The God Who Affirms
Too often, Christianity has been made into a religion of rules and punishments, a bludgeon with which to instill fear in the faithful. In many cases, church hierarchies and leaders have used their power to instill such fear – leaving a trail of pain and betrayal in their wake. None of this, I believe, is God’s intention.
Instead, as Jesus is baptized today, we see that we worship a God who affirms: affirms Jesus’ humanity, and affirms our humanity. Listen to today’s words from Isaiah, speaking to YOU: “Now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine!”
Those are words of love and affection, of care and support. God claims us as his own and wants the best for us…not a life of fear. When Jesus is baptized, he receives God’s unqualified words of love: “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”
Unfortunately, there are biblical passages that lean toward condemnation and punishment. Certainly, God does not wish to see us sin against each other, hurt each other, lie, cheat, or steal. But God’s purpose for us is healing and wholeness, not guilt and damnation. Sending Jesus into our world is God’s way of reaching out, cementing the union of God and human, and lifting us up into a life of love and joy. There is enough in this world to get us down, without having to believe that God’s is down on us, too.
When we are baptized into Christ’s Body, we are not joining a grim reform school, but a family who celebrates its members and supports them with compassion in times of need.
So next time you hear some “Christian” message that condemns or demeans someone’s humanity, stop and question it; challenge it; and if possible, speak against it. Don’t let fearmongers hold our faith hostage. God is love, and love will always be more powerful than hate. JBM