July 3, 2012

The Hermeneutics of Grief, Part 2

To recap from yesterday:
Recently, in a discussion forum I frequent, a Russian Orthodox priest who recently lost his son to suicide made the following comment in a discussion about salvation.
I know ... I am a grieving father ... but maybe that grief provides a hermeneutical key by which to properly interpret Holy Scripture.
What didn't get mentioned yesterday is that Father Alvin's son died an unbeliever. In effect, an automatic sentence to eternal damnation and torture, according to the prevailing wisdom from the "churched." An entirely different, and sad, commentary on much of the church is that many would feel no compunction at all in telling Father Alvin that his son was damned to hell.

We humans love to be right. We love it so much, that we cling to our 'rightness' (and tell ourselves that it's righteousness) even when our hearts and minds scream to us that we're wrong.

Our desire to be 'right' gave us the arbitrary God of the Calvinists, and the aloof, detached God of the Arminians. But are either of these accurate views of the real Father?

"For God so loved the world that He gave His unique Son..." For those whom He has chosen on a whim? For those who follow all of the rules that we humans deem Him to have declared? Both the Arminian and Calvinist views leave much to be desired, from the standpoints of reason and emotion.

The more I study the scripture, I come to the inescapable conclusion that the kerygmatic Good News is nothing more than what is written in 1 John 4:8 : "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." The Passion was His ultimate demonstration of that verse. Christ gave us the example of the sacrifice that we need to embody to all our fellow men when He defeated sin and death for us.

What does this have to do with a hermeneutic of grief, and Father Alvin's son? God's grief for us gave us His Son to achieve the ultimate victory at the cross, through His love.

Let's bounce a few thoughts off of our reason and emotion, our hearts and minds, if you will. Christ gave us a new commandment; to "love one another, as I have loved you." Think of the person you love most dearly. What would you do to help to spare them from the grief of losing another person they loved? We have to look in this of the light of  "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." This is a difficult question to answer when we consider our own humanity and limitations.

Now, try to step outside of our imitations of selfishness. Look at the biggest meanings of "For God so loved the world that He gave His unique Son...",  "love one another, as I have loved you", and  "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." Can any of us say with complete certitude that Father Alvin's son is condemned to hell? How could God limit Himself by commanding us to love as He loves, giving His live to save us, but withholding that salvation from those we love, just because they didn't do things according to some formula that a human came up with?

Will He be 'all in all'? Will every knee bow at His name? Will He honor the love that we feel and show to those who disagree with our dogma?

Did He really love the whole world, the entirety of humanity? Or is He simply playing games with us?

And who are we to place our temporal limitations upon His ineffable love and grace?

Think hard about this, because the answer deep in each of our hearts is what we would say to Father Alvin, and to God Himself. Do we say, "God loves us enough to give His life to save us, but He won't save those that we love (as He commanded us to love as He does) if they didn't follow the rules." Or, do we say, " God gave His unique Son to save us all, God is love, and God tells us that love conquers all."

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