Final thoughts on ‘If God is Love’

I can feel myself changing. Karen warned that reading If God Is Love might do that, but I didn’t really expect it to alter my thinking to this degree.

It took me a little while to warm up to the book, mainly because I had such a strong reaction to the theology presented in the first few chapters. It forced me to reassess and analyze my own beliefs – something that made me quite uncomfortable. After reading the first chapter one night before going to bed, I awoke around 3:30 a.m. with my mind in a whirl, unable to calm it until I had gotten up and written down some of my feelings.

I soon figured out that if I was going to dispute the author’s view of salvation and the afterlife, then I needed to have something to back up my own beliefs about those same subjects. That turned out to be a little more difficult than expected, and once I realized that, I was able to take the book at its worth and allow the amazing truths contained in it to penetrate my mind. There are so many sentences that I have highlighted, many that caused me to say “Wow!” as I read them.

This book drastically changed my view of Jesus. I have so much more respect for him as a person who enacted social change through his activism and lifestyle. Most denominations stress salvation as a way of avoiding hell, instead of the joys of being a Christian – becoming more like Christ and following his actions and way of thinking. Jesus was radical enough to make the religious establishment uncomfortable, political enough to make the government despise him, yet so full of truth and love that people still want to follow him 2000 years later.

This book has also changed my view of salvation or being “born again”. I was taught from early childhood that being saved was a life-changing event at a specific moment in time. I no longer believe that, but feel that salvation is a process of choosing to follow Christ and becoming like him. After all, if we truly believe in Christ and follow his teachings, we don’t need a specific time and place to point to as our moment of renewal; our entire lives should be in a constant process of cleansing and rebirth.

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist.” – The Usual Suspects

That’s the main thing that scares me about this book. The author constantly stresses the importance of following the teachings of Jesus, but only when those teachings apply to gracious behavior. He doesn’t mention the times that Jesus referred to Satan or eternal damnation for those who fail to repent. I don’t understand or enjoy a selective approach to the Bible (something that I’ve found in all branches of Christianity) and this way of thinking certainly doesn’t give me any comfort or faith that I will attain an afterlife in heaven.

Even if you don’t agree that all people will be saved or that Satan doesn’t exist, this book should be considered. That theology, while worthy of consideration, doesn’t have to be adopted in order for the reader to take away something important and powerful. You simply cannot walk away from this book without realizing that we all need to change the way we interact with others and how we treat those who are less fortunate.

I hope that I am able to implement some of the important lessons that I’ve learned from this book. I want to pray more. I want to start reading the Bible more. I don’t want to become one of those scary Bible-thumpers, but I do want my life to be an example that others might want to follow. I want to become more like Christ. I want to be a joyful person that people are drawn to because they want to know where my happiness stems from. I want to help those who have less than me.

I guess if I could sum up how this book has changed me in one sentence it might be something like this: I want to become a better person. Any book that causes that kind of sentiment must be getting something right!

Author: Brian

Blogger. Bookworm. Michael Jackson fanatic. Lives in Kentucky with partner of 12 years and three fabulous felines.

10 thoughts on “Final thoughts on ‘If God is Love’”

  1. Brian,

    Thanks for the excellent review and recommendation–it’s definitely on my “need to read” list. (Thank you, Karen, for selecting it in the first place).

    Two paragraphs you wrote made my day:
    “This book drastically changed my view of Jesus. I have so much more respect for him as a person who enacted social change through his activism and lifestyle… Jesus was radical enough to make the religious establishment uncomfortable, political enough to make the government despise him, yet so full of truth and love that people still want to follow him 2000 years later…”
    “… I want to pray more. I want to start reading the Bible more. I don’t want to become one of those scary Bible-thumpers, but I do want my life to be an example that others might want to follow. I want to become more like Christ…”

    Me, too. Well said!

    JimT

  2. I can really identify with your view of Jesus having been radically changed. Last year I read the book Who Wrote The Bible? by Richard E. Friedman. It’s a look at what the world was like at the time the Bible was written, the politics of the day, and the men who literally wrote the bible out (many of whom had their own agendas to insert, and being the few individuals who could actually write at that time, they had the power to manipulate the work). I feared that I might come away from the book with a lesser opinion of Jesus, but I was really interested in the historical accuracy of the period so I read it anyway. Amazingly, the book left me with an enormously different view of Jesus than I ever had before. The book portrayed him as extremely charismatic, a motivational speaker like none before, and this frightened all the politicians to see the influence he had over the very crowds they were trying to keep down. I was so glad I read this book, it gave me a clearer picture in my mind of what Jesus may have been like and how his extraordinary life was made all the more difficult by politics.

  3. “This book has also changed my view of salvation or being “born again”. I was taught from early childhood that being saved was a life-changing event at a specific moment in time. I no longer believe that, but feel that salvation is a process of choosing to follow Christ and becoming like him. After all, if we truly believe in Christ and follow his teachings, we don’t need a specific time and place to point to as our moment of renewal; our entire lives should be in a constant process of cleansing and rebirth.”

    Brian, you are a extremely talent writer! I think out of all the post you have written, this one touched me the most.
    I have enjoyed your post about this book and although I didn’t read the book, I feel like I’ve gained something from the parts you choose to highlight!
    You and I have similar upbring and the above paragraph is filled with the truth that I have gradually come to belief also.

    Love you!!!
    Liz

  4. Reading this made me think of attending church with my friends as a child. I am a Methodist, and there is not alot of emphasis on having a specific born again moment. As a child and teenager, I always enjoyed going to church with my friends, and experiencing other religions. However, I was always very uncomfortable going to revivals and youth rallys with them when at the end of the event it seemed that all the “adults” were trying to force you to become “saved” right there on the spot. The leaders were always bragging about how many had been saved/rededicated the night before. The leaders would say things like, “If you die on the way home from here and you haven’t been saved you’ll go to hell”. Who are they to tell someone that has gone to church all their life, and tried their very best to be a good person that they are going to hell. Now, as an adult am I supposed to believe that another kid who “got saved” at one of those rallys and then turned to a life of crime and never went to church again is going to heaven and I’m not?

  5. Thanks to everyone for the nice comments!

    Moonbeammcqueen,

    I didn’t see my story on the front page, but I saw the referral showing up in my blog stats yesterday. :)

    I remember seeing Carlton Pearson on a special that 20/20 did recently about hell. I was impressed with his story – especially the way he stayed true to his beliefs, even though he lost almost everything. Thanks for the link. I’m listening to it now.

  6. Alyson – WOW! You must have belonged to a *very* conservative Methodist church. I’m familiar with Methodists, and most of them are on the very liberal end of the religious spectrum. (In fact, you’d probably have to duct-tape them to a church pew to get ’em to sit through a revival!) :)

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