At the moment I am reading a book called, “The Skeletons in God’s Closet” by Joshua Ryan Butler. In short, the book explores three tough topics raised by Scripture, namely, hell, judgment, and holy war. Butler contends that many people think of these issues as “skeletons in God’s closet,” issues that if looked at closely would reveal a cruel, vindictive tyrant rather than a good and loving God. It is an outstanding book that has once again solidified my faith in the beauty, and justice, and goodness of God, even as he is revealed in and through hell, judgment, and holy war.
This week I came across a section called “A Love to Change the World” that I want to share with you. Butler writes about a friend of his named Ian, who had rejected Christianity because in his words, “I have come to believe not that God is love, but that love is god.” When asked what he means, Ian responds, “When I’m hiking in the mountains or holding a newborn baby, I have these moments of epiphany where I feel the universe is motivated by love and sustained in love.” Love, for Ian, is an abstract concept, something like an animating force behind the universe whereby the world would be better off if people simply embraced this ethereal sense of ‘love’ and rejected all claims of exclusivity (such as the claims of Jesus Christ).
Butler responds to Ian by asking him: “Is love as an abstract concept enough?” He writes, “We might feel the love of the universe when holding a newborn baby, but what about when that baby grows up and is trafficked into the sex industry as a teenager where she is… brutally exploited for the profit of others? Will it be enough to tell her, “There is a kind of love out there in the universe, I think, somewhere that if you know where to look for it, can creep in at the good moments”? We might feel the love when hiking in the beauty of the forested hills, but what happens when those hills become home to a million buried bones of those slaughtered in a genocide like Rwanda’s?”
“For a world torn apart by injustice, does “love is god” hold any redemptive power as good news? Outside the sheltered suburbs of the West, does it offer any real solace for the raped and ravaged of the world? Can ‘love is god’ deal with the skeletons in our ground?”
“Our world is desperately in need of love that is more than a comfort; we need love that is also a confrontation. If God is love, as the gospel proclaims God is, then we are in deep trouble, because we live in defiance of that love every day. We need only pick up the morning paper, or take an honest look in the mirror, and the evidence is staring us in the face. We are inventors of destruction. We tear down what God wants to build up. We do violence to God’s goodness, his shalom, his flourishing in the world. We create ways to live in opposition to God’s holy love.”
“The gospel boldly proclaims, “God is love” and is unabashed in openly declaring what this means: the world will be judged by the love of God in Christ. God’s holy love hits dirt and pavement: it is not an abstract philosophy chained within a spiritual prison, but an embodied kingdom that breathes life and redemption into the physical reality of our world.”
“And we are in luck, because God freely offers the mercy we all need: to forgive us of our sin, free us from ourselves, and fill us with himself - with his gracious Spirit - to makeus fit for the love that permeates his coming kingdom. God’s love can redeem our skeletons.” Amen.