Some of you may remember this picture. Depending on how you look at it, do you see a young woman, or an old woman? It’s a change in perspective. Same picture, different perspective. That’s what happens in faith. Same God, same Bible, same Lord, but…a different way of encountering the message depending on how we have grown up and what’s been emphasized.
If you have grown up with stern authoritarian figures you may be a controlling person yourself and you may take notice in the Bible of God’s sovereignty and control and gravitate towards passages that emphasize such. But if you tended to be loved and affirmed then you might have a tendency to see the dynamics of a loving God as you focus on certain scriptures. This is a generalization but it’s how many people approach the Bible.
I grew up in a loving family though not affectionately so. I was a first born child among three. I grew up as a controlling person, fun but anxious to please and control. Maybe I controlled situations through humor. But enough psychoanalyzing me. Anyway I eventually became a Calvinist. Yep, a strict view of the God who is sovereign and controlling of every molecule, and a God who won’t tolerate sin. Yes, God gave his Son to die for sin and that initiative by God called for strict obedience and lots of expectations of others.
Eventually stories like the Prodigal Son caught my eye and I discovered I had been like the older son, doing and believing everything rightly. I yearned for the love that the prodigal received and looked for that loving God in the scriptures. And I found that God. Ah, the paradigm shift. Then I started to read books by Brennan Manning and Larry Crabb and others who saw the love. And so I began to absorb all the relevant scriptures about love. Those were the ones that began to stand out to me.
And now I look at people differently, at God and at the Bible differently. And I am now, wait for it, reading about Christian Universalism which is Christ centered, honoring of Biblical authority and focused on the love of God. I have discovered that just maybe there is a way of hope for God’s creation whereby the love of God changes everything. There is a DNA built into the creation that needs to be connected to its source- the God of love. God is love. The eternity is filled with love. Sin is its absence. The absence of God. I don’t want to be absent of God.
One more thing. We have all grown up using different Bibles and thus different translations. And even though I have been to seminary and a pastor for a million years it was only recently that I happened on translations and scholarship that allowed me to see that there are words which when translated a certain way convey a different meaning than I had ever encountered. I like these translations because they fit into the new way I see God’s love. Yep, I am biased towards love and against punishment. Words like hell, gehenna, hades, sheol, and ‘eternal’ have all been written and translated from greek and latin in ways that influence how we believe.
But more of that another time. So let’s get to loving. God knows we need more of these days.