This, we Christians say, is the essence of the Good News which Jesus revealed. Probably, other faiths have similar understandings of God – I claim no monopoly. The words sound attractive, pleasant, warm. God is father, sometimes mother, always parent, and parental love is a strong image, implying unshakeable love. We may feel relieved that we don’t have to worry too much. And yet… what about this message is life-changing?
First, to me the words suppose that God, the force behind all creation, is benevolent.
Second, I therefore don’t worry about dying. Either there is nothing (we can’t exclude that possibility), or I will be caught up in some unimaginable way into the care of God who longs for the fulfilment of every part of his creation, even including me and those dear to me who have already walked the path of death. (In other words, I exclude the possibility of eternal punishment, though maybe some re-education or healing will be needed to fit me for new life.)
Third, release from fear of dying helps me focus on this life. I do this not to earn bonus points for the next world, but to try to play a tiny part in God’s purpose - that all he has made should flourish. I should use whatever gifts and resources I have to help this purpose. I actually do only a little; I could do much more and do what I do better. It is an on-going challenge. We all have to navigate in a world where things are not always what they seem, and where the greatest needs may be hidden. Here, I need to bring more into my thinking God’s passion both for the needy and therefore for justice.
Fourth, God’s love extends to all, and so includes others whom I find hard to like, let alone love - in public life as well as in private. God gave me personal choice and expects me to use it as wisely as I can. I can disagree with and criticise others’ actions and reject their beliefs. But in a galaxy of love, I should try to avoid conflict if possible, and – better - to build bridges, find common ground, seek consensus. We can, should and do get on with those of different understandings and beliefs from ourselves. Hallelujah! Woking People of Faith is just one example.
Fifth, the Christian theologian St Augustine (4 – 5th century AD)saw Jesus Christ as a doctor (an image of God that has always seemed right to me) and linked this to the humility which Jesus displayed. So, he suggests, Jesus Christ is the humble doctor who longs to heal the human sickness of pride. That makes sense to me. I need that healing. Perhaps my faith is a repeat prescription for the humbling message of love.
But God who is love walks with me, at my pace, as a companion and strength-giver.
Richard Hay, member of the Christian faith
Date: Monday 16th May 2022