for the reminder.

    Dan – Amen.

    Morse – I'm no theologian, but I immediately think of these three Scriptures: "The wages of sin is death …" (Rom 3:23) and "The life is in the blood."For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life." (Lev 17:11) and "…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." (Heb 9:22) I don't claim to understand why anything is the way it is, but these are the spiritual facts of life and death, according to the only trustworthy source.

    John – What you wrote here really made an excellent point: "And when it happened, Jesus didn’t bleed sunlight, and he didn’t cry tears of rain, and he didn’t sweat beads of gold. | He bled real blood; he cried real tears; he sweat real salt." Yes. That is the kind of reality I can understand. It's harder to grasp the greater horror, the horror that separated Him [Jesus] from His Father when He cried, "Why have You forsaken Me?"–the horror of sin–because I'm so accustomed to its degradation. "For our sake he [the Father] made him [the Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him [the Son] we might become the righteousness of God [Father and Son]. (2 Cor 5:21). I appreciate this entry for reminding me of these things. Thank you.

  • http://? KLG

    The way I see it, the gospel message is simple to understand, but very difficult to accept. A child can understand the truths that we have come to label "The Four Spiritual laws" : God created us and loves us, Sin separates us from God , Christ died to pay the penalty required for our forgiveness, and when we accept God's forgiveness, our union with God is reinstated. I know of many children who have understood and accepted the gospel message, but I also know alot of adults who just can't "get it". The reality of the horrific death that Jesus in human flesh had to endure for us is such an incredibly harsh truth to grasp. How could God have required such inhumane treatment of His own son? Then there are the ubiquitous questions like:"Why do bad things happen to good people?" and "Why isn't God answering my prayers?", "How could a loving, all powerful God allow human tragedy to happen?" God's reality is hard to accept, especially here in our culture where human rights, freedoms, and political correctness reign supreme. Using parenting as an analogy: my kids often keep asking "Why" when I have already given them my reasons many, many times. Eventually I get it that they understand "Why" but they just don't want to accept my rules.They keep asking "why" because they want the reality to change to something more acceptable to them. Maybe sometimes we just have to accept the reality that God is our ultimate parent, and He has every right to tell us "Because I'm God and I said so!"

  • http://namesake.wordpress.com Dale

    Praise God, from whom all blessings (including the painful ones) flow! You are in great form, here, John, and I'm happy to have joined your group of readers. Thank God, it is finished! May we learn to live in the reality of that love. It never fails.

  • Dan Cartwright

    The Four Laws are very 'man-centerd'. Jesus didn't die for a wonderful plan for us, so we could have our best life now, or merely to secure the possibility of forgiveness. The wages of sin is death. Someone had to die in our place. the cup Jesus had to drink was the cup of God's very wrath against all sin. God cannot forgive sin – he must and WILL punish it. Jesus died IN OUR PLACE. In the end God does everything for His own glory not any human beings good. Even in all the 'wrong' stuff we see around us, God will be glorifird. Just like kids, we always want the 'why'. What right to we have to even question God? And guess what – there are no good people apart from Christ. ALL have sinned, ALL our righteousness (goodness) is like a pile of dirty smelly rags in the corner of the garage. That's hou Holy and Perfert and Pure God is. Neither is God our 'ultimate parent'. That makes Him sound like one of us. He is HOLY and totally separate from His creation. Separe, unique, in a class by Himself – that's what Holy means. Accepting God is not nodding our heads in agreement to a few 'Laws' or 'things God wants us to know'. Apart from Christ we CANNOT seek God. It is Christ who seeks and saves. He is not knocking on the door of our hearts begging to come in. That one was for a lukewarm church deserving to be spit out of His mouth. Sins are not the bothersome things we 'do', but WHO WE ARE without Christ. It's when we realize our totally bankrupt condition, hopless and helpless before a Holy God, deserving of His wrath, and THEN 'accepting' the truth of Christs dying in our place that we can be truly saved.

  • Tony

    Morse, thank you for your question. I am sure that there are many people that are wondering about the same thing. He is the Alpha and the Omega. There is nothing above Him, there is nothing impossible to God. He can do anything and everything. If this is the case then why didn't He just forgave us if he wanted to. I guess (my opinion) He could, after all He is GOD but what does that tell us as His children? What is going to happen to the law that He established. One thing I know is our GOD is not a fickle minded God. What sort of an example is he if He himself will not follow His own laws? The law that He established will not be broken. In the old testament, when someone commits a sin, a lamb must be sacrificed. That is why Jesus is called the "Lamd of GOD" because He is the Ultimate sacrifice.

    Why did he have to die? Because if he hadn't there would not be salvation. If He will just forgive us then He himself have broken the law that He created and we know he will not do that.

    Our comprehension is so limited compared to Him. There are so many things that we will never understand even if we triple our lifetime, this is were faith comes in. Faith is believing without seeing and not a shed of doubt. In the book of Hebrew, "…for it is impossible to please God with no faith…"

    In a way, God has a sense of humor. He experienced humanity, experienced hunger (he could have just always magically created bread so that he would not felt hunger but he didn't), cried, laugh and many other things. Jesus even asked for strength prior to crucifixion. He lived just like any of us. He did this because He loved us, He did this as the Ultimate sacrifice for all our sins so that we don't have to die spiritually ("..for the wages of sin is death.."). He proved to us that He is a God of his word. Now, when something that is not so good is happening to us, we can't really say and tell God that "God, you don't know what I am going through?". I think (my opinion), God will say, "oh yes I do, been there, done that. I went through something that is worse but I never gave up. I lived and died for my purpose. I lived and died for you". Again, I will not even attempt to have a comprehension as God's. I don't have the capability and it will not happen.

    How can someone preach about the sacrifices of the Lord if the Lord did not go through such sacrifices. How can someone say that biting an apple is not as good as biting an orange if that someone have not even tasted an apple? Most of the times, we really have to have the experience in order to have the understanding and be able to share the wisdom about the experience.

  • Dan Cartwright

    Even our faith is a gift. (Eph 2:8-9). faith is not a blind leap or something we just conjur up. It is not mental assenting to a few truths. It is a gift of God. Joh 6:44 & 65 tell us that we must be enabled even to come. We are born rebels and have no diser for God. If however, God moves to cause a man's human will to desire Him and the Gospel is heard (God's chosen means is the preaching of the word) faith is somehow supernaturally produced, a man is saved and heaven rejoices because God has been glorified.

  • http://www.talkofchrist.org Harrison

    John, I must say that I have just happened upon your site, and what you have to say on the life of Jesus is perhaps the most accurate information I have heard…. outside of my own knowing that is. Bless you.

  • http://andychristensen.wordpress.com Andy Christensen

    God loves all people. He does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9) but “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

    It is God who takes the initiative in seeking and saving us, but in regard to our response to that initiative, we still have some autonomy and corresponding responsibility. God created the world and humans and “determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us….Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:26-27, 29-31) John 6 makes it clear that God takes the initiative (v. 37, 39, 44) and that there is a response that is required (v. 35, 40, 47).

    “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:4-10) The “this” which is “not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” is referring to the fact that “by grace you have been saved, through faith”; it is referring to our salvation. We must have faith to receive God's grace. Paul wants his readers to understand that our faith is not something intrinsically meritorious by which we are earning grace. It is a response which God will credit to us as righteousness (see Romans 4 where Paul has much more to say about this). The righteousness which comes by faith (Romans 3:21-22) is me holding out my hand to accept the gift God offers me. My doing so in no way means I am earning it so that God is obligated to pay it to me.

    "Abraham believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15:6)

    "The words 'it was credited to him' were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness — for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." (Romans 4:23-25)

  • Gyla

    That was fabulous it's always good to have a reminder of the love that God has for us. Just to let us know ,Hey I know what it's like to be human and suffer but, I love You so much that I gave my all to show you so there would be no questioning about it.

    Thank You Lord for Loving me so much that you alone gave the ultimate sacrifice of your life so I could live and have the ultimate gift,

    You.

    I Love You Jesus

  • KOLAWOLE OLALEYE

    I LOVE THIS. THE SUMMARY OF THE WHOLE SCRIPTURE IS THAT GOD IS LOVE. PERSONALLY TO ME AND MY LITTLE UNDERSTANDING, THE BIBLE STARTS WITH GOD'S ,LOVE AND ENDS WITH GODS LOVE.

  • http://cordieb.wordpress.com cordieb

    Another great, inspiring, and provocative post! I love to read the various views. Thanks John for writing , and thanks all for the eye opening comments.

  • Pingback: An Atheist Asks: Why Did Christ Have to Sacrifice Himself to Himself? « Suddenly Christian

  • larry

    Was Jesus siting up in heaven before he came to earth, or did god create him just to be nailed to the cross?

  • http://michaelscomments.wordpress.com/ Michael

    Jesus was there from the beginning, Larry. Just read the first chapter of John.

  • http://viansvalley.org(aworkinprogress) Bob Simes

    I came here for a quick snack and ended up with a 12 course meal. Great discussion. Insightful questions. Well considered answers. A years worth of sermons could come out of this blog alone. Thanks to all of you for the wonderful messages.

  • http://www.dunwanderinpress.org Robert Landbeck

    Call it not love for Love to heaven is fled

    Since sweating lust on earth usurped his name.

    Under whose simple semblance man has fed,

    upon fresh beauty blotting it with blame,

    which the hot tyrant stains and soon bereaves

    as caterpillars do the tender leaves.

    Love comforteth like sunshine after rain,

    while lusts effect is tempest after sun.

    Love's gentle spring doth always fresh remain,

    lust's winter comes ere summer half be done.

    Love surfeits not, lust like a glutton dies,

    Love is all truth, lust full of forged lies.

    From the poem, Venus and Adonis by Wiliam Shakespeare

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Um. Okay.

  • Travis Morgan

    John Shore said, "We Christians believe that God is love. We believe it with our souls because we feel the enduring truth of it — and we believe it with our minds because in the Bible (at 1 John 4:8), it says, right there in black and white, God is love. Which pretty neatly settles it."

    Eh? You believe because the enduring truth of it? Well, if it is indeed the enduring truth, than why do you only "believe" and not "know"? Hardly seems "pretty neatly settled."

  • http://www.CareerJoy.com Alan Kearns

    I did a quick search for a sermon I am sharing tomorrow to see what are others saying about the statement "God is…love"

    Starbuck's is…coffee

    Jeeps are…fun

    I was thinking why great brands are…simple. true to themselves and we get great security in a world full of constant upheaval

    ..I love the statement ecclesiastical eductionism…

    I am not trying to reduce God to a brand..but I am trying to reduce my faith to this simple truth

    selah

  • Elizabeth

    *applause*

  • Alison

    Yeah for DR.

  • David Clemens

    I am baffled why people who were given such powerful brains instead choose to believe a book that tells them to act like sheep (the dumbest of the domesticated animals), to keep your mind childlike and that eating from the “tree of knowledge” is a bad thing, punishable by death. Sheep will follow the heard to their detriment and that is what the bible tells them to emulate!

    • DR

      Enough.

      I don't know John Shore terribly well, but I do know that he's taken a stand against a lot of what Christians have done historically to wound, demean, diminish and cause pain. He's actively working against it and he's taking some hits from the Christians who are mired in their homophobia, racism and dogma. He's also motivating those of us who have been passive and cowardly to get in the game.

      But oddly, there are those of you who blow right by that, and instead choose to lump John into the group of people that you despise. And in doing so, you hate just as blindly as the Fundamentalists you despise, and you fool yourself to think you are any different. I sense you've been wounded. That you've not had a voice. I bet you're telling yourself right now that you're different. That you're entitled. That your mission in life is to eradicate the very thing that's caused you so much pain, and the world so much pain.

      But I'm here to tell you what people are scared to say because we want to support you, and that is that you don't get the last word on Christianity. You have the last word on *your experience* of it, but not what it is exclusively. And watching you and others attempt to claim as much is equally annoying as watching a fundamentalist preacher say "Jesus is the only way, and if you don't believe it you're going to hell." You're drawing a definitive conclusion on what Christianity *is* as arrogantly as they do.

      The other thing I want to say is going to be hard to hear, and you're not going to like it. Your woundedness does not give you an excuse to be uncivil. There is a difference between being angry and being insulting, and you've crossed it. If you're here to poke the Christian bear, then do it – but it's obvious that in doing so, you're not really here for real conversation. You're here to push an agenda. And in doing so, no one who needs to listen will actually listen.

      There are thousands of Christians who paint you and others with a one-dimensional brush which is often shaming, inaccurate, uneducated and just stupid. But this kind of comment shows that you're cut from the same kind of cloth as they are. You're no different. And you're no victim, at least not here. John isn't attacking you – he's not the people in your life who have hurt you. You *choosing* to see him that way is your decision, your choice to not actually participate in the conversation at hand, but to instead just rage, has a consequence. It moves you from being someone one who is actually interested in thoughtful dialogue, to being just a guy with an obvious agenda to hurt everyone who's ever hurt him before. And you're trying to do that by attacking someone who *actually* wants to know you, and who's in your corner. And not caring about that – not caring about him – that's your issue; it's your fault if you don't get responded to. And it shows that you're actually not at peace with the conclusions you've drawn.

      You've decided who Christians are and what Christianity is based on your experience. Which is fine. Everyone gets the last word on who they are. But if you really think that these blanket statements actually do anything, actually convince anyone, or move anything forward productively, you're fooling yourself. At best, they give you a temporary voice in which to express your woundedness, and to hang onto the rage that you choose to hold onto when, in fact, people like John can provide a bit of refuge for you.

      No one is saying you have to become a Chistian. But at best? Do justice to what you're trying to say, and don't fold it into such insulting rhetoric. You're doing a disservice to everyone who wants to see change, both Christians and atheists alike.

      • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

        DR is right, David. I’m not your enemy.

      • Robert Meek

        Brave DR! Well said.

        There’s nothing to add, really. Well, maybe this: this is John’s blog. He’s entitled to use it any way he chooses, and to express any opinions that he has.

        We are clearly welcome to engage him in thoughtful discussion, debate, and even disagreement.

        But if we think we’re doing anything significant with hate, spite, anger, rage, and the likes of that, all we are doing, when we engage in that, is stabbing ourselves in the foot, so to speak. It accomplishes nothing.

        Enough said, by my ineloquent self.

        • DR

          David, I hope you don’t take my words as “shut the fuck up”. They aren’t. There are so many people who have been abused and disrespected by Christianity. Women, gays and lesbians, kids who are abused. If I didn’t have the filter I do (a positive experience of faith), I’d be on the bandwagon of shutting down this system that has removed certain Civil Rights from Americans, hidden child abusers. I just want you to be HEARD. I want you to find a group of people who have a faith, but you trust. Perhaps I’m arrogant (tell me if I am), but I think hatred holds us hostage to the shit in our lives that keeps us miserable. I don’t know you, there is a good chance your daily life is impacted, hassled and diminished by Christians either directly or institutionally or legally (fill in the blanks). But I want to join forces with you because honestly – I read what a lot of atheists are saying and think “That’s exactly what Jesus would say.” You have a place at the table. Just talk to those of us who listen. Please give us a chance. No one would blame you if you don’t want to. But not all of us is your enemy. The only thing I ask is that you open your mind to that possibility and talk to us so we can clean up this mess we choose to be a part of.

          Now I apparently have a job I should go do and I think I’ve gone on enough!

  • christine

    DR: hear hear!!! And thank you for expressing it so well and so to the point. Nothing more to add but I want to copy your reply and send it to SO many people I know, not as a slap in the face to non-Xians but to my Christian friends as an example of someone eloquently sticking up for their faith. Thank you

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric Booth

    Very well put DR. (Dennis Rodman, right? I mean, it sounds like nothing he would ever say).

    I think we've each been amazed at how some individuals (I this case, those railing against fundamentalist, zealots, proselytizers, and bigots) embody the very undesirable characteristics they would staunchly claim to abhor.

    I think it is the psychology of hate. There's probably a clinical term for this.

    • DR

      Yes. I'm Dennis Rodman. Let's go with that.

      I'm not amazed. I'm a bit concerned my comment was viewed as a "Yay Jesus people, boo atheists – shut up and stop being mean as we prevent you from getting married and hide the priests who abused you. I always have partial comment regret after that kind of response.

      People are furious with Christians for not living up to who we claim to love and follow. They want answers, and are demanding answers because the decisions often made by our vote and our posture as we go out into the world *literally* does damage. So they're scared of us, they don't trust us and if Christians were more interested in actually putting ourselves in their shoes, we'd get it.

      It's tempting for people like you and I to say "But I'm one of the good christians, so stop being such an asshole – be nice to me! Me! Me! Me!", etc. But to many people who aren't Christian, that doesn't matter because you and I still choose to worship in places where the "bad" people are, we're still associating ourselves with a religion whose tenants have caused many of its followers to cause a lot of harm. So they aren't terribly interested in giving them a pass, and with all due respect it's probably a bit self-absorbed for us to keep asking for one.

      The crap that Christians do is our responsibility as Christians to fix, not theirs. My point to David is he could *help* us. And I want some relief for he and others from the hate that must be so miserable, though that might not be realistic and is probably a bit patronizing.

      He could really help us though so many are so sick of us that they've no inclination in doing so, they just want us to go away. And honestly – I get why. At minimum, I'd ask someone like David to take the heat off of guys like John who are actually getting the things done we should be getting done as a group of people who believe in Christ. But John knows what he's getting into, he seems up for it.

      Christians aren't victims. Getting into an argument about tone with someone who isn't able to marry the person she or he loves because they are gay as a result of Christians voting against that? There's a place for that, but the overall point is for us to actually listen to how angry people are. Listen to the comments they are making behind the questions. Maybe David can help us listen by taking the edge off. Or perhaps the edge in his anger is what will actually get more of us to listen. I don't know.

  • Gina Powers

    DR, thank you!! Out-freakin'-standing….and I'm sure nobody here finds you arrogant at all. Couldn't have said it better!!


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