God loves everybody

Daily Reading for September 8

Early in his ministry, Bishop Johnson conducted a sort of diocesan listening tour. Christ Church, as one of the largest churches in the diocese, was picked to host one of these events. As Buck and I drove to church, I suspected a hostile audience might ambush the new bishop. The parish hall was full. The bishop told a number of stories about settling in the diocese, expressed some of his hopes for the diocese, and made some vague theological statements about inclusion and openness. Finally, he asked for questions.

A number of parishioners quizzed him on his position regarding controversial issues and theology. They did not like his answers. Part of me appreciated the courage of my fellow parishioners, but another part recoiled as their level of theological indignation grew. Then, to my complete horror, an emboldened Buck raised his hand.

“Bishop Johnson,” he began. “It says in the book of Timothy that the bishop is to guard the gospel. Sir, listening to you, I cannot discern what you are guarding. Can you tell us, please, exactly what you think the gospel is?”

The bishop leaned back against the podium, looked first at Buck, and then, slowly, cast his gaze around the entire room. He unfolded his arms—which he had held across his chest—and stretched them out so widely that he almost looked like Jesus hanging on the cross. “God,” he said deliberately. “God loves everybody.”

“Well, yes,” Buck started to protest, “but . . . .”

“God loves everybody,” he replied. “That’s it.”

“But . . . .”

“God loves everybody.”

Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, I knew that that squishy liberal bishop was right and I was wrong. God really did love everybody—including all the people I thought were excluded from the reach of the gospel. I had limited God’s mercy—just like the Calvinists, who insisted that God predestined only some to be saved, and the Catholics, who said that theirs was the only true church. The bishop said no. No limits. God loves everybody. God’s love is as vast as the universe and as difficult to comprehend as eternity itself. God’s only boundary is love.

From Strength for the Journey: A Pilgrimage of Faith in Community by Diana Butler Bass (Jossey-Bass, 2002).

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