“For God so loved the WORLD that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did NOT send the Son into the world to condemn the world, BUT in order that the world might be SAVED through him. (John 3.16-17, emphasis mine)
In America I’m guessing most of us have seen and heard the first part of the above passage, or a reference to it (i.e. “John 3.16” signs) more times than we can count. What is more, Christians universally affirm it’s true and good … YET, in my experience, we’ve internalized, lived, and told people this passage actually means something like, “God sent Jesus to die for you, so you need to intellectually affirm Jesus is Lord and God or else you’ll go to hell.” Do you know what I mean? Can you relate?
Let’s look at it another way: Assuming there’s an afterlife (life after death), what’s the default destination of humans? Are we born to go to heaven or to hell? Let’s make it even more poignant: Are we born to suffer and be sad here and now, to just have a “meh” type of life, or are we made to experience bliss and love of the most amazing sort here and now? I think a problem with some of my experience of Christianity is we start with and assume the negative (please note, I still name myself “Christian” and think I’m a faithful follower of Christ). We think the endpoint of people going into life is hell, which ONLY changes when she/he mentally chooses to think Jesus is Savior and God, … which means MOST people will go to hell.
What does this say about God? Does the Divine really and truly love “the world” if the default destination of people is hell? Would a good Creator and Parent willingly send the majority of people to an eternity of suffering or a fire of annihilation? When humans do that to their kids we name it child abuse or murder of the WORST sort … don’t we? Good parents GIVE life, they don’t TAKE it … you know what I mean?
I refer to the image of a god who will send EVERY person he created to hell, except whatever few “believe” in Jesus, as the “angry god”. I lived a good chunk of my life as if this version of God was real and true, and it had profound affects on me. While I could have chosen to not believe in this god, I think the results would have been the same either way, it made me more insecure, more fearful, more prone to anger, more worried, less loving, less welcoming, less kind, and less peaceful.
This leads me to something I’m more and more finding and thinking is a universal Truth: Each of us is increasingly formed by and into the image of whatever we think the guiding principles behind reality are, the nature and defining story of the world is, and/or what God is like (in my mind, these are 3 ways of saying the same thing). The kindest, most giving, most loving, and quite frankly the happiest people I’ve met are those who believe reality is rigged in our favor, the world is going somewhere wonderful, and God is good in a way we can understand and relate to. Conversely, those I’ve known who are marked by worry, fear, insecurity, anger, tumultuousness, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness think reality bites, the world is going to hell and a hand basket, and God is either not good or the Divine goodness is beyond the sense of humans. (Side note, I’ve been BOTH of those people!)
Both as a Christian and as a person I come back to what I led off with (John 3.16-17) and wonder: What if I trusted our Creator really does love the WORLD and does/will thus treat EVERYBODY the way we anticipate a good Parent would? What if I lived like Jesus came to free EVERYONE from the beliefs, systems, and sins that enslave us? That’s a BIG GOD, that’s a beautiful and expansive reality, that’s a loving world … and as my journey has led me to live and love as if it’s true, I’ve become the best version of myself across the board and life has been full of a peace, a joy, and a love that defy words (please note, like all humans I have struggles, ups and downs, “bad days”, and doubts, so I’m just speaking broadly 🙂
I’d sum it up like this: Trusting and living into the belief that beauty saturates reality, goodness is in everyone, and Divine Love wins, and will bring heaven to EVERYONE has revolutionized my life, lives of people dear to me, and I bet could yours too, with peace, joy, and love beyond words. It’s nothing short of living and loving from a mindset and worldview of abundance and joy, versus one of scarcity and fear. It’s moving from a mindset of scarcity and lack and into a mentality that says life and reality is a party, and EVERYONE is INVITED!
(I thought this pic from a Yoga Teacher Training I went to encapsulates the bliss and love I’m describing in this blog well.)
I didn’t arrive at these conclusions quickly or via one source. That said, wherever you’re at in your journey, I’d like to offer you a bit of “evidence” from my Christian context. I’m a hopeful Christian universalist, meaning I hope/believe/trust everyone will “end” in a heavenly place via the work of Christ, but recognize people have free will and could resist God’s love and goodness forever. I say that to point you toward a powerful book that gave me some really stable foundations in this belief, The Inescapable Love of God by Thomas Talbott, and to preface where we’re going 🙂
One of the things that blew my mind in the book was, when referencing what Jesus the Christ did and means for us and creation, the immense number of times the authors use “all” or “world” in a positive sense. God, salvation, bliss, and love are WAY bigger than I ever thought, I realized. With that mind, and already having some passages in mind, I did a word search in the Bible for “all” and “world”, and scanned through the New Testament to find “some” examples for you of what I was talking about. Selecting SOME of what to me seemed to be the most powerful passages for you, I have more than 50 below (feel free to read all, some, or none 🙂 but I’ll end with some concluding thoughts, so don’t miss those :). I’ll number them and throw in some comments (marked by “-“), but first, one quick word about “world”. In the New Testament “world” is often mentioned in a negative sense, but those are not meant in a humanity, creation, or the planet type manner, instead that form of the word is getting at the destructive, harmful, divisive, and shaming ways of the world (see examples of this in 1 John 2.15-17 & Jude 1.19). In those passages, “world” is about culture/society, but below, in a handful of examples, it’s about humanity and creation. Enjoy!
- He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until allof it was leavened.” (Matthew 13.33)
– To me this is FANTASTIC NEWS, because it seems to me to be metaphorically saying the yeast of heaven is going to leaven ALL of humanity, the world, or what have you.
- He replied, “Elijah is indeed coming and will restore allthings; (Matthew 17.11)
- But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God allthings are possible.” (Matthew 19.26)
- Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of allthings, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19.28)
– There are quite a few passages speaking of how ALL things are being made new, reconciled, unified, and so on.
- And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come. (Matthew 24.14)
- He said to them, “Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? (Mark 9.12)
- Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God allthings are possible.” (Mark 10.27)
– I include this because when we start by affirming God loves EVERYONE, and then apply this to the equation, what do we get? Doesn’t it point toward a heavenly destination for all?
- And he said to them, “Go into allthe world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. (Mark 16.15)
– This one, and others like it, stood out to me because it gets at God’s desire. The Divine’s passion is for ALL THE WORLD to hear how wonderful and amazing what God is doing in the world is.
- [John the Baptist says] as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
- “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 EVERY valley shall be filled,
and EVERY mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” (Luke 3.4-6)
- But even the hairs of your head are all Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12.7)
– Jesus is emphatic on how precious each of us are to our Heavenly Parent. Not only do I wonder does the Best Maker Ever create bad people, but I also question how our Heavenly Parent could do anything but care for us, teach us, heal us, and lead us in the most life-giving ways possible?
- Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and allthat is mine is yours. (Luke 15.31)
- Allthings came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all (John 1.3-4)
- He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that allmight believe through him. … The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. (John 1.7 and 1.9-10)
- The Father loves the Son and has placed allthings in his hands. (John 3.35) + And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.” (John 6.39-40)
– I combined these two passages because I think they’re greatly indicative of the Divine disposition toward each of us. All have been given to Christ and the Divine desire for us is a flourishing life, so how would that not happen?
- They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.” (John 4.42)
- And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw allpeople to myself.” (John 12.32)
- I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. (John 12.4-7)
- Jesus, knowing that the Father had given allthings into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, (John 13.3)
- After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you,2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. (John 17.1-4)
- “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17.20-23)
Jesus came for the WORLD. That’s an inclusive, expansive, and generous vision of God.
- ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon allflesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. (Acts 2.17)
- You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. (Acts 10.36)
- through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among allthe Gentiles for the sake of his name, (Romans 1.5)
- Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to allbecause all have sinned— … Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. (Romans 15.12 & 15.18)
Jesus means nothing less than life, in the BIGGEST sense of the word, for ALL!
- He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for allof us, will he not with him also give us everything else? (Romans 8.32)
- I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in allcreation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8.39)
– The Love of God, which I think saturates reality and is FOR and OF everyone, is an unstoppable force.
- For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead! (Romans 11.15)
- For God has imprisoned allin disobedience so that he may be merciful to all. (Romans 11.32)
- For from him and through him and to him are all To him be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11.36)
- whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the worldor life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, (1 Corinthians 3.22)
- yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are allthings and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Corinthians 8.6)
- If one member suffers, allsuffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. (1 Corinthians 12.26)
– This gets at a great point Talbott made in The Inescapable Love of God, how could we be happy in heaven while knowing a brother, sister, lover, mother, father, best friend, daughter, son, etc. was suffering excruciating torment in hell or had ceased to exist?
- [Love] bears allthings, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all (1 Corinthians 13.7)
- for as alldie in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. (1 Corinthians 15.22)
- When allthings are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15.28)
- that is, in Christ God was reconciling the worldto himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. (2 Corinthians 5.19)
- And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “Allthe Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” (Galatians 3.8)
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3.28)
- as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up allthings in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1.10)
– God’s plan is and always has been to gather up everyone and everything in the bliss of Christ.
- and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created allthings; (Ephesians 3.9)
one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4.6)
God is IN ALL. God links us all together. In light of that, how does an eternal hell or annihilation of a person even make sense?
- He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all) (Ephesians 4.10)
– So much WOW here! Paul is writing about how Jesus descended, i.e. went into hell and Death, with the point being: Jesus died and went to hell to fill Death with Christ, so that when we die we will experience nothing but Divine goodness.
- He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make allthings subject to himself. (Philippians 3.21)
- He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of allcreation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. … and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1.15-17, 30)
– This is one of my favorite passages and describes the Cosmic Christ. In my mind, this is saying nothing less than that the most beautiful soul and best human ever, Jesus the Christ, is also the Divine architect/author of us all, the firstborn of who we’ll all eventually resemble, and the glue (i.e. Love) that holds us all together.
- And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. (1 Thessalonians 3.12)
- who gave himself a ransom for all—this was attested at the right time. (1 Timothy 2.6)
- For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of allpeople, especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4.10)
– What the what? God is the Savior of ALL people … especially of those who believe? Two things come to my mind from this: (1) I think salvation is nothing short of the freedom from fear, worry, anger, scarcity, and insecurity unto joy, gratitude, peace, abundance, and love. And the more we’re in relationship with that Savior, the more salvation we’ll experience. (2) I’d come back to what I write about above: We become increasingly like whatever we think God/reality is like.
- For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, (Titus 2.11)
- but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of allthings, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1.2-3)
- And they shall not teach one another or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall allknow me, from the least of them to the greatest. (Hebrews 8.11)
- for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for allat the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9.26)
- For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, (1 Peter 3.18)
- The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but allto come to repentance. (2 Peter 3.9)
- and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2.2)
- And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. (1 John 4.14)
- And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making allthings new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21.5)
What do you think? I think it’s pretty overwhelming in the most incredible way, but naturally I’m biased. This leads me to faith. What is “faith”? (Did you see that coming? 🙂 Given how overly focused we’ve been in the West on “correct” thoughts/beliefs, I think the word has lost some intended power. When it comes to life, spirituality, and love I think to have faith is to trust. Faith, then, is trusting and living into the belief that beauty saturates reality, goodness is in everyone, and Divine Love wins. This may seem foolish and definitely runs counter to some evidence in the world and experiences in our lives … and I think it’s the path to more Light and Love for you and I, and everyone.
I was listening to a sermon from Judah Smith, pastor of Churchome (formerly City Church), the other day and he read John 13.36-14.14. He used this story about Jesus, Peter, Thomas, and Phillip to illustrate what “faith” is versus what it’s not. He essentially said faith is a trust that doesn’t need to fight it out, feel it out, or figure it out, like Peter, Thomas, and Phillip try to as they wrestle with what God is like and what Jesus is about to do.
I’d put it this way: Where do you get your truths from? Experience? The news? History? The Bible or other scriptures? The Constitution? Philosophy? Science? Your feelings? The wars in the world (be they literal, cultural, political, academic, or religious)? I think regardless there is ample evidence to either be pessimistic when it comes to the nature of life, reality, love, and God, OR optimistic. Our impulses to fight when it comes to safety, to feel what we feel, and to use our brains to figure things out are all good and each have times and places … AND they aren’t faith. Faith is possibly acknowledging and going through those impulses to trust something Bigger and Better is not only possible, it’s real. Faith is choosing to trust positivity and Love have the last word, and they are more True than other “truths” out there. This may be foolish, but I think it’s how good God is. Given how radically this “life”/”mentality”/”choice”/”faith” impacted my life, I’d love for you to meet that Creator, because Christ has brought me bliss, peace, and love I never knew were possible. Wow, that was a lot right? What do you think? What’s your experience?
If you enjoyed this you can sign up for email notifications of future blogs on the top right. Additionally, I have a Facebook page where I regularly post articles, blogs, quotes, meditations, etc. to encourage us to more Light and Love. Again, to the top right there’s a link for you to “Like” the page. ❤
Grace and peace,