KEEPING THE FAITH: More than we can stand

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 13:09 PM.

P.D. East pulled his chair close to Will and just above a whisper asked, “Which one of those two bastards do you think God loves the most — Jonathan or that sheriff? Now, you’re the one who always told me about how simple the gospel is. Just answer the question: Which one of those two does God love the most?”

Here are Will Campbell’s words of response: “Suddenly, everything became clear. Everything. It was a revelation. I walked across the room and opened the blind, staring directly into the glare of the streetlight.

And I began to whimper. But the crying was interspersed with laughter. It was a strange experience. I remember trying to sort out the sadness and the joy.

“Just what was I crying for, and what was I laughing for? Then this, too, became clear. I was laughing at myself, at twenty years of a ministry, which had become, without my realizing it … an attempted negation of Jesus … a theology of law and order and of denying the faith I professed to hold. That sheriff was indeed as loved by God as Jonathan Daniel. And if loved, forgiven. And if forgiven, reconciled.

“P.D. came and stood beside me, handing me his half-empty beer. The lesson was over. Class dismissed.

But I had one last thing I had to say to the teacher: ‘P.D … damned if you ain’t made a Christian out of me. And I’m not sure I can stand it.’”

This is the category-exploding, boundary-breaking, world-upturning gospel: God’s grace trumps everything. God’s love welcomes all who will come. God’s forgiveness is no “respecter of persons,” even those persons for whom we ourselves have little mercy. Yes, this is sometimes more than we can stand, but it is the no-compromise, no pulled-punches message of reconciliation.



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