September 1, 2022, 2:00 PM

“Trapped”

If [a] nation…turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it…but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it Jeremiah 18:8,10

Ouch! I feel trapped by these types of passages in the Old Testament. I particularly felt caught in my youth. Trapped by a God who was able to change God’s mind, and imprisoned if I did not do the right thing. The message was: “Do good in God’s sight, and get rewarded. Do something bad, and it’s all over. Do something bad long enough, and there is punishment for all eternity.”

The problem with attempting to do good is that what we do seems never to be enough. How many prayers do we need to pray to be good? How many church services, how many good works, how many self-denials? Just how many? Please God, give us a number so that we can avoid being punished.

Such questioning reflects stereotypical notions of God that are baked into our culture, our minds, and our church history. Only a judgmental God could offer sweet rewards on one hand, and slap us with a ruler on the other hand. Sadly, this is how our current culture operates.

However, does this two-handed concept of God fit the real nature of God? Jeremiah thought so. In reality, Jeremiah was coming from a time and place where people saw the world as a place of rewards and punishments, and enticements and coercions. In contrast, the Gospel of Christ depicts a picture of endless love without judgment, compassion in the midst of sorrow, and restoration of our lives without payment.

How does a person reconcile the passages in Jeremiah with the Gospel imperative to love? Do we throw out Jeremiah, and label his writings as that of “simply an ancient writer?” That’s one way to go, but Scriptures hang together as a whole – Old and New Testaments. Hence, the words of Jeremiah cannot be thrown out. His words must still be considered an equal part of the mix.

It was the early church fathers and mothers that found a way through the dilemma of reconciling an unconditional loving God with one who appeared to change his mind depending on how people acted. Instead of debating questions in their minds, these early church mystics went into the desert and became silent. In the wilderness, God spoke to these mystics as a unified whole. There was no split in the nature of God. Everything appeared as one. God was seen as the GREAT ALLOWER. and not someone who sought to reward or punish.

A Great Allower embraces all things, all times, all possibilities, and all outcomes. A Great Allower permits the universe to keep unfolding with a multitude of variations and potentials for good. A Great Allower keeps us from being trapped by our own thoughts.

There is no way to figure out what God is doing. When God is seen as an Allower, we need not see God as a punisher or one who rewards. God is simply a lover – a lover who keeps creating potential relationships between people, the earth, and the rest of the universe.

May all of us permit God to permeate our being, and then replace our thoughts of a judgmental God with a God who only shows unconditional love toward all of creation.

Peace and Blessings,

Fr. John Meulendyk


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