God Loves Everybody and Every Body
The creed we need right now
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And now, on with today’s post: GOD LOVES EVERYBODY….yes, indeed!
God is love. God loves everybody. God loves every body.
These words guide me. I say them everyday, reminding myself of this bedrock truth. In effect, those short sentences are my creed.
On the day before 9/11, when social media was filled with memories of the horrors of twenty years ago, I wanted to remind people of love. I’d been inspired by a comment made by Marianne Williamson: “If you fill your mind with love, then fear won’t have a chance.” I worry that anniversaries like this re-traumatize us. Knowing that unprocessed memories can actually make us physically sick, I wanted to remind people (amid the stream of stories of fear and grief) that, as it says in I John, “perfect love casts out fear.”
And so I posted a story thread on Twitter. It is a story of change, really a kind of Damascus Road moment. Years ago, when I was quietly, silently afraid - fearful that I was in the wrong marriage, terrified of not being among the “elect,” and voiceless as a woman stuck in a paradigm of hierarchy and control - a few words about God’s love broke through the clouds. A voice. Not a supernatural one. In this case, the voice of an Episcopal bishop sounded forth a truth that offered freedom and, ultimately, transformed my entire life.
Here’s the thread as it appeared on Twitter. (I fixed a couple of typos, but otherwise, it is what was on social media. Please know that Twitter is not a platform that lends to elegant prose - quick, short, and choppy is the format!) Each graph was an individual tweet:
Recently, someone asked me if there was a single transformative moment in my spiritual and theological journey that stands out as the most significant moment of change. There was.
I was in my mid-20s, in my first marriage to a very conservative Calvinist (he was OPC for those of you who know such things). We were members of a conflicted Episcopal parish - Christ Church - near Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Seminary.
The conflict was over women's ordination. And prayer book changes (insider Episcopal baseball). The church was divided between those who thought women priests were a horror - and that women needed to stay in their rightful place in God's hierarchy of order - and those who didn't.
Yes, these were Episcopalians defending "biblical womanhood" to the max.
The church was at the point of splitting. The priest - a really good guy who was shook by the argument - invited the bishop to visit and explain to the congregation why the Episcopal church had women priests and was moving to elect women as bishops.
The bishop came. The congregation gathered in the parish hall. It was, in a word, tense.
There were ugly, pointed questions. The priest who'd invited the bishop was shrinking in a corner. Finally, one guy asked in accusatory tones, "You sir, are a bishop. A bishop is supposed to guard the Gospel. But you've not said one word indicating you know what the Gospel is...
...WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?" It was a challenge, a bishop throw-down. At least he called him, "sir." And he was my Calvinist then-husband. Some people gasped. Some cheered. I wanted to die.
The bishop didn't blink. He didn't fight back. Instead he opened his arms to the room and said, "God is love."
The Calvinist questioner said, "Well, yes. BUT WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?"
The bishop said again, "God is love." He stopped for a moment, breathed deeply, and added, "And God loves everybody."
The demand made again. WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
"God loves everybody," the bishop said firmly. "God loves everybody. That's the Gospel."
The room was in an uproar. And I stood frozen with small tears in my eyes. God loves everybody. That was it. I heard it. I've never not heard it every single day since then.
I didn't quite get it at first. It took about six years for it to really sink in - and make a difference - and start to become the person I am now. Six years. And three and a half decades more to keep getting it. And for the rest of my days until whenever.
One moment. One startling truth. Truly good news. God loves everybody.
God is love. God loves everybody. There's nothing else. Nothing less, nothing more.
Turns out, people needed to hear these words. Readers responded energetically and beautifully, saying how much the reminder meant to them. Far too many of us have struggled to trust these words, to believe and embrace them. And far too many churches - that’s right: churches that want to limit God’s love! ugh! - fight against the beauty and radicalness of the simplest of all creeds: GOD IS LOVE.
But there’s no creed we need more right now.
God is love.
God loves everybody.
God loves EVERY body.
God loves every BODY.
That includes you. You are beloved. Everybody is beloved. Every BODY is beloved.
Say it with me.
And keep saying it. Trust it. Live it. With these words, change the world.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love . . . and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
— I John 4:7-8, 16b
To love is to act intentionally, in relational response to God and others, to promote overall well-being.
I don’t say love is a feeling. I’m not opposed to feelings, and I think love often if not always involves emotional and feeling aspects. Feelings play a major role in nearly every decision we make. But sometimes love requires us to act for good despite feelings pulling us in other directions. We may feel hate, disgust, or indifference toward someone, for instance, but we choose to love by acting for their good.
The second phrase says love involves response. We’re affected by our environment, histories, culture, situations, bodies, and so much more. We are relational creatures in an interrelated universe…
Love aims to do good.
— Thomas Jay Oord
God loves me. It still humbles me that this force that makes leaves and fleas and stars and rivers and you, loves me. Me, Maya Angelou. It’s amazing. I can do anything. And do it well. Any good thing I can do it. That’s why I am who I am, yes, because God loves me and I’m amazed at it.
— Maya Angelou
Love gives naught but itself and takes
naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be
For love is sufficient unto love.
When you love you should not say,
“God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am
in the heart of God.”
And think not you can direct the course
of love, for love, if it finds you worthy,
directs your course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfill
But if you love and must needs have
desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook
that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own under-
standing of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart
and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate
To return home at eventide with grati-
And then to sleep with a prayer for the
beloved in your heart and a song of praise
upon your lips.
— Kahlil Gibran