My wife asked me, how about the message of love? Isn’t that the central message that Jesus preached?
Well, I have no arguments against love. It is what makes life worth living for me. Yet the concept of love was not unique to Jesus as it can also be found in other texts, some of them older than Jesus, like those of the Buddha or the Tao Te Ching.
However, it is the very concept of love that makes me reject the central doctrine of Christianity – that unless one believes in Jesus, he will be condemned and punished for all eternity. That doesn’t sound like love at all. That sounds more like blackmail.
People make such a fuss about Jesus willingly going through suffering, pain and death because of his love for us. However, what is a few hours worth of pain and suffering for an eternal God when he already knows that he is going to live again anyway? There was no real threat, danger or loss so was it really that great a sacrifice? In fact, if God were indeed the all-powerful creator, then all of this seems to be just an elaborate drama he created to amuse himself.
“Oh but he is perfectly just. He can’t just forgive sins.”
Really? He can’t? Who’s going to stop him?
“But justice demands payment or punishment. God can’t go against his nature of being perfectly just.”
Again, really? Are you telling me that God cannot do what humans can do with relative ease — to go against our own nature, to forgive and forget, let bygones be bygones, water under the bridge and all that?
Probably the most quoted passage in the Bible is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)
You know what that sounds like? Imagine yourself trapped on a roof in the middle of a storm. The water is rising fast. Out of nowhere you see a man in a lifeboat approaching. Then the man shouts and says, “Hey, the town mayor knows your situation. He loves you, that’s why he sent me to tell you that you can get on this boat and be saved but you can only do that if you also profess to love the mayor and promise to vote for him during the next election. So what will it be?”
If you think that’s ridiculous, well, I agree. Now think about John 3:16 again.
In fact, this passage only seems to about love but it is really about fear and guilt.
If it were really about love, then there would be no need for the artificial guilt created by trying to convince us that we are somehow to blame for the suffering and death of God’s son because our great-great-great-great-great grandparents decided to disobey a silly command not to eat a fruit that was so conveniently placed in the middle of the garden where they lived. It’s almost like placing a loaded gun on your child’s bed and telling him not to touch it.
If it were really about love, there would be no need for the threat of eternal punishment for those who don’t believe at face value, for those who question and ask for evidence, and who actually care about establishing truth in as logical and scientific manner as possible, knowing that there are many charlatans going about, and not only charlatans but people who are sincere, but wrong nonetheless.
A deity who possesses perfect love would have no need to use fear. Love would be the only language that deity would ever need. Sadly, that is not the Christian message — at least not the traditional one.
Perhaps those so fond of preaching hellfire and brimstone should reflect on yet another verse in the Bible that says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18 NIV).
If you think about it, the most logical way that we can truly thrive and be happy on this planet is (cliche though it may sound) by truly caring for and loving our fellow humans, and also other beings, and our environment.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear. That is perhaps the only message we need to hear.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.