We Christians owe the world an apology.
I, at least, owe the world an apology. So here it is:
Dear World, I am sorry.
About so many things …
… But the one thing I am sorry about the most is presenting to you a picture of God which you found repulsive and repugnant and worthy only of your rejection.
If I had done a better job of presenting God as He really is, as the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ, you might have loved Him instead of hated Him. You might have seen how much He loves you. How much He likes you.
Instead, I told you that if you do not do certain things that he wants, he will torment you forever in hell.
You could not love or worship a god like that. (Who truly can?) And so you rejected this god.
You figured that if this god really existed, and if he was going to send you to hell anyway, you might as well “live it up.”
I told you that God loves you, but his love has strings attached. His grace has limits. His mercy eventually fails. But you knew better. You knew that this was not true love, not free grace, not real mercy. And so you rejected this god.
You figured that if this god really existed, and since you could never really be sure of his love for you, you might as well live any way you wanted.
I told you that God would forgive you of all sin, but I added conditions to this forgiveness. God would forgive you “if” you did this and this, “and” as long as you kept yourself from that, “but” only when you felt this or that.
You figured that if this god really existed, it did not appear that you could ever know real forgiveness, so you decided to stop trying and go sin all you want.
I told you that the kind of people god wanted in heaven were the types of people who sat in pews on Sunday morning, who dressed in “proper” clothes and spoke “proper” language. Everybody else was headed for hell.
You figured that if god only wanted certain types of people in his presence, and you could never be one of those types of people, you might as well follow all your friends to hell.
I am sorry for all those things I told you.
Not a single one of them was true.
The truth, as I see it now, is the truth you have always known to be true.
The truth is what you always tried to tell me was true, but I never listened. Because I was the Bible expert.
The truth is that you were right all along, and I was wrong. You hated the god I was proclaiming because that god was a god of my own making. I invented that god. And you knew it. Thanks for being patient with me while I came to the same realization you knew all along.
You see, I have recently come to understand that everything you hated about the god I proclaimed, you hated because you were listening to the voice of God better than I was. The true God hates that false god also. The true God hates the god I was proclaiming.
So in rejecting the god I was proclaiming, you were more godly than I.
And I am sorry for condemning you for it.
I have come to see the truth of your position because I have come to see the truth of Jesus.
You have always liked Jesus, because you knew that if God existed, He would look like Jesus. You always knew that if God was like Jesus (as I claimed), He would be loving and compassionate. Full of justice and mercy. He would be kind and generous. He would laugh a lot. He would tell good stories. He would go to parties. He would hang out with people that religious folk labeled as “sinners.”
But the god I was proclaiming looked nothing like Jesus, and so you rejected him.
And as a result of rejecting the god I proclaimed, I condemned you.
So I am sorry.
I never accepted the Jesus you knew to be true, because your Jesus didn’t fit with my conception of god. But now that I see that Jesus truly reveals God to us, and now that I see that the god I was proclaiming was a god of my own making, I have come to see that the Jesus you knew is the Jesus who really exists, and therefore, is what God is really like as well.
So I now see the truth you have seen all along.
What truth is that?
The truth that God loves us. Period.
The truth that God forgives us. No ifs, ands, or buts.
The truth that God likes us so much He wants to hang out with us and our friends. Just as we are.
The truth that God doesn’t care so much if we sit in those pews on Sunday morning. In fact, He may prefer that we don’t.
The truth that God isn’t concerned about our sin. He only cares about sin because it hurts us. And since He loves us, He doesn’t want to see us hurt.
And regarding all those silly rules about what to wear (and not wear), what to say (and not say), and where to go (and not go) … the truth that God doesn’t give a rat’s ass about those things. Those aren’t His “rules.” He never made those. We made those. Yes, we religious people. We invented those rules to make ourselves feel better. To make ourselves think we were better than you. When we’re not.
So we’re sorry.
No, I’m sorry.
And if you ever want to tell me more about Jesus, I would love to learn.