This is a guest post by my friend, Blaise Foret. You can learn more about him and all that he’s involved with at the end of this post.
Religion and Jesus are often confused for one another. And I don’t blame people for making this mistake because so often the most religiously minded people use the name of Jesus to justify their ideas.
But the truth is Jesus Christ and ole’ time religion are very different.
Religion runs off of the fuel of fear.
Fear of being excluded.
Fear of isolation.
Fear of losing something.
Fear of future punishment.
Jesus came to bring revelation of the Father’s love that goes beyond religious dogma and fear of judgment and opens the door to living a life of true abundance and fullness that we were always made to live.
In order to break out of the old and come into the new, I believe that we have to change our minds (i.e. repent) about some of the ways we have massively missed the point of the Gospel.
Here are three things we get wrong about the gospel:
“God’s Love is Conditional”
We have all heard preachers say that God’s love is an unconditional love. But the sermon usually goes something like this: “Yes, God’s love is unconditional, but you have to _______”. Any but that you place after the unconditional love of God is usually condition. And once you place conditions on that love, then it is no longer unconditional love. We fear that if we don’t place conditions on the love of God then it will leave our congregants with a lack of motivation to do the right thing or live holy lives or stay away from sin. But this reveals our lack of understanding of the power of God’s love. Paul says it like this, “The love of Christ compels me.”
Paul understood the unconditional love of God at least to an extent. And he realized that that unconditional love was not something that would lead him to continue rejecting Jesus but it was the very thing that pursued him, graciously took hold of him, and compelled him to live a brand new life. When Paul met Jesus, the Lord didn’t threaten him with judgment, but only revealed that even in the midst of Paul’s persecution and rejection of His love, Jesus loved him unconditionally. This is the transformative kind of love that the world is ready to hear about.
“God is a Judge”
When we are asked to think of God, what do we see? If you close your eyes and imagine “GOD” what is the first thing that comes to your mind? I know that for me, at least growing up, I imagined Him in heaven somewhere, on a throne, getting worshiped by a ton of angels. He was up there making “big” decisions and watching us to make sure we were doing the right thing. And I knew that I would have to stand in front of Him after I died and He would bring out my rap sheet for every time I stole a Crayola and was mean to my big sister. He was more of a judge than a Father.
Jesus came to reveal that God was not only the creator of all things but that He was Dad. This can be unnerving for some folks who have grown up thinking of God as “God”- He’s there for a little help every now and then when we get into trouble and there to keep us in line with the reminder of after-life reckoning. But Jesus came to show us that God is not in the business of keeping score, but in the business of creating relationships. For the Jews at the time, they didn’t spend much time calling God “Father”. Instead, they called Him Yahweh, Jehovah, Elohim, and other traditional names that had been passed down from their “father,” Abraham. But Jesus didn’t come calling Abraham His Father- He reserved that name for God and that got Him into some trouble. But it’s that very revelation- the revelation of God as Father- that allowed Jesus to live in absolute security in His identity as a Son, and in total surrender to God’s will for His life.
The prophets of old saw God as a judge, but they had yet to see the incarnation of Christ. The law keepers of old sought to please the judge but they had yet to see the full revelation of the Father revealed through the Son. Jesus came to reveal that God has never been into keeping score and He’s never been waiting to judge us, instead, He’s welcomed us into a Family. He’s our Father, we’re His kids, and there is absolutely nothing to fear.
“The Cross: God Killed Jesus Instead of Killing Us”
The cross has so often been seen as a penalty that had to be paid in order for God to love us. It’s as though God was so angry at us because we sinned that He had to take out His vengeance and anger on someone before He could forgive us.
But how does that sync with the reality that God is love? And that love keeps no record of wrongs? And that we are to love our enemies and forgive those who persecute us? Could it be that God needed no sacrifice in order to forgive, but rather His very nature is forgiveness? Could it be that God’s heart for us all along was not that He would somehow punish Christ on our behalf, but that through our killing of Christ we would see that God was never in the business of killing, but resurrection life? That God was never in the business of getting revenge, but declaring forgiveness even while being mistreated?
This is how the apostle Paul states it, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting our sins against us.”
God was not abuser on that day, but He was the abused. God was not killing Christ but was in Christ being killed. The blood that was shed on that day was not shed at the hands of God but was shed at the hands of twisted and confused men. That’s why Peter reminds the Jews in Acts 3 that “you killed Him, but God raised Him to life!” and Jesus himself even declares, “Father, forgive THEM because they don’t know what they are doing.”
God, on that day, was with Christ, in Christ, declaring that His heart for confused humanity was, and is, and has always been this: Absolute Forgiveness.
I’ll finish with a quote by Richard Rohr that absolutely hits the nail on the head in regards to God’s nature revealed in Jesus:
“If God is Trinity, and Jesus is the face of God then it is a benevolent universe; God is not someone to be afraid of, but he is the very ground of all being and he is on our side.”
Blaise is an author of two books, a blogger, an itinerate speaker, and the pastor of Pop Up Church Asheville. He is also the Co-Founder of Asheville Folk, a creative community in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina.His passion is to empower people to accomplish their dreams and goals and to realize their identity in Christ. Blaise and his wife, Christina, reside in Asheville, North Carolina where they lead the Asheville Folk creative community and Pastor a church called Pop Up Church. For more information about Blaise, visit his site here.