Not If, But When

As I have often said, salvation is not a question of if, but when. Once you see with God’s eyes, you will see all things and enjoy all things in proper and full perspective. Some put this off till the moment of death or even afterward (“purgatory” was our strange word for this). Salvation, for me, is simply to have the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), which Paul describes as “making the world, life and death, the present and the future — all your servants — because you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God” (1 Corinthians 3:23).

Everything finally belongs, and you are a part of it.

This knowing and this enjoying are a good description for salvation.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 225

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 22, 2020

Infinite Grace for All

As long as you operate inside any scarcity model, there will never be enough God or grace to go around. Jesus came to undo our notions of scarcity and tip us over into a worldview of absolute abundance — or what he would call the “Kingdom of God.” The Gospel reveals a divine world of infinity, a worldview of enough and more than enough. Our word for this undeserved abundance is “grace”: “Give and there will be gifts for you: full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, and poured into your lap” (Luke 6:38). It is a major mental and heart conversion to move from a scarcity model to an abundance model.

No Gospel will ever be worthy of being called “Good News” unless it is indeed a win-win worldview, and “good news for all the people” (Luke 2:10) — without exception. The right to decide who is in, and who is out, is not one that our little minds and hearts can even imagine. Jesus’s major theme of the Reign of God is saying, “Only God can do such infinite imagining, so trust the Divine Mind.”

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 184-185

Photo: Frozen lake, South Riding, Virginia, March 12, 2015

Casting Out Fear

I lived this story for years. I preached it. I fully bought into this narrative of an angry God needing to be placated. I understand the reason it works and the crushing effect it has on us when we embrace it, and I know how disorienting it is to be compelled to cling to a loving Creator while simultaneously being taught to be terrified of what that Creator wants to do to you if you don’t cling correctly. It hasn’t happened in an instant, and I can’t quite say how I got here, but I am simply living in a different story now. I still have God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit — but I don’t have fear anymore the way I used to. That isn’t to say that I don’t have “the fear of the Lord” that the Bible speaks of, that awe and wonder that recognizes my smallness and God’s indescribable scale and beauty. In fact, my view of God is as expansive and reverent and breathtaking as it’s ever been. It just isn’t defined by the rigid Christian narrative of my childhood that says I am an enemy of God at birth.

If God is God, then God is intimately aware of the path you’re on. God sees your striving, your desire to know, your efforts to love better, and so even when these things take you from tradition or orthodoxy or surety, there can be peace there and trust that God is present. Looking at the long, meandering road you’ve been on, how can you possibly define some precise pass-fail in all of that? If you feel the table of your hospitality expanding, if you feel the container you had for God being shattered, if you yourself are being drawn to something deeper than the religion of your past, that is the pull of God. It is the extravagant, barrier-breaking, tradition-transcending heart of Jesus that is demanding to be yielded to. To the gatekeepers and the finger pointers, this surrender to God will look like rebellion. They will demand guilt for the conclusions you’ve come to and repentance from the path you’re on. you will need to be steadfast and rest in the love that casts out all fear. They will snicker and condemn and dismiss. They will name this heresy. They will call this a mutiny. To you, it is a progression.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 166-167

Photo: Sunrise, South Riding, Virginia, March 16, 2015

Restorative Justice

Such bad theology has its roots in organizing a worldview around the retributive notion of justice, as we discussed earlier, distinguishing it from restorative justice (a fancy term for healing). Jesus neither practiced nor taught retribution, but that is what imperial theology prefers — clear winners and clear losers. Top-down worldviews can’t resist the tidy dualisms of an in-and-out, us-and-them worldview. But Jesus roundly rejects such notions in both his parables and his teachings — for example, when he says, “Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40), and that “God causes his sun to rise on bad as well as good, and causes it to rain on honest and dishonest men alike” (Matthew 5:45), and when he makes outsiders and outliers the heroes of most of his stories.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 182

Photo: Citadelle de Bitche, France, March 2000

Changing Our Minds, Not God’s

As John puts it, “He will show the world how wrong it was about sin, about who was really in the right, and about true judgment” (16:8). This is what Jesus is exposing and defeating on the cross. He did not come to change God’s mind about us. It did not need changing. Jesus came to change our minds about God — and about ourselves — and about where goodness and evil really lie.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 151

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, February 21, 2015

Not Cast Off Forever

If Lamentations 3:31-33 is an accurate description of God’s nature, then God’s nature is best understood as unfailing love towards all — a love which does not cast off anyone forever. Though God might be compelled by love to cause grief, God derives no pleasure from it. God ultimately only causes grief as part of a long-range plan to bring God’s lost children back home. The arc of God’s judgment, while perhaps having to last ages upon ages, nevertheless ultimately bends back towards restoration.

— David Artman, Grace Saves All, p. 23

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 2, 2021

Dearly Loved By God

The more I’ve studied the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation, the more I’ve started to notice something about those who embrace the view: they tend to be more loving and accepting of those who are unlike them.

Maybe it’s because when you realize that everyone is equally loved by God and that God is really intending to bring everyone to repentance, and that, one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will gladly confess that jesus Christ is Lord, well, you kind of relax and enjoy being alive.

See, instead of seeing people as “saved” or “lost,” and grouping everyone you meet into the “Christian” or “non-Christian” category, you may start to see people as simply people.

Not only that, but you also begin to see them as God sees them. You slowly recognize that everyone you meet — regardless of their beliefs or spiritual condition — is someone who is dearly loved by God. You also start to understand that everyone you meet is indeed your brother or sister, and you realize that we all have the same Heavenly Father.

This really starts to change the way you treat other people. It starts to bear good fruit in your life. It even makes it easier to love others as Christ has loved you, without conditions or strings attached.

Eventually, you begin to recognize that God loves everyone much more than you could ever love them; even your own family members who may be far from faith in Christ as the moment. You start to realize that God has a grand design in motion to draw everyone to Himself, eventually. We get to take part in that, if we can learn to abide in Christ and collaborate with the Holy Spirit in the process. But, we can also enjoy a newfound sense of ease with this process. Because now we’re not fighting the clock or worried about closing the sale. Instead, we’re trusting in God’s ultimate victory which is inevitable and unstoppable.

— Keith Giles, Jesus Undefeated, p. 155-156

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 2, 2020

Restorative Justice

It is not God who is violent. We are.
It is not that God demands suffering of humans. We do.
God does not need or want suffering — neither in Jesus nor in us.

Most of us are still programmed to read the Scriptures according to the common laws of jurisprudence, which are hardly ever based on restorative justice. (Even the term was not common till recently.) Restorative justice was the amazing discovery of the Jewish prophets, in which Yahweh punished Israel by loving them even more! (Ezekiel 16:53ff.). Jurisprudence has its important place in human society, but it cannot be transferred to the divine mind. It cannot guide us inside the realm of infinite love or infinite anything. A worldview of weighing and counting is utterly insufficient once you fall into the ocean of mercy.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 146-147

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 30, 2018

Friend of Sinners

What do we notice about Jesus? Does He, as God in the flesh, avert his gaze when surrounded by sinners? Is Jesus too holy to look upon sin or to be in the presence of sinners? Hardly! Instead, those sinners are his closest friends. He spends so much time with them that the religious elite — who, by the way, were too holy to spend time with sinners — openly criticized him for it.

“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'” (Luke 7:34)

So, is God really “too holy to look on our sin”? Absolutely not! In fact, if God was too holy to look upon our sins, then God would never be able to look at anyone or see anything. Instead, we see time and again that God’s eyes are always upon us, and that we cannot go anywhere to escape God’s presence, even if we were to descend into the depths of hell (Sheol) itself.

— Keith Giles, Jesus Undefeated, p. 79-80

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 24, 2020