I was reading from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans this morning. In chapter 9 he deals with the issue of why so many Israelites had rejected Jesus as their Messiah, especially if they were God’s chosen people (which they are). That conversation must wait for a different day. What caught my immediate attention was this. In his opening thoughts, Saint Paul speaks of his own deep personal pain over their rejection of Jesus saying that, “I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ! [emphasis mine]—if that would save them” (Romans 9.3).
Did you catch that? Saint Paul equates being cursed with being cut off from Christ! In other words, if we do not have a relationship with Christ we are looking at eventual eternal destruction. Christ is the only way to God the Father, our only Source of life, because only Christ’s atoning death makes reconciliation with God the Father possible and cleanses us sufficiently to live in God’s direct Presence as the Christian hope contained in the NT promises. Without Christ, we are all without hope and a future. How do I know this to be true? Because Jesus Christ is resurrected from the dead, an event with solid historical evidence and the evidence of the shared experience of hundreds of millions of lives of Christians over time and across cultures.
This thinking and theology does not play well with modern audiences, at least in the west, which is unfortunate for obvious reasons. Instead, we are often told to “choose love, not hate.” I couldn’t agree more. What I disagree with, however, is the definition of “love” that most have in mind when they say this. But if you are in agreement with what Saint Paul says above, then you are on the right track.
True love always seeks the best for the beloved. Saint Paul loves his fellow Israelites so much, i.e., wants the best for them, that he is willing to be cut off from Christ—willing to submit to eternal destruction—if he could get some of them to believe that Christ is the only way to God’s promised new world as explained above. Being cut off from Christ, whether we fall away from him or are too proud and arrogant (and foolish) to believe in him in the first place, results in Death and eternal destruction, in being cut off from the Presence of the living God who is our only Source of Life forever.
How is advocating for beliefs/lifestyles that magnify our brokenness and rebellion that result in our alienation from God our Father and our eternal destruction in anyone’s best interest?
Of course having a real relationship with Christ means that we must have the willingness and humility to repent of (turn away from) following our own path to happiness because such a human-devised path doesn’t exist and never has. The only path to true happiness and thriving in God’s created order is following the path that our Creator has set out for us because only our Creator can really know what is best for us that allows us to thrive; he is our Creator after all. This is not easy for humans because we don’t want to be the creature. We want to be the Creator, but we lack God’s wisdom, (fore)knowledge, and power (for starters). Thriving in this mortal life begins with following the 10 Words (Commandments—Exodus 20) and ends with imitating Christ, the living embodiment of God our Father and his 10 Words.
If you really want to thrive—and let us be very clear, God created us to thrive and wants us to thrive as evidenced by the creation narratives before the Fall (Genesis 1-3) and elsewhere in the Scriptural narrative, not to mention the lived experience of hundreds of millions of humans over time and across cultures—then choose Christ. It is the only way to succeed. Period. End of story. But be warned: following Christ is not easy or for the faint of heart because we are all profoundly broken and sin-sick creatures. Yet what worthwhile endeavor in life is ever easy? And what is more worthwhile than choosing to follow Christ who is our path to thriving in this mortal life and enjoying God’s promised new heavens and earth forever?
So by all means, choose love and not hate. But be careful what kind of things and people you choose to love and hate. There is only one Way to thrive and to enjoy eternal life. Those who advocate for the unjust, the wicked, the perverse, the disordered, or the chaotic loves that swirl in and around us and which lead to our mortal death and eternal destruction have never offered any kind of explanation as to how this is a “loving” thing to do and how their beloved will thrive. Please don’t be the fool who rejects Christ and is cut off from him. Choose love. Choose Christ. Choose to live and thrive, even in a dark and desperate world or in the chaos of your own life.
For those of you who have ears to hear, listen and understand.