Into the grey: Love and hate
There is something called “The Sinner’s Prayer.” In it, you acknowledge that you are a sinner deserving of hell but that you believe Jesus is God incarnate who died on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice to pay for your sins and was resurrected 3 days later. This earns you a spot in heaven.
This was a 2 pronged discussion. The first was to make sure that the person in front of you knows that they’re a sinner who is on a one track ride to eternal torment and misery in hell and has no hope of ever earning their way into heaven. The second prong was that “for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Now, there is a 3rd piece but that’s for another blog.
Because there was nothing more important than converting people to Christianity, we had these talks and conversations all the time. Most sermons, youth events, lock-ins, cookouts or any gatherings of Christians revolved around those 2 prongs of discussion. You are a sinner and will never be good enough, but the unconditional love of Christ can save your soul.
If you’ve listened to pretty much any of our podcasts, you already know about how constantly hearing I was deserving of hell negatively affected me so I don’t really want to dive into that here. But I also learned about this idea: God loves us so much that He sent Jesus. Now, I don’t want to get into the idea of Jesus having to die on our behalf (for that listen to our episode on Penal Substitutionary Atonement). But I learned about this idea of God’s unconditional love.
This idea of unconditional love has transformed every aspect of my life. Love taught me that everyone belonged and no one was excluded; race, gender identity, sexuality, past choices, not a single person was excluded from the love of Christ. Love has taught me to seek out my biases and to work on correcting them. Love has taught me to fight the misogyny and racism in my own life and around me. Love taught me healing and acceptance for myself.
I didn’t need any help knowing I was flawed and broken. I don’t think anyone does. But Love. Love has transformed me. Love has brought me healing. Love has brought me life and hope for the future. As much as I want to be angry at the Church, it planted a small seed within my soul that has grown into a great forest.
I want to vilify the Church, but it has introduced me and so many others to the idea of unconditional love. I want to exonerate the Church, but it’s toxicity almost killed me and has harmed so many others. Things just aren’t so black and white.