Last Sunday, I visited a non-denominational evangelical church. This church is doing a series on disappointment. It showed a scene from the movie Bruce Almighty in which Bruce is at Niagra Falls and learns on live TV that he did not get the anchor position that he wanted. Bruce has a melt-down before all of his viewers! The church refrained from showing us the part in which Bruce cusses out the network.
The person speaking to us was the retired senior pastor. He was presenting our awareness of God’s love for us as a solution for disappointment, or at least as something that can lessen disappointment. The pastor was saying that God’s love does not change. Our love changes from day to day, even from moment to moment, on account of how we feel and often in response to how other people are acting. God’s love, by contrast, is constant.
The pastor then told a story that he said he did not tell the service before us, and it was about when he was on the road and a woman was trailing him. He deliberately slowed down his car just to upset her. Later, he apologized to Jesus and confessed that what he did was not particularly loving. He said it would not happen again. The pastor then looked up at us briefly, and we laughed.
The pastor also said that God is forgiving. He told us a story about when he was in the Navy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. People were afraid that nuclear war was around the corner, and, for the first time, the pastor felt a need to make peace with God. He was confessing thousands of sins, and he said that God told him, “I forgive you of all that.”
I could identify, somewhat, with what the pastor was saying about God’s love being constant. Usually, in reading the Bible, I question that, since there is so much about God’s wrath and judgment. There is Jesus’ saying that God won’t forgive us if we don’t forgive others (Matthew 6:15; Mark 11:26). Is Jesus saying that God will love us in the same way that we love others? I hope not, for our love is pretty brittle, as the pastor was pointing out!
But what if God’s love is constant, even though God judges people, or even when God withholds official forgiveness to teach people a lesson? God wants to teach people that there are consequences of sin. The problem, of course, is that people die in the process. A number of people have died from God’s judgment before they even had a chance to repent in this life. I think of numerous stories in the Bible to that effect. I suppose we can say that God’s love is still constant, since God may give people a chance to repent in the afterlife. I don’t know. Universalists do like to appeal to Ezekiel 16:53, which talks about Sodom being restored.
In short, while I do not currently know how to iron things out, theologically-speaking, it makes sense to me that God’s love would be constant: that God would be that mature, in contrast to many of us, who can be easily offended. There is something within God that keeps God committed to people, even when they disappoint them.
Something I liked about this church: it sent me an e-mail thanking me for visiting! No other church that I have visited in this particular area has done that, even though I gave them my name and address. “Well, they’re busy.” Too busy to drop a line to a first-time guest?