We are God’s children, right? All of humanity. His creation. His creativity. We came from his DNA, his image. We are his offspring. His children. The result of his desire. Of course, he loves us. He really loves us. All of us. The world. The world before, the world now, the world to come. How can he not? We are all his. Damn straight! Right?
I’m a father. I love my children. I’ll always love my children. I enjoy watching them tackle life and do well. It is hard to watch them make choices that have unfortunate consequences. They don’t always heed my advice. But nonetheless, I love them still the same. Matter of fact, I can’t imagine any choice they could ever make that would separate them from my love. They could even reject me and as much as that would break my heart, I couldn’t love them any less. Actually, when they make decisions that put themselves in peril, I realize that I love them even more in those moments.
How could God’s love for humanity not be a gazillion times more powerful in the same way as a parent? If any of my adult children disowned me and refused to love me, I would be profoundly sad because I dearly desire a relationship with them. The last thing I would do is punish them for not loving me. I couldn’t imagine being so angry about their rejection that I would pursue them only to put them in a dungeon and make them suffer. Who would ever do such a thing to a prodigal son or daughter, right?
These kinds of thoughts have frequently occured to me as the years go by like last week when called out to a sudden death by our police department. A man my age had a medical event and died at home at the kitchen table during the afternoon. His wife found him and called 911 but the paramedics could not revive him. Soon their two young adult children arrived on scene. I was called and spent the next five hours with the wife and her two children as officers were making their report and while we waited for the coroner to arrive. It was a long wait as the coroner was working a 24-year-old overdose a few miles away and that was after finishing up with homicide in a nearby town.
While sitting with this family I asked if the deceased was a person of faith. The wife said, “No. He was an altar boy growing up but did not have a good experience with church. I and the kids never had any religion growing up.” I responded, “I hear that a lot.” They mustered a chuckle amid their brokenness. So once again, as I have hundreds of times, I’m sitting with people who are devastated by a tragic loss but who don’t go to church, people who may or may not have faith or belief in God. I can’t help but want to just love on these folks attempting to help and comfort them as best I can.
Since early on in my work as a chaplain I’d sit with these kind of people and my religious doctrinally hardwired theologically trained brain would wonder if these folks were “saved” or not. I frequently put the same question to God, “Surely God, you right now have great compassion and love for these folks far greater than I.” Over the years I began to have this great sense that God loved these folks I was with far greater than I ever could and that realization smacked hard against an often taught belief that God would not turn the other cheek and condemn poor broken souls I was with to eternal torment. That’s all I’m saying. That’s been my struggle. Maybe you too? Maybe not. BTW…this family reached out to me later and asked if I would help with the memorial and say a prayer. Say a “prayer.” We are all beggars simply showing other beggars where the food is.