The goal of the gatherings is to create space where everyone can be the most real version of themselves and know that they have a place at the table. When you’re sure that your truest truth really is welcomed, you want to share yours. You want to be fully known. This is the heart of our church: the only person you need to be is the one you are at any given moment; flawed, failing, fearful, and loved by God and by those you gather with. Trust me when I tell you that it’s heaven on earth.
Community, spiritual or otherwise, is only redemptive to the degree that we are fully seen and known when we partake in it, when we no longer feel burdened to pretend, when guilt or shame or fear are no longer a threat. When we can bring our truest selves without redaction, then we are really free. This is the table Jesus invites us to. This is the table his example demands we set for the world. We, the filthy lepers, all get to dine with a Messiah, and none of us need to be clean.
Universal Reconciliation is the belief that all people for all time will eventually be reconciled to God — that this lifetime is not the “only chance” to be saved — but that there is only one way to God, through Jesus Christ.
Through a very intentional plan that reaches into future ages, I believe the true Gospel is that all people for all time will be willingly and joyfully drawn by the unconditional, irresistible, compelling love of a Father into a relationship with Him through His Son. In the end, every knee will have bowed, and every tongue will have confessed Jesus as Lord, giving praise to God (see Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10).
To begin with, let us state the obvious: Jesus Christ was sacrificed. As many Old Testament Scriptures prophesy and many New Testament Scriptures explain, the death of Jesus was a sacrifice. But the key to understanding the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross is to recognize that it was not God who demanded or required the death of Jesus; it was humans. Jesus did not die to please or appease God, but to please and appease men. In the Gospels, it is human beings who wanted Jesus to die; not God. Human beings called for His blood; not God. The sacrifice of Jesus was not a sacrifice from men to God for the purpose of pleasing and appeasing God, but was instead a sacrifice from God to men for the purpose of exposing sacrifice for what it truly is, thus bringing an end to it.
Yes, God sent His Son to die as a sacrifice, but this was not because God Himself wanted or needed the sacrifice, but because God wanted to reveal and expose to humanity once and for all the violent and sinful tendencies that reside in our own hearts. God did not want or need the death of His own Son in order to satiate His wrath toward sin and extend forgiveness to us. No, God has always loved and always forgiven all humans for all their sin, simply because that’s the kind of God He is. He doesn’t need or demand payment for sin. (In fact, if He did demand payment, then He wouldn’t be forgiving; He would be getting “paid off.”)
Jesus feeds people. That’s what he does. And as striking as what he does is, equally revelatory is what he doesn’t do here. There’s no altar call, no spiritual gifts assessment, no membership class, no moral screening, no litmus test to verify everyone’s theology and to identify those worthy enough to earn a seat at the table. Their hunger and Jesus’ love for them alone, nothing else, make them worthy. This is a serious gut check for us.
Reckless love is different. It pushes us to cross all sorts of boundaries to help us love as God loves and commands us to love. Getting people to take a risk and do the unexpected is the kind of thing Jesus had in mind as he guided his followers to encounter surprising places and people. He has probably done something similar in your life if you have followed him for even a short length of time. Whenever we walk with Jesus, we have experiences that transform us. He takes us out of our comfort zones. Without apology or warning, he expands us, makes us afraid of what might happen, and then shows us how love is properly done. He is not content with sedentary faith.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is providing a description of what life looks like for the person who will follow Him. Since the average Jewish person listening to Jesus attempted to allow their life to be guided by the Mosaic Law and Jewish tradition, Jesus frequently compares and contrasts His way of life with the way of life that comes from following the Law. When we approach the Sermon on the Mount with this in mind, we see that Jesus calls people away from actions of legalistic obedience to a set of laws and toward attitudes of love for all people.
The Sermon on the Mount is a call to love. It focuses on attitude, rather than activity. Following Jesus is not about going through the motions but about living in love that comes from the heart. Jesus is not adding to the law, but is showing that love is the fulfillment of the law. He shows, for example, that while the law says “Do not murder” and “Do not commit adultery,” such laws still allowed people to hate their brother or lust after women (Matt 5:21-30). In this way, it was possible to fulfill the letter of the law while completely ignoring its intent. But the person guided by love will neither hate nor lust, which fulfills both the letter and intent of the law. Jesus even goes so far as to call His followers to love their enemies (Matt 5:43-48), which is the ultimate representation of love and which no law could ever accomplish. The rest of the Sermon follows this same theme.
One interesting note about Jesus’ fulfillment of the law is that there is no recorded instruction from Jesus to His own disciples for them to obey and follow the Law of Moses. Why not? Because He was modelling love, which is God’s ultimate goal and purpose for our lives anyway. Where there is love, law becomes unnecessary. Loving God and loving others naturally leads to the fulfillment of the law (Matt 22:37; Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27). If loving God and loving others is the fulfillment of the law, then the law is “followed” simply by loving God and loving others. If we are guided by love, then we do not need the law to guide us, because love guides us to do the things commanded by the law.
Jesus, through His life and ministry, revealed what it looks like to live according to love. In so doing, He not only fulfilled the spirit and purpose of the law, but also did away with it in the sense that He showed that where there is love, law is not needed. Of course, where there is no love, the law is still better than nothing as a way to guide people into proper behavior. This is why Jesus said He did not come to destroy or abolish the law. He knew that love takes time to grow and spread, and that not everyone will live in love toward everyone else. Therefore law, as defective as it is, still guides human behavior when there is no love. This was not only true of the Mosaic Law for the Israelite people, but it is also true for the laws of any country or community today. The reason nations, businesses, and families have laws today is because love is not fully formed among us.
So what is clear from the rest of Scripture, as well as from Jesus’ own words, is that love is the fulfillment of the law. Most Christians would agree that the law is accomplished and fulfilled when we love God and love others (Gal 5:14; Jas 2:8; Rom 13:8-10; 1 Tim 1:5; Deut 6:5; Matt 22:37; Luke 10:27; Mark 12:30-31). The way of love is the “more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31). When Jesus said that He had come to fulfill the law, this was best seen in the fact that love was the defining characteristic of Jesus. Since love is the fulfillment of the law, and since Jesus loved God and loved everyone perfectly, he therefore fulfilled the law. This is what Jesus meant in Matthew 5:17. The rest of the Sermon on the Mount provides numerous examples of how love fulfills the law.
I learned a long time ago that the most God-honoring, most Jesus-reflecting act is to err on the side of loving people. When you simply accept those around you in whatever condition they come to you, the table naturally expands and relationship happens and God does stuff that you couldn’t predict or control.
We come in love. I would submit that the teaching of Jesus to love God and love our neighbor is at the core and the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. And we must be people who reclaim Christianity from its popular modality, from the way it is often perceived and presented, to a way of Christianity that looks something like Jesus. And Jesus said, Love God and love your neighbor, so we come in love.
That is the core of our faith. That is the heart of it. And we come, because we are Christian and the way of love calls for us to be humanitarian. It calls for us to care for those who have no one to care for them.
— Michael Curry, The Power of Love, p. 60-61
Photo: Above Spittal an der Drau, Austria, July 29, 1998
Thankfully, the true Christian life is not a test, it’s a rest. Spiritual growth isn’t about becoming someone tomorrow who you aren’t today through one’s spiritual performance, but rather it’s the journey of our actions and attitudes catching up with who we already fully are in Christ — complete, whole, holy, pure, righteous, saved, and lacking no spiritual blessing. This is the foundation of Grace that enables in us and through us all good things, effortlessly — any other foundation is a sinking sand-spiral of death.