This entry was posted on Sunday, July 20th, 2014 at 11:49 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
Total Love for the Whole Human Race
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
July 20, 2014
Genesis 18:20-33 John 3:3-17 Psalm 86
God’s greatest wish is to save the whole human race. We heard about God’s forgiveness and mercy in our Psalm this morning, in God’s discussion with Lot, and in the words of Jesus. Today’s Psalm is full of statements about God’s love and forgiveness for us. David sings, “You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.” And he says further, “Great is your love toward me.” From an earlier time period, Lot bargains with God. And in his bargaining, God says that if only 10 righteous people are in Sodom, He will not destroy the city. And then there are those comforting words of Jesus in John 3,”God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”
Jesus came into our world for the sake of saving the whole human race. Swedenborg tells us that one of Jesus’ earliest perceptions was the state of humanity then. We are told that Jesus saw that the world was filled with self-love and that it was in grievous need of salvation. In fact, we are told that Jesus was horrified at the state of humanity then. But at the same time, Jesus had a perception that by the union of His humanity with the Divinity of His soul, He would be able to save the human race and establish a new church.
Jesus’ life on earth was one of total love for the whole human race. And so great was His love, that He wanted to save a fallen humanity. Salvation means giving all the Divine happiness and joy that God has to us. Salvation means lifting us all up into heaven, which is the same thing as saying, lifting us into God’s own sphere of love and happiness. Salvation of humanity, and giving us the joys of heaven to eternity was God’s greatest wish. Swedenborg tells us,
With the Lord, when He was in the world, there was no other life than the life of love towards the entire human race, which He burned with a desire to save to eternity. That is the very celestial life, by which He united Himself to the Divine, and the Divine to Himself–for Being itself, or Jehovah, is nothing else than Mercy, which is of love to the whole human race–and that life was of pure love . . . (AC 2253).
And the salvation of the whole human race continues to be God’s greatest wish. His unbounded love for us wills to bring us into union with Himself, and to fill us with the love and joy of His Holy Spirit.
The Lord wills the salvation of all, and therefore the salvation of all is His end . . . His coming, redemption, and the passion of the cross, were for the sake of the salvation of men . . . the salvation of men was and forever is His end (TCR 142).
When I was meditating on these passages, I began to see God in a different way. I thought about God’s will to save us. And I saw God as a Being who was asking me into His life. I saw God as a Being who wanted me as His friend. I don’t think that this is overly humanizing God. Remember that God is a Human Being. God is The Divine Human Being, with all the emotions that make us human. Swedenborg suggests that this is God’s nature. He says,
The Lord, from the Divine love or mercy, wishes to have all near to Himself; and so that they should not stand at the doors, that is, in the first heaven; but He wishes them to be in the third; and, if it were possible, not only with Himself, but in Himself. Such is the Divine love, or the Lord’s love (AC 1799).
This is a very different God from the one some think of. I hear again and again about people being turned off by organized religion because they have been taught that God punishes and casts into hell. But God can do none of these things. God is all love and can only wish to befriend us all. He can only do good to us, and strive with all His wisdom and power to bring us into a love relationship with Himself.
But salvation is only possible if we respond to God’s love. Like all lovers, God can’t force Himself on us. If God could force His will on us, everyone would be in heaven. I thought about our capacity to sin. My thinking about sin changed, also. I saw sin as turning our back on God. As sad lovers can tell, love can be rejected. Free will gives us the ability to spurn God, and to turn away from love. I began to think of sin as spurning God’s love. I saw it as letting God down. That passage from Luke came to mind where Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. It is one of those few passages that really show Jesus’ human side. The passage is as follows,
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Luke 13:34)
The truth is that God does long to gather us under His Divine wing, as a mother hen does her chicks. This may be the passage that the great German poet Schiller had in mind in his Ode to Joy. “All men become brothers wherever your gentle wing is.” Beethoven set this beautiful poem to music in his great ninth symphony. And when the poem gets to that line from Schiller, all the instruments drop off and in lovely four part a cappella harmony, the voices all mix and mingle in the most beautiful and plaintive melodies that rise and fall in almost a plea, or prayer, for all humanity to be brothers under God’s gentle wing.
I think seeing God this way, and seeing sin this way are more positive ways of viewing both. God is supreme heavenly love that wishes to draw all to Himself, and sin is turning our backs on God. This gives us a much more positive way of viewing our role in spiritual life. Our role is simply to turn toward God’s love. Our role is to open up a channel in our hearts for God. Our role is to think of God’s love and orient our life toward it. Someone once told me that we give power to whatever we think of. He said it’s like this. What happens if I tell you, “Whatever you do, don’t think about a pink elephant.” What will be the one image that then enters our minds? Of course it will be that pink elephant! When we think of God’s love, and of His ardent desire to give us His love and joy, and when we think of our role as turning toward this love, what, then, will fill our minds? Won’t it be that very Divine Love and that God who wants to gather us under His wings as a mother hen?
This is not to say we can ignore character defects. When they appear, we need to see them, acknowledge them, and turn away from them. They do fulfill a use in our spiritual life. They remind us that we always need God in our life to fill our souls with His Holy Spirit.
That brings us back to God. All the good we have in our lives, all the love that we share with others, all the blessings and peace that we feel are from God. They are God’s gift to us, because He loves us. They are God’s gifts to us because God wants to give everyone all that He has. And since God is all good, and all loving, goodness and love are what he ceaselessly gives us. It is God’s greatest wish that we but receive them.
Your smallest free-will offering would be greatly appreciated for this important work. Cheques may be made out to The Edmonton New Church Society, and mailed to:
Church of the Holy City, 9119-128A Avenue, Edmonton, AB T5E 0J6