God Loving Everyone

At church this morning, my pastor’s sermon was about attitude.  He referred to the Philippians 2 passage about letting the same mind be in us that was also in Christ Jesus, and he described the mind that was in Christ Jesus: loving towards everyone.  The pastor said that Jesus’ message of love for all is controversial because a number of people would like to think that God dislikes the same people whom they dislike.  According to the pastor, the way to get the right attitude is to focus on Christ.  Yet, the pastor also stated that there are mean people who know the Bible backward and forward.

I don’t have problems with the message that Christ loves everyone.  But I do struggle to bring that realization into my own life by myself loving everyone.  And my pastor’s right: just knowing what’s in the Bible is not enough.  That doesn’t necessarily change a person.  Reading and even remembering are not the same as truly absorbing.  I do believe that I need to remind myself continually of God’s love for me and everyone else, replacing my bitter thoughts with reminders of God’s love.

Some would say that I need to depend on God to change me.  Why is it hard for me to depend on God to change me?  Because, if God were to change me, I’d expect perfection.  I’d expect for God to make me more of an extrovert, or to enable me to interact well with people I do not like, and who do not like me.  When that perfection does not come, however, I feel that God has let me down, and I wonder how reliable he is.  Maybe there are other ways to conceptualize dependence on God, however.

Another thought: I’m reading the Book of Judges right now.  Actually, my posts on Judges will appear months from now, for I write ahead.  But I have a thought to share right now.  The latest story that I am reading in Judges is about the strife between Abimelech and the lords of Shechem in Judges 9, which was incited by God as punishment for their sin of killing the sons of Gideon (except for Abimelech).  While I was reading this story, I had a question: Did God love Abimelech and the lords of Shechem?  It doesn’t seem that God did.  God was not giving Abimelech a chance to repent, I don’t think.  And Jotham’s reprimand to the lords of Shechem seemed to be more of a curse on them than a plea for them to repent.

I think that, in the Book of Judges, God has a fair-minded respect for the dignity of human beings, which provides God with a moral sense, if you will.  (People may question this by pointing to Judges’ treatment of foreigners and women, but I guess that my point is that God in Judges in not amoral.)  Yet, God in Judges does not appear to love gross sinners.  The exception to this, however, would be the entire nation of Israel, which God continues to forgive and to rescue.  But I doubt that we can get the notion that God loves everybody from the Book of Judges.  Such a theme is arguably in certain other parts of the Hebrew Bible, such as some of the Psalms and Second Isaiah, and it also appears to be in the New Testament, such as Paul and the Gospels, at least when the Gospels are not as Israel-centric (or such is my impression, and there are others who may feel differently).  In a big-picture sense, in terms of the Bible, God does love everyone.  But the trees are sometimes (or maybe more often than sometimes) different from the forest.

Anyway, those are my ramblings for today.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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