It all begins with God — what we think about God shapes what we think about ourselves and those around us and our world. It begins with God. What is our “narrative” of God? Is our narrative one of God’s love or one of God’s wrath?
James Bryan Smith, in The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love With the God Jesus Knows (The Apprentice Series) is focused on these kinds of questions, and chp 5 is called “God is Love.”
Again, there is a false narrative at work in our world, in our minds, in our hearts, and it can run and ruin us. That false narrative is that God loves us only when we do good. God’s love, in this narrative, is conditional. It’s as if God is in a swivel chair and he only faces us when we do good.
Do you see this narrative of God’s conditional love? Where do you see it? How do you connect God’s demand of repentance with unconditional love?
As with other chapters, Smith connects God’s conditional love with our performance-based culture.
But the narrative of Jesus is a narrative that God welcomes sinners and God loves sinners. Jesus’ narrative is not that God will love you if you improve. Smith paraphrases John 3:16 according to the God’s-Love-is-Conditional Narrative:
For God was so mad at the world that he sent his Son to come down and tell them to shape up, that whosoever would shape up would have eternal life.
But Jesus’ narrative is not like that: God loved the world, made up as it is of sinners and charlatans, and he sent his Son to redeem that world. That’s Jesus’ narrative.
There are some right now irritated with Smith, and they are like the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son who was miffed that the father was so merciful and gracious and forgiving of the younger son.
Which is your narrative? God as love or God as conditional love?
Smith closes with an exercise on lectio divina.