“Where will you be when judgment comes?”

We went over to Anoka last night for one of their Halloween parades. Anoka is of great note around here, as it’s billed as the “Halloween capital of the world.” Anoka has a cute little downtown…

…with a waterfall and everything…

But it’s also a bit notorious. We have Anoka to thank for Michelle Bachmann (she grew up there from the age of 13 on). Anoka’s largest employer is an ammunition manufacturer, and it has a terrible legacy on gay rights. Fortunately, there’s been some progress since then on that front.

Nonetheless, while in downtown Anoka last night, we heard a passerby mention Black Lives Matter and say that she was “getting sick of hearing about them,” or something to that effect. Poor thing. It must be so hard for her growing up white in the burbs to be confronted about her privilege in ways that might inconvenience or make her uncomfortable.

And it was in Anoka last night that we ran into this guy and his pals:

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“Fear Jesus.” Yup, that’s what it says. This friendly public service message came with others like it, such as “God hates sin. You’re a sinner,” and more. There were probably a dozen or so of these guys with their near Westboro style protest, one of them standing on a “soap box” proclaiming their version of God as the worst kind of Santa: “God knows every act, every sin. He sees everything you do.” And he hates it all, apparently.

Of course they were passing out the infamous “Happy Halloween” Chick tract. Have you seen this beauty?

 

 

 

 

After venturing into a Haunted House…

 

Some young people are warned….

…but too late for poor Timmy, of course:

There’s so much to talk about here, starting with the tract. You could argue that poor Timmy only died because the “warning” he got about his eternal fate (if he didn’t say the sinner’s prayer, according to the rest of the tract linked above) scared him so much that he ran headlong into traffic. What kind of a warning is that? I guess it wasn’t meant for Timmy, really. Timmy was just a tool, a real life sermon illustration for his two wayward friends, who presumably at this point are scared right into the “loving” arms of Jesus.

But just what kind of Jesus is this? “Fear” him, my protesting friend’s sign warns above. There’s some scriptural basis for this, of course. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10), after all. Jesus kicks butt in the temple . Revelation 1:16 says “In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” Here’s the Brick Testament version of this:

So there’s some notion in Scripture that Jesus can be fierce, and we find this, and much worse in the “First”/”Old” Testament too.

But is this the whole of who he is? Is it essentially who he is? Is this to be our primary talking point about him, if we have anything to say about him at all?

We likewise read in Scripture that we are to love one another because “love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (I John 4:7-8). This passage goes on to say:

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

That seems like a lot of love. Seems pretty foundational. God is love. And as I’ve always said, love is something you do. It’s a verb. God exists as love and that love made a world, and us. We were made in and for love, and God’s love is “made perfect”/complete in us as we exist as love in the world (I John 4:17).

Whatever one may say about “tough love,” the “Fear Jesus” sign and the message of the protestors at the parade last night just doesn’s seem very loving. I mean, really, what is their point? I’ll be honest. I was tempted to talk to them last night. I wanted to ask them just that, what their point was. I wanted to tell them that if I was on the fence about Jesus, if I just wasn’t sure about whether to follow him or not, their message would make me run too, but not toward Jesus…and especially not toward them. I don’t need their “fire insurance,” after all, and I don’t want it. No, I’d run far, far away, and based on the response of those around me last night, I think I’m not alone in this, which again begs the question: just what is their point? What are they really trying to accomplish?

I should mention that when one of them offered me that happy “Chick tract” about Timmy burning in hell, I emphatically said, “No, thank you!” The guy responded with a combative,”Where will you be on Judgment Day, ’cause it’s coming?”

It’s a good question, however faulty its many unconsidered assumptions. If there is a Judgment Day of the sort that that guys suscribes to, I’ll take some comfort from the fact that “Christ died for the ungodly” not after one says the sinner’s prayer and gets their fire insurance, but “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:6-8). I’ll take some comfort from my belief that God’s love is his essential nature, and that Jesus expresses it most essentially in his life, death, and resurrection. I continue to “have standards for my God” after all, among them that “I will not worship any God who is not at least as compassionate as I am.”

I could be wrong, of course, but while some seek the surety of a simplistic god who can be appeased by reciting a formulaic prayer and then waiting for the end to come, I prefer to follow a wild- and wildly loving- Jesus who is always on the move, always pushing boundaries, always revealing more of what a life of love looks like. How ironic that God’s love is made perfect and complete in us, that we reveal it as we love the world, when some of us seem to prefer to judge and condemn the world in the hope that fear might move some closer to Jesus. God doesn’t want our fear. He wants our love, and he gives it to us, first and freely; so that we can give it to his good world. God forgive us if we don’t.

 

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