Christianity advertises itself as espousing the epitome of love. Ist John 4:16, We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. Then we are taught that although people can experience love outside the framework of a Christian understanding, the love people have is inferior to the love of God. Romantic, or brotherly love is within the experience of the average person, but Agape love, the highest form of love, can only be experienced by those who have a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
When I was a Christian, I accepted this message. I believed that the Love of God was far superior to "base" human love. Human love was characterized as self-serving, looking for selfish advantage for the individual accompanied with little real care for any other person. In contrast, God’s love is giving and selfless, always looking for the best for others.
Is this really what plays out in the real life experience of the individual Christian?
No one in my family was a real Christian. I stood alone in a family of unbelievers for years. In love I witnessed to them. In love, I prayed for them. In love, I agonized over the ultimate destiny of their eternal souls. I was disappointed time and again by their rejection of my loving offers of salvation in Christ. As time went on and their refusal to repent seemed impervious to my loving solicitations, I had to accept the reality that my family would be spending eternity in eternal torment while I would be amongst the Lord’s chosen enjoying eternal bliss. I found comfort in the words of Jesus telling my to shake the dust off of my feet. I found encouragement when I read that anyone who loved parents or wife, etc. more than HIM was not worthy to be HIS disciple. In the face of unanswered prayers for my relatives, I lovingly hardened my heart against them. My brother lived a Christ-less life, and I continued to diligently pray for him. Then one day I received a call from my mother. My brother had been in a fatal one-car accident. He never did say the sinner’s prayer, take an alpha course on Christianity or make any gesture toward accepting Christ at all. In my mind there was no escaping the probability that my brother’s voice was now joining the screams of the damned in hell.
My faith in a Sovereign God was such that I had a great peace at the time. I was sad, of course, but did not go through the mind numbing grief I saw my sisters and parents go through. At the time I attributed my strength to the Peace of God which passes all understanding.
Feeling the love of God coursing through my veins, I took the initiative a few days after the funeral to witness to my parents and encourage them to accept Christ as their Lord and personal Savior. My words fell on deaf ears, and my intended compassion was received as callous to the horrific grief they were going through. My brother was 29 when he died just a few days short of his 30th birthday. My parents had just lost their son, and now their oldest son was telling them in so many words that one of their sons was in hell. Of course I didn’t intend my message that way. I only wanted to be assured that they would spend eternity in heaven with the God of Love.
What I was taught as a Christian to think of as compassion, played out in reality as indifference to the feelings of others.
This event eventually helped motivate me to aggressively examine the inconsistencies in Christianity, to see if the stock apologetics would stand up under harsh scrutiny. Resolving the dichotomy between believing in an all-loving deity who was brutally torturing my brother forever was an obstacle I began to struggle with. I also came to realize just how cold and callous I had become to the feelings of others in my quest to win them for the kingdom. I told myself that I was only doing the will of my heavenly father by warning my relatives of the wrath to come. I was risking their rejection of me, I thought, and was really going the extra mile to try and woo them into the kingdom. What I now realize is that I totally lacked empathy for the terrible grief they were suffering. Instead of offering them my love, I alienated myself from them, virtually depriving them of another son. I was an ass.
What is the point of this story?
Christianity claims to soften the sinner’s heart, filling them with the love of God. In reality the Christian’s heart is hardened to the plight of anyone outside the faith. John the Apostle tells his readers not to even bid unbelievers Godspeed. Paul says he wishes anyone who believes a different gospel to be accursed. Jesus tells a man who wishes to bury his father to let the dead bury their dead.
How could I ever enjoy the pleasures of heaven, praising the same God who is hurting my parents and siblings? How could I ever do it unless I had been fully inoculated against human love and filled with the compassionate indifference of Agape love. God’s love is certainly different from human love, but it is definitely not superior. The point is, far from giving me a more loving and giving outlook on life, I instead became quite insensitive.
What do you think?
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)