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From Enemies to Friends 1:
What went Wrong?—And How God Makes it Right

Quesnel, British Columbia, August 7, 2009


Nursery rhyme imagery


Just as an experiment, take a look at some nursery rhymes that we share with our children, and see what we’re saying at a very basic level of society—about ourselves, applicable spiritual lessons, and especially the picture of God they might represent.

Three blind mice? Are they us? If so, who is the farmer’s wife, and what kind of cruel image is the cutting of their tails with a carving knife? Yet, isn’t this the kind of cruel ‘god’ often represented by various religions? Hasn’t the Devil painted God is just that kind of light—a cruel, sadistic monster who tortures his created beings? Makes you think…

An old woman who lived in a shoe—who whips her children soundly before putting them to bed. Reminds me of the woman I once visited whose father had been a church elder. After church he used to beat his children, just because he believed it was good for them, whether they had done anything bad or not… No wonder this woman no longer attended church—and think how badly God had been misrepresented to her as a child.

Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman! (Why are Englishmen being singled out here?) Another image of a vicious supernatural being, an ogre to be feared, someone to be hidden from. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, after they ate the fruit…?

Hush-a-bye, baby. Just the way things are. A fatalistic view that once the bough breaks, we die. What kind of world is this, that even the babies get killed? God, are you really there? Don’t you care about the death of the innocent?

The grand old duke of York. Neither up nor down. And carrying out pointless exercises too. The futility of life? How many people live their lives in this meaningless way. And is God the grand old duke, ordering us around in this futile way…?

Little Polly Flinders. More child abuse because of some perceived error. How do we see this today? Would we be reporting Mrs. Flinders to some child protection agency? And again, what if this volatile parent is symbolic of God? How capricious he seems, how ready to punish for the slightest mistake…

Oranges and lemons---here comes a chopper to chop off your head. How sweet the rhyme starts, and how violent the end. Why? Like life? A comment on its unpredictable brevity? And a comment on the God that would allow this to happen, right in among the sweet oranges and lemons…

Goosey, goosey, gander. One of the most obviously religious rhymes. For the old man gets thrown down the stairs for refusing to say his prayers. How do we treat religious difference, and religious liberty. What about prayer in schools? What if someone was targeted because his religion was different to others? The Holocaust. Northern Ireland. Bosnia…

And what if God is the one doing the throwing, down the stairs and straight into hell! So many images, and almost all perverse, cruel and wrong. Why is that? We have so many mistaken ideas, so many wrong pictures, especially of God and the atonement.

With the eyes of a child

Theological thinking should not be abandoned to the masters of elusiveness. Rik Torfs

Our daughter Rebekah has always been precocious—especially with her questions that inevitably are always much more mature than her years, even now. One day she came to ask me one. I forget how old she was then except she was really small. She arrived with a puzzled look on her face. I was at my desk working.

“Daddy?”

“Um yes,” I said distractedly. As I say, I was working.

“I don’t get it. And I’ve been thinking about it all day.”

“What’s that, precious?” I turned to give her my full attention.

“Why did Jesus have to die?”

Just like that. Out of the blue. And I admit I was far from ready with an appropriate reply!

“Um, er, well—so what’s behind the question?” Always play for more time is one delaying tactic you can use as you try and get your brain in gear.

“Well, we talk about the Cross, and Jesus dying for us, and all that. But I really don’t see why. Do you?” She waited expectantly.

At that point the answers can go many ways… There are plenty of voices crying out that they have the authoritative doctrine, that you cannot be a Christian unless you agree with them, that to deny their viewpoint is to deny the gospel.

Maybe I should have said something like:

“Well to answer your question—you must believe in the propitiatory sacrifice that brings both expiation and propitiation through appeasement of divine wrath so that through this ransoming procedure you may gain both imputed and imparted justification as well as continuing sanctification as you morally respond to the compelling induction through the influence of the crucifixion.” (I’ve tried to get elements of a few theories in there so as not to play favorites!)

Duh?! Such an approach clearly is not going to work on a young child, or a mature adult, come to that! How about another approach:
“You need to be washed in Jesus’ blood to cleanse you from all iniquities. You know the song, ‘There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from Immanuel’s veins; And sinners, plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains.’ (William Cowper). That’s why Jesus had to die!”

I can just hear her saying, “Daddy, last week I cut my finger and you said we had to clean the blood off—blood doesn’t make stuff clean. And as for stains, the blood made a stain on my dress that mommy says is never going to come off. So the blood makes stains, it doesn’t get rid of them.”

So much for this symbol. Try again—another metaphor:

“Through Jesus’ death he provides the robe of his righteousness to cover our sins so when the Father looks at us he doesn’t see us but Jesus.”

And already you’re thinking how a child would respond to that one. “So the sins are still there? Just covered up? And does the Father have bad eyesight?”

In all of this I want to be very respectful to all the various ways in which people have tried to explain such vital truths, especially when they have tried to develop their ideas from Scripture. We all recognize the challenge, particularly when we’re trying to make such a deep concept simple. And yet if we cannot make simple enough that a child can understand it, maybe we don’t really understand it either!

“I really don’t like it that Jesus died,” Rebekah went on. “It’s just so unfair. He was the nicest person ever and he gets killed. Why didn’t God stop it? Did he really have to die? For me? Was it because of my sins as well? Was it my fault?”

Payment and demands and deflecting wrath? Never! So much to say, yet so much that shouldn’t be said, at least to a child whose eyes are dimmed with tears at the thought that in some way she has contributed to Jesus’ death.

But the question deserves answers, extended answers over a lifetime. I gave a brief answer about how God turns us enemies into his friends, but the rest of this is an attempt to give a fuller, better answer. Why did Jesus have to die?

For we all are there, somehow or other. We see the brokenness of our lives. We know we need something—our minds are full of thoughts of redemption, salvation, atonement, reconciliation, forgiveness…

“Forgiveness is the answer to the child’s dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is again made clean,” said Dag Hammarskjold, second Secretary-General of the United Nations. He touches on our communal sense of loss—broken and soiled in a world that reflects our tortured and damaged lives.

Somehow we want to go home, wherever that home is; reconciled, healed, forgiven. We recognize the need of atonement.

God’s attitude towards us

We’ve looked at some nursery rhymes, and their peculiar messages, and we say, “That’s for kids!” Yet when it comes to our ideas of God they often seem to come from fantasies and nightmares! How we unconsciously internalize terrible concepts…

The most important life-decision is how we view his attitude towards us. Friend or Foe? Our Shifting View of God… Most of us find that our view of God vacillates considerably. M. Blaine Smith

So what is God truly like? That’s the fundamental question, and the many varieties of religion are the different answers. Most importantly, is God hostile or friendly? Like the soldier on sentry duty, the first thing to establish is “friend or foe”? When it comes to God, our answers are all too often ambivalent. Sometimes God seems friendly, sometimes not. So we end up confused or doubtful or reluctant. We don’t want to commit to Someone we’re not sure about. Is it true that “the question of whether Jesus and His angels will be hostile or friendly depends on who you are and whose side you’re on”? (Marvin Moore).

As Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote about God in his poem, Thou Art Indeed Just: “Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,/How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost/ Defeat, thwart me?”

I remember raising this issue during a discussion on the Bible—whether God was hostile or friendly. Immediately somebody replied, “It’s not that he’s hostile or friendly—but that he seems to be both!”

A hostile or friendly God—or both!  This is a central issue in answering the question “Why did Jesus have to die?” since our responses will be conditioned by our concepts of God—what is he like, how does he act, what does he require?

Defining God

As a man is, so is his God; therefore was God so often an object of mockery. Goethe

God. A short word. Meaning what, exactly? How do you define God? “The omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent deity...” and so on in the jargon beloved by philosophers. Maybe—for God is all of those things and more.

Yet what you and I want to know—more than his all-powerful abilities, more than his perfect knowledge of all things, more than anything else is—“If there is a God, what kind of person is he? What is he like?”

Many roles are envisaged here, each one reflecting a different understanding of God. The policeman is concerned with law enforcement and unquestioning obedience. The judge seeks to uphold justice and to ensure that the whole judicial system is satisfied. The teacher tries to educate and create understanding. The doctor wants the patient to be made well, to become healthy and whole. The lawyer addresses the question of legal status and compliance with the law. The counselor works to resolve relationship issues and develop appropriate attitudes. Such images reflect our ways of thinking about God, and even within the roles the question arises: is this person hostile or friendly, right or wrong—like the biblical examples of both just and unjust judges.

The different models of the atonement use imagery that reflects the various roles we believe God is playing. Some of these predominate depending on what we see as the primary problem—are we in legal trouble or are we sick? Do we need to understand or blindly obey? Do we need a not guilty verdict or do we need to be changed?

Down through time many cultures have tried to represent the “face of god.” From the jackal-headed Egyptian god Anubis to the feathered-serpent god Quetzalcoatl of the Aztecs, from Ishtar the fertility goddess of the Assyrians to Molech of the Canaanites who demanded child-sacrifice, from the terrifying Norse god of war Thor to the bloodthirsty Chac of the Mayas…

Your view of God will determine how you see the atonement, and your view of the atonement will in turn affect your picture of God.

Atonement and sin

I was talking with a pastor friend of mine about the atonement. He wanted to emphasize how he viewed the death of Christ, and what it accomplished. Arguing with me, trying to get his point across, he finally blurted out, “Christ could have been crucified on the other side of Jupiter and the result would have been the same!”

In other words, it’s the act, not what it might mean to us or its impact on us. “God just needs the blood,” he went on to explain. “Without blood God can’t forgive.”

I asked him what he thought would have happened if instead of rejecting Jesus, the people of his time had accepted him.

“Oh, that’s very clear,” he concluded. “The chief priest would have taken Jesus into the holy of holies and slit his throat as a blood sacrifice for atonement, to propitiate the wrath of God against us sinners. The penalty had to be paid.”

An extreme view, perhaps, but one that just takes some ideas of what the atonement is to their logical conclusion.
Before we do anything else, we need to go back and understand what went wrong—on earth, and in God’s universe. For if we are talking about “making amends for sin,” or “paying the penalty of sin,” or “sacrificing to bring atonement for sin,”—we had better really understand what sin is first!

So where did sin come from? Or if that’s too difficult a question, where did it originate? Obviously not with God, even though he made “all things.” For sin is not a “thing”—one vital point to make. Sin began with Lucifer, in his self-referenced perspective that grew into pride and selfish ambition. Lucifer’s deliberate choice to follow his own selfish way and to break with God, to try and replace God even, reveals what sin is: the broken relationship that centers on self, rejecting the God who is love, who is always trustworthy and right. Sin is not so much the breaking of rules, but an attitude of mind—especially the breaking of the love-trust relationship with God.

Keep that at the front of your mind at all times, for much of our mistaken thinking comes from a misunderstanding of what sin really is. We need to go back to the beginning.

Back to the Beginning…

To go back to the beginning we first need to go to the last book of the Bible—Revelation! There was war in heaven (12:7). Lucifer’s ejection from there (Jesus lightning). Having established the beginning of the cosmic conflict there, we now need to understand what it was over: Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14. The pride of Lucifer, and his desire to dethrone God! Lucifer, a created being, wanted to rule the Universe, as God! As part of his rebellious program he has to misrepresent God as the “bad guy,” which results in a whole slew of accusations against God: that he is arbitrary, capricious, selfish, arrogant, cruel, hostile, uncaring, legalistic, vicious, vindictive—and all the rest. That’s the propaganda that the Bible reveals; this is Lucifer’s philosophy in his war against God.

This is the scenario into which Adam and Eve are introduced. Sin has already reared its ugly head in the universe—in heaven itself! Sin began before our first parents. Then we have the temptation of Adam and Eve, and the Fall. What happens exactly? Let’s go back and read it again. For seeing what went wrong is critical to understanding how God makes it right once more. If we get the wrong picture of the Fall, we get the wrong picture of the atonement.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”  
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Gen. 3:1-6 NIV.

Genesis. What went wrong? You will be executed? You will be tortured to death? What? Sin kills, and you will die… The inevitable consequences of sin, that broken relationship that separates us from God, the source of life. Add to this answers to the questions”
What really is sin? Is it a substance? Can it be transferred? Can God pardon without punishment?

Note that the legal aspects come not from God but from the demands of the Accuser. He is the one insisting on “justice,” though he has always operated unjustly! God has to demonstrate that what he does is right. And God does indeed need to maintain moral fabric of universe, to make sure that everyone agrees that he is acting rightly. Additionally, natural law, if broken, has natural consequences…
Does God need to be changed? No—it’s clear from Scripture that we’re the ones with the problem, not God. The death of Jesus was not to change anything in God. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.

Biblical examples of enemies and friends

A few examples. What was the picture of God held by Saul-who-became-Paul before his encounter with the Lord on the Damascus road? After his meeting with the Jesus “whom you’re persecuting” Paul had many decisions to make, many ideas to change, and much to learn. (That’s why he spent time in Arabia, far away from Jerusalem). He needed to work through the implications of this “paradigm shift.” Most of all, this was a radical change in his picture of God. Instead of seeing a God who would delight in his persecution of Christians, he came to know the true God as revealed by Jesus. But as for so many of us, he had to spend a long time thinking this through—and unlearning many ideas about God that he had been taught. Only then could he be a true “ambassador for Christ.” For while he was previously very “zealous for God” (Acts 22:3), this followed a picture of God that was far from true. This is a cautionary note for all of us—we may be very missionary minded, as was Saul before his conversion, but zeal and enthusiasm does not always correlate with truth! But through his conversion, which centers on the true nature of God as revealed in Jesus—Saul asks “who are you, Lord?”—Paul sees the truth of God, accepts his salvation, and is at one with him.

From the Old Testament we have the story of Job, which is all about conceptions of God. In his sense of isolation from God, Job is confused—for this is not like the God he knows and trusts. He feels as if God has become his enemy—and this offends his picture of God:

“Why won’t God give me what I ask? Why won’t he answer my prayer? Can’t you ever forgive my sin? Can’t you pardon the wrong I do? Are you coming to accuse me, God?...What are my sins? What wrongs have I done? What crimes am I charged with? Why do you avoid me? Why do you treat me like an enemy? Are you trying to frighten me?” (Job 7:21; 13:19, 23, 24 TEV).

Job hurls a plague of desperate questions at God in his pain and anguish, pleading to know from God as to what has  gone wrong. For Job does know that God is a righteous and just God, who does not send such terrifying sufferings to please himself. He knows that there must be a reason for all this, but he just cannot see it. He knows his friends are wrong in their picture of God as one who rightly and harshly exacts penalties for disobedience.

So Job appeals to God: “Don’t condemn me God. Tell me! What is the charge against me? Is it right for you to be so cruel?” (Job 10:2,3 TEV). For on the surface it seems that his friends’ view of God is right. Their God is a strict and harsh taskmaster who punishes offenders with pain and suffering. Consequently anyone who was in trouble must be a sinner—and the worse the trouble, the worse the sin. Following their logic, based on their understanding of God, they knew Job was guilty of some terrible sin, and all their arguments are designed to encourage Job to confess. They cannot give up their theological system in which they have invested so much. They are far more willing to accept Job’s suffering than admit their understanding of God and his actions is wrong. A perverse tragedy and malign concept of God that still continues today…
But Job, although he does not claim sinlessness, knows his God and his relationship with him. That’s why he maintains his innocence. And because his three friends are so sure of what they think God is like, they are no help to Job—for they want him to acknowledge his guilt even though his has done nothing wrong! They want him to admit that their system of belief is correct, something that Job consistently refuses to do. For their view is exactly that of Satan himself—that God is harsh and judgmental, demanding unthinking obedience, and in return being rewarded with benefits for compliance. That’s exactly what Satan accusations have been all along—that God is a tyrant, demanding “love” under the threat of punishment.

In essence, the whole controversy centres on the differing concepts of God’s nature. Both Job and his friends acknowledge his power, authority, creatorship, justice and so on. Where they disagree is in God’s means of dealing with those who do not follow his ways. The basic question hangs over whether God is hostile or friendly. And despite his alarm, his questions asked in the heat of the moment, Job still knows God. And God still knows his trustworthy friend Job, and says at the end, Job “has said of me what is right.” Things are made right, they continue as friends—this is true atonement.

The real tragedy is the mistaken picture of God shared by Job’s three friends, who were just so sure that God was punitive, that Job was being rightly punished for his sins. Then along comes another “friend,” Elihu, who also thinks God is hostile, and complains about Job’s attitude. His picture of God is very clear when he says, “I won’t ask to speak with God; why should I give him a chance to destroy me?” (Job 37:20 TEV).

Pagan?

This view of God as hostile parallels the ideas of many who sought to placate their gods with offerings and devotion. Note this:

Every time a disaster struck, the pagans believed the gods, spirits, or ancestors were angry with them. So, they considered it essential to appease the wrath of their gods, spirits, or ancestors. Only a bloody sacrifice, they believed, could remove the anger and restore good fortune and blessing again. In speaking of propitiation this morning, I need to remind you that ours is an angry God… Salvation from an angry God comes only by means of propitiation. To be saved, God’s anger against sin and the sinner needs to be appeased or pacified. Adrian Dieleman.

Is he saying our God is pagan then? That seems to be the implication from the foregoing! If the pagan believers were convinced “a bloody sacrifice” was necessary, then it seems that our God is angry and needs to be propitiated too. If that is the conclusion...    For this is indeed the reaction of some of those who have heard certain descriptions of the “good news”:

Gospel: signifies good news. The good news that the gospel of the Christians came to announce to them is that their God is a God of wrath, that he has predestined the far greater number of them to hell-fire, that their happiness depends on their pious imbecility, their holy credulity, their sacred ravings, on the evil they do to one another through hatred of one another,...and on their antipathy for and persecution of all who do not agree with them or resemble them. Voltaire

At this point a quote comes to mind from Frederic Greeves: "Many a humble agnostic, worshipping an unknown God, is nearer to the Kingdom of God than is a theologian confident in his theology... Many an 'atheist' is rejecting false conceptions of God which he assumes to be Christian beliefs about Him. Many an agnostic has a reverence for the unknown God which puts to shame the pride of a superficial dogmatist."

It surely is better not to have a picture of God at all than one that misrepresents him! Particularly when it comes to the atonement, and all that this says about God—both positively and negatively depending on how God is viewed. In fact to reject false ideas about God and false ideas about the atonement is surely something God would appreciate…

For the way that the atonement has been portrayed has been like putting a terrible mask of evil over God's face. However this is what has been done—in God’s name! For reasons of social control and political power, the church has exploited such ideas. The idea that God punishes but that the church can dispense ways of avoiding that punishment through applying the sacrifice of Jesus or through penance is a very useful one. This use of substitutionary atonement, which John Dominic Crossan has called “the most unfortunately successful idea in the history of Christian thought,” has been very appealing. Crossan adds, “If I can persuade you that there's a punishing God and that you deserve to be punished but I have some sort of way out for you, then that's a very attractive theology.”

Yet this concept of the atonement in which God pours out his wrathful punishment on his innocent Son on behalf of the guilty has brought many reject such a God. They ask questions about justice and right, and cannot bring themselves to call him good. By imagining such concepts that have more to do with pagan ideas of vengeful and capricious gods and placing them of our loving Father we do so much harm.

Jesus has shown us the Father. He has lived among us to reveal God. He has revealed the truth about God's free offer of healing from sin. He has offered to change us and to transform us into his glorious image.

Drawing everyone

Freed to draw by its own power, the cross remains the magnet of the souls of men. Kenneth Cragg

Jesus came to show us what God is truly like—to make the Father known. That was his mission from the beginning—and all his ministry is directed towards this objective. And when it comes to his death on the cross, Jesus identifies exactly what he is going to do: “‘When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.’ (In saying this he indicated the kind of death he was going to suffer.)” John 12:32 33 TEV. [Note especially the comment about indicating the kind of death].

His death on the cross draws—not just us, but the whole on-looking universe. Why? Because all need to see and know and understand the truth about God in contrast to the Devil’s misrepresentation. Only through the demonstration of God, God as he truly is, are we drawn to accept God, and only then can we accept the salvation he has to offer. Unfortunately, however much we might want salvation, if we do not see God in a positive light then we will not want to accept eternal life with such a God. That’s why the cross is so important—far more than fixing our salvation or adjusting our legal status, God is winning us back to loving trust, healing us from the damage on sin, and fitting us for an eternity in the presence of our loving Lord. Otherwise the cross doesn’t make sense!

While we cannot minimize the suffering Jesus experienced on the cross, nor must we elevate this aspect and say this is what the cross was for. The over-concentration on the passion, the “atoning suffering” if you will, makes it appear that Jesus through his agony is satisfying something in God. If that is what God appears to be requiring, are we not buying into the Devil’s picture of God? If we understand the Father as in some way punishing the Son, of pouring out a sentence of wrath on an innocent, as killing Jesus to save us, will we not get a very distorted understanding of what God is really like?

But if we see the Father suffering together with the Son, revealing his true character, demonstrating the truth that sin kills without God laying a hand on us—then do we not then see God in a very different light? God is on the cross, showing his love for the Universe, for us. “Anyone can believe that Jesus was a god: what is so hard to credit is that He who hung upon the cross was the God.” (John Neville Figgis).

Time for a Biblical summary. This is what the Bible says that Jesus’ death brought about:

“reconciliation” (Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:13-18; Col. 1:20,22; 1 Pet. 3:18b)
“redemption” (Rom. 3:24; Gal. 3:13; Eph. 1:7a; Col. 2:14-15; Titus 2:14a; Heb. 2:14-15; 9:12; 1 Pet. 1:18-19)
“righting” the wrong (Rom. 4:25; 5:9; Gal. 2:21)
“forgiveness” (Eph. 1:7; Heb. 7:26-27; 9:25-28; 1 Pet. 2:24)
“making pure and holy” (Eph. 5:25; Col. 1:22b; Titus 2:14b; Heb. 13:11; 1 John 1:7)
“healing” (1 Pet. 2:24)
“rescue, salvation” (1 Co. 1:18; Gal. 1:4; Heb. 2:14-15

Who did Jesus die for?

“the ungodly, the powerless, sinners, the unrighteous” (Rom. 5:6-8; 1 Pet. 3:18)
“us, us all” (Rom. 5:8; 8:32; Gal. 3:13; Eph. 5:2; Titus 2:14; 1 John 2:2)
“all” (2 Co. 5:14-15; Col. 1:20; Heb. 7:27)
“the whole world” (1 John 2:2)
“Jews and Gentiles” (Eph. 2:13-18)
“you” (Col. 1:19-23)
“every person” (Heb. 2:9)
“the Church” (Eph. 5:25-27)
“many” (Heb. 9:28)
“me” (Gal. 2:20)

Knowing what God is truly like and wanting to trust this wonderful Person is the key to salvation. All other aspects of what Christians believe have their origin in this central truth: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”(John 17:3 NIV). We know that God’s true character of love has been defamed: “an enemy has done this.” We know that Jesus in his life, death, and resurrection draws us back to himself. And we know that only as the real “Face of God” is shown to the world will the great controversy be settled. As the final decisions are made, as people choose whether to accept this wonderful God or to reject him, the last act in the drama will come to an end.

At the heart of what I want to say about God is this conviction: God truly is good, kind, loving. He is not out to terrify us. Our privilege is to call God “Friend.” Sadly many don’t want to know.

God the Gatekeeper?

Franz Kafka tells a “parable” story of a man what wants to enter the “gate to the law.” But beside the gate is a gatekeeper. The man asks if he can enter. “Maybe,” says the gatekeeper. So the man sits down to wait. He waits for weeks and months and years. He wants to go in, but he never tries, since the gatekeeper is always there.  They talk from time to time, but not about anything important. He often asks to be allowed in, but never gets up to try. Eventually the man, realizing he’s going to die waiting to go in through the gate, asks why nobody else has asked to go in.

This gate is for just you,” says the gatekeeper. “And since you never entered, now I’m going to close it.”

The offer of at-one-ment is given to each individually. But of course we have to want it. We have to go in the gate. God is not a gatekeeper that prevents us entering, he’s there to open the gate. The gatekeeper is not hostile. But we have to try to go in. He’s not going to force us. He invites, but never compels. How can you ever force someone against their will to be at one with you? The offer is there, yet can you be reconciled to someone you view as hostile? God draws, not drives…

-end-


From Enemies to Friends: The Stunning Good News of How God Wins Us Back (The Atonement in the Context of the Great Controversy) fetf1.doc


© Jonathan Gallagher 2009

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