As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. 1 Peter 4.10
A Word of Hope
I was speaking with a friend the other day about God, hell, and heaven. My friend’s background is Roman Catholic, so it didn’t surprise me that her belief tradition holds on to what I consider to be outdated. I consider my own original beliefs antique, too. I began my faith tradition as a child in the Southern Baptist church. I don’t remember much about it except that it was my first social experience. On the few occasions that I heard the preacher, there was a lot of ranting and screaming.
So, my first introduction to church was not that pleasant. Through all my other church experiences, I realized that my steps of faith leaned gradually to the more loving, grace – filled God, completely removed from the angry Hebrew Scripture version. I’m not surprised, however that a lot of troubled people of today want an angry, justice-demanding God. I’d have to say that it’s more appealing to my personality that there is a God of unconditional Grace and love many of us deeply desire. There seem to be lots of reasons to want instant justice to be given to those who wrong others, but, I’m saddened by some people’s cherry picking of their most despised category of sin; the cafeteria version of Christianity that says I choose to condemn this, not that.
I have come to realize that any love I feel for an ali-inclusive God may very well translate from my Universalist viewpoint that learning to love oneself is an inward reflection of how I feel about the rest of the world. As far as differences of opinion I experience with my Catholic friend as to whether heaven or hell exists, I rely on the golden rule to live and let live. It has changed my attitude many times to embrace the idea that parts of our humanness, our thinking, and our actions create a sort of internal perception of living in heaven or hell, regardless of those variations of afterlife concepts.
After dabbling for the last 30 or so years in various spiritual studies and living out my progressive values, it has never made sense to wish infinite torture on anyone’s afterlife. On the same note, I hold on to my personal ideas of eternal bliss, peace, and a healthy sense of safety and love in the afterlife. I’ve seen the evidence of transforming lives with grace and it is hard to ignore the evidence of the positive vibration field I like to call God; the One who is ultimately in charge, but through grace is not judgmental or controlling. I certainly understand the viewpoint of wanting justice for those who suffer. If I’m to be witness to the presence of something bigger and better, it seems only natural that I would want that for everybody else as well. So I consider every day an opportunity to offer a smile, say a cheerful hello to a stranger and try my best to be God’s grace to them. Judgment is just not part of daily duties.
May I perceive and practice your grace more diligently every day.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare