I will always love you

When I entered the conference, atonement debate was a still hot potato, but the lobbing of it had settled, and, for the most part, the various camps were simply tucking in to supper, relishing their own spuds and ignoring whatever strange-to-heretical garnishes others chose to digest. And after all, we were johnny-come-latelys to the debate; discussion of a plethora of models of atonement had been vigorous in the wider Christian world for some time before we warmed up the topic. 

With ears now attuned to this word "atonement," I pick up threads of it everywhere, slowly weaving an eclectic tapestry in shades of openness, variety, possibility, imagination, and reconciliation. The promise of hopefulness, I believe, is what ties them all together. Isn't that what salvation brings? A hope that in spite of our fallenness, we are loved? A hope that in spite of our failures, we have a purpose? A hope that in the end, all the pain and wretchedness will somehow work out all right? 

Where's the hope in an angry God who must punish someone for the inevitable failings he's engineered into his creatures? The idea that God would destroy his very self to save his oh-so-culpable creation from his own unquenchable wrath doesn't provoke loving gratefulness so much as unsettled fear in me! Whatever faithfulness comes from that servitude is motivated by self-preservation. 

Instead, the conceptions of atonement that bring both my heart and mind to worshipful response are those that paint a picture of a loving God reconciling his creation to himself. In his book, Jesus and Community, Gerhard Lohfink suggests that atonement isn't about God looking to punish someone, but God's way of saying "no matter what you do to me and mine, I will still figure out a way to love you and make it all okay, even at significant cost to myself."

Wow. That makes me fall down and worship! If that lack of vindictiveness, if that perfectly complete picture of a loving creator doesn't convict me of my sinfulness -- my failure to act as I have been created to be -- I don't think an angry God who "has just gotta make somebody pay for all this!" is going to do it.

Comments

Anonymous said…
good words, Karla
kar0ling said…
Thank you, Dora.

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