I have a friend who was married for over twenty years. One day she found out that her husband was having an affair. In fact, he had gone to prostitutes for a while and then found this other woman. He was not sorry. Her world collapsed. She would go to work and not remember any of the drive. She became so physically ill she threw up. She couldn't think straight or concentrate for a year. This is what his unfaithfulness did to her. You probably know someone like her- maybe you have even been her before. I think God feels even more deeply than this. I know we like to think of God as someone who is utterly 'other', someone who is completely unaffected by what we do or how we feel. There is some safety in thinking in this way. If God is so far removed- so utterly 'holy' then what we do doesn't really matter. Our sin is not a big deal and therefore God's wrath wont be such a big deal either. This is not who we see in Jesus. This is not who the Word portrays God to be. God is intimately related to us- humankind who are His creation. I think that God being wholly other than we are means that He loves more deeply, more truly, more passionately than we mere humans can imagine. I think that His capacity to suffer is just as deep and wholly other than ours. We black out, we escape into fantasy or delusion, we deny and ignore. He never does. I think He FEELS in a way that we can not understand. He knows every inch of our rejection of His love, every detail of every betrayal and He takes it all in. He absorbs it in ways we will never understand.
As we look to theology to make sense of who God is we are betrayed at a key point and I think it is important to bring it up now. Most of our 'official' theology was written by lawyers. That's right, Calvin, Luther, Augustine and many others were all trained as lawyers. Now, bypassing all the great lawyer jokes I know let's look critically at what this means. I have some good friends who are lawyers and the reality is that they don't think like the rest of us. I read poetry and they read loopholes. Their worldview is different than most of the rest of us. I think that that is very valuable when trying to write a constitution that will protect the rights of a nation's citizens but it is not so helpful- or at least of limited help- in understanding God. Contrary to some popular books the Bible is not a code to be deciphered or a manual to build a healthy life. It is a love story. I heard a man preach once on Genesis 1 and proclaim emphatically that whales were the first mammal that God created. Well, Genesis 1:21 does list sea monsters first when talking about what God created that day... No, I am sorry Genesis 1 is a beautiful poem about the Creation. It is full of wonderful truths about God, nature, and Man. But reading it with a lawyer's eye is like reading Psalm 23 in order to determine how to get the best return on our flock of sheep. Excuse me while I get up, pace back and forth and give a loud frustrated 'AAARRRGGGHHH!'
So now finally, we come to Limited Atonement. Honestly, I have studied this and tried to get my head around what people are saying with this one and I don't get it. Limited Atonement means that Jesus only died for the elect- those who will be saved. He did not die for the those who will not be saved. Rev in the last comment section said truly that people for both sides could trot out our scriptures for both positions for and against this point and we would not get anywhere. I suppose he is right depending on where we want to go. It seems to me that what the Calvinist is saying is that God accomplishes everything He sets out to do and therefore if some are not in the end saved then He must never have purposed their salvation on the cross. That's lawyer talk for sure. Jesus did not hang on the cross writhing back and forth thinking, 'This blood is for Suzy, but not for Jimmy. This blood is for Sammy, but not for Jenifer.' The picture of the nature of Jesus and of His Father from start to finish is that of a God who stands on the hill over Jerusalem and pleads for His people to come to Him. And lest we lose sight of the facts we are all His people. There is no other creator. The only people walking this earth are people He created. 1 John 2:2 says that, 'he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.' There are scriptures that could be construed to mean that this is not so, I suppose but the point of what John is saying here is that you need not fear your sin because Jesus death on the cross covers all sin. I am not a Universalist. I do understand that many will reject His sacrifice. Indeed most today do not know or understand His sacrifice and will therefore not benefit from it. But I do not see any value in delineating some kind of fine line between those Jesus loves and redeems and those whom He loves and who remain lost.
I guess the point I want to make in this post is that I don't really care if technically Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross is only 'for' the redeemed or if He really did mean that His sacrifice was sufficient to cover the sins of all men for all time. The nature of Jesus is that He loves all of us with a real and tangible love that is deeper and more passionate than pitiable human words can convey. Do what you want with the lawyer talk but do not minimize His love because to do so would minimize His pain. The depth of His pain is real just as the depth of His love is. His wrath makes no sense otherwise and His wrath is real as well. Since I have been back in the West I have heard several people say that we hear too much preaching on the love of God, what we need is more preaching on His wrath. I hate this kind of talk with a great hate. It is a misunderstanding of who He is on so many levels. There is no wrath without great love and I don't hear anyone talking about His love with any depth of passion. Preaching on His love is sufficient to change the world. Too many have opted out of the true Gospel for a bunch of lawyer talk that presents passionless principals for living that look nothing like the one who laid down His life for us. Let us be passionate, feeling, loving people who serve and walk in the ways of a passionate, feeling, loving God. Surely His sacrifice has purchased at least that much?