The other day, I saw a bumper sticker that proudly proclaimed “God is Prolife”. This struck me as an odd thing to say, if my assumptions are correct. If this person is contrasting Pro-life with Pro-choice, (a fictional dichotomy invented by abortion opponents), then the claim is that their god is not in favor of choice. This seems rather odd, to me, given my knowledge of mainline Christian theology. Assuming theirs is the god of Abraham, the claim that he is “Prolife”, or “against things (or just people) being killed” is also spurious, but that isn’t something I’m going to address today.
Let us clearly do away with the idea that God is against choice. Or, to put it more bluntly, if we were hand crafted, then we were clearly meant to have free will. We were meant to choose our own actions in life, and if there is such a thing as sin, we are expected to do it. We are expected to make mistakes from time to time. And, we were meant to be forgiven for them.
There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
-Romans 3: 23-24
New International Version
This is a Bible passage, much loved by evangelicals. It is used to tell people that they are bad, and need Jesus to save them from themselves. I’m sure that many of my American readers have been asked this rapid series of questions, at some point:
“Have you ever lied? Have you ever stolen? Have you ever lusted after someone? Well, then you are a lying, thieving, adulterer!”
The inherent unworthiness of people (or, at least other people in some cases) is a major theme in mainstream Christianity. All have sinned, at some point, and are unworthy of God’s love.
I disagree with that for so many reasons. I believe in a creator who loves creation, and us as a part of that. I believe that we are as children, learning to accept our limitations and live up to our potential. I believe that we are loved, as children, no matter how we have erred. I believe that the second part of the scripture is more important than the first: if it says that all have sinned, it also says that all are redeemed by Gods grace.
I will address a bigger problem I have with this scripture, and how it seems to fail to guide the social action of most Christians later this week, but today, I want to talk about how it guides my faith. Numerous times in the Bible, we are told that God is Love, and that God’s love is like that of a parent. In fact, the Hebrew tells us that God’s love is both masculine and feminine in different places, as it relates to different situations; sometimes stern, sometimes comforting. (God’s creative womb is mentioned in Job 38:29, and giving birth in Deut. 32:18, if your translator was honest.)
If we are children to the creator, and if, as children, we have been given the right to go into creation and learn through experience and observation, then it does not hold with reason that we could ever be punished eternally for our temporal crimes. We each have the ability to change our lives, live up to our inherent worth and dignity, and become people of value. We have the power to redeem ourselves, at least in part, and it only follows that there is, then, no way in which we can damn ourselves completely.
I believe that the creator has revealed enough of the plan to us, in many forms, through many tongues and equations, that we are starting to piece it together. The world is more complex than we can truly grasp, though we can put together broad guidelines that make logical sense to our simple minds. As so many facts can only be grasped by pure logic, there are those which only emotion can truly hold. The Universe was filled with wondrous things, and things that require love or hope to fathom. There are things that frighten us to our core without our knowing why. I don’t think that we’ve learned The Truth. We will have to earn that.
Life, all life, has been a search for truth and meaning. There is meaning there, waiting to be discerned. If we work out how to live and grow together as a species and a planet, then maybe we can put all the different parts of Truth together and figure out what it is. But we don’t do ourselves any favors by pretending that God is hiding it from us. We have free will, and the right to make choices. We have the responsibility to learn how to use it. We have to exercise it. We each have, not just the ability, but a responsibility to learn from our mistakes and better ourselves, but also to figure out our place in the world and how we can live our lives to the fullest.
That means that we will all make mistakes, because there is not one right answer for every person in every situation. We can choose to come back from those mistakes, and do better “this time”, each and every time. We are valuable simply for trying to be our best and truly learning from mistakes. And when our choices lead us away from our best, we will be forgiven.