The other day I had a conversation with my father. Considering the state of the world, I had determined that I was going to mention Christianity again in the hope that my father would reconsider his need of Jesus Christ. The reaction to my mention of Christianity was exactly what I would have expected given my long history with my father. He sighed and talked about how he was looking forward to getting back to his church with their New Age beliefs. In that sigh, I heard all the arguments that we have had over the years. These arguments are the reason for this site.
<sigh> You just don’t understand unconditional love. I know that God is too loving to torture anyone in hell, to require Jesus to die on the cross or to require that someone accept Jesus Christ in order to get to heaven. If you only understood unconditional love as well as I do, you would know how silly Christian theology really is.
But what if human beings have only an imperfect love and need to admit the inadequacy of this love and accept God’s help to love perfectly for heaven to be possible? What if love is a two-way street that requires the kind of sacrifice exemplified by the cross? What if eternal life with only imperfect human love was horrible? These questions don’t seem to have occurred to my father despite a recent traumatic experience.
After nearly losing his legs after a nasty spill because of the complications of diabetes, my father was moved to a rehabilitation facility where he was expected to take several months to recover. The facility was a pleasant building that looked good on the outside and had won a number of awards. My father later described it, however, as a Dickensian “charnal house” (a house of death) and went to enormous lengths to get himself released months early. He told me that the pain medications had caused him to think he was being tortured in a Russian prison camp and that the place was so bad that if he hadn’t escaped, it would have driven him crazy.
The problem is that my father has always had a materialistic understanding of love. If you had three square meals a day and a roof over your head, then you were being well-treated and providing this level of “love” was the government’s primary function. Anyone who denied that the government had a role in providing this “love” to someone was an evil, selfish and inhuman monster incapable of genuine humanity. The idea that love is more than three square meals and a roof over your head and that other institutions such as the church or the family were more important than the government never occurred to my father. And yet, put him in an award winning rehabilitation centre where he was getting what professionals would describe as excellent care and he is so miserable that he becomes desperate to escape.
The truth is that the materialistic world view that finds divorce, abortions, homosexual marriage and transgender sexual identification to be acceptable is fundamentally wrong. It is a difficult truth, but human beings cannot be happy by getting what we think we want. Instead, the key to true happiness is for human beings to learn to die to ourselves and be the people that God wants us to be in order that we might live in joyful fellowship with others. This might mean giving up pornography or alcohol or smoking if you are an addict. It might mean learning to have regular hours, or working late nights or not getting enough sleep. It might mean sacrificing pride, acknowledging mistakes or asking for forgiveness. Whatever the cost, however, true love is worth it.
The bottom line is that the self-sacrificing pursuit of perfect love taught to us by Jesus Christ and his disciples in the New Testament is not a set of arbitrary rules given to us by some tyrannical God. Rather, pursuing perfect love with God’s help and living with those who are engaged in this pursuit is heaven. The only alternative is an eternity of the inadequate, “charnal house” love that human beings are capable of without God’s help. We can see this if we consider what people say when they are complaining about those they love with imperfect human love. “I don’t know what she wants from me. I work hard, pay the bills and I don’t sleep around. What does she have to complain about?”
To deny the perfect love of Christ is to reject the only pathway to true fulfillment, happiness and joy that is available to human beings. It seems paradoxical, but the way of the cross is the way to paradise.