Hellbound? Talk Back: Part 3, Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

Last week it was my honor to participate in a talkback with filmmaker Kevin Miller after a viewing of Hellbound?.

As I mentioned Monday, I am using posts this week to work back through some of the Q&A Kevin and I hosted, the queries we fielded and some of our answers regarding "universal reconciliation in Christ" or "evangelical universalism."

Today's post is about love and sin.

Speaking of love, you know what I love about the bible? It keeps surprising me. Even passages I've read countless times. Suddenly, something old and familiar takes on a new light and a new depth of meaning.

This happened to me again in my conversation with Kevin after our talkback. Kevin was recounting his talkbalk at an earlier viewing. During that conversion Kevin was discussing the relationship between God's love and God's handling of our sins and he made a point by citing 1 Corinthians 13.

Of course, everyone knows the famous 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul's famous ode of love. The part that Kevin highlighted in talking about love and grace was this well-known line:
Love keeps no record of wrongs.
I've always applied 1 Corinthians 13 to humans. It never occurred to me to see it as a window into the heart of God. But if God is love then 1 Corinthians 13 is extraordinarily relevant. And if that is so, this aspect of love--love keeps no record of wrongs--has huge soteriological significance.

How does our vision of divine grace and punishment in the afterlife change if God's love keeps no record of wrongs?

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15 thoughts on “Hellbound? Talk Back: Part 3, Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs”

  1. I am an undercover URist so when I preached in the little Baptist church that I go to a few weeks ago I used this chapter. I had everyone read it putting their name everywhere that it says love..........Mike is patient, Mike is kind, etc and then I had them put God in the place of love, so when you say that God keeps no record of wrongs it either makes people think about their views of God, it makes them mad, or they just dismiss you as some looneytoon.

    This particular verse also makes me question the URist view of hell. If God keeps no records of wrongs could it be that we are punished by our sin instead of for our sin in the afterlife. Not sure what that will look like but it makes me wonder.

    BTW I am enjoying your conversations on the Beyond The Box podcasts. Thanks.

  2. Also Richard, the Fruit of the Spirit is His Fruit not ours. Christ in me is the hope of Glory, His manifestation.

  3. That's a great question about hell. I don't know if there is a single URist vision of hell. There are many different spins on that. But they generally share the conviction that all of God's actions are expressions of love. Similar to the actions of a parent, from the punishment to the hugs, it's all an expression of love.

  4. Thanks for pointing out that passage, Richard - I hadn't made the connection before, but it squares very well with my idea of hell. I'm a Swedenborgian, and while I haven't seen any explicit connections to Romans 13, Swedenborg definitely held that no one would be punished for past sins. Interestingly, though, he didn't preach universalism; he argued instead that a person's loves were fully formed at death, and so that someone whose primary motivating love was greed would still be primarily motivated by greed after death - and wouldn't want to change. The "torments of hell" are the immediate and painful consequences not of sins a person has committed in the past, but of sins that they continue to commit because it's what they love. Swedenborg suggests that after some time - possibly thousands of years for some - a person learns not to try to harm others around them, but this is from a fear of punishment, not from love. The eternity afterward in hell then consists mainly in fantasizing about sin. It's not a very pretty picture, but it's one that to me makes sense both of the indications that hell is eternal and the promise that God is good and merciful and loving.

  5. Let's not forget that, according to the same passage, Love... "always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." Always.

  6. If our heavenly father's grace and love is represented in the story of the prodigal son then it shows that He will receive us in the same way the father received his wayward child. He watched for him from far off, he ran to his son (shameful behavior for a man of his social/cultural background), and welcomed him home in celebration. He didn't ask that he change his ways or prove he had changed. The father valued that the son had seen the error of his ways and returned to his rightful place in his father's household. What joy in heaven during that re-union!

  7. Through the years I continue to find verses and meaning I never saw before. My most recent discovery verse: "They have built the pagan shrines of Topheth in the valley of the son of Hinnon, where they sacrifice their little sons and daughters in the fire. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing (Jeremiah 7:31).

  8. You mean to tell me, to really tell me, that folks have actually missed that connection? God is love = God keeps no record of wrongs. I know this sounds arrogant and spiteful, but... Why even read the Bible if you miss the best parts? What's the point in reading a book written under the inspiration of the Spirit if you can't even hear what He's saying through it? Why waste your time reading a book if some of the sweetest heart warming loving things of God totally evade you? Meanwhile, you read of things like judgment, punishment, chastisement, suffering, warnings, and what does that produce for most people? Fear. Fear fear fear. Fear and condemnation and anxiety and depression. Meanwhile other people are reading the same book and getting goose bumps because they realized God is love and love keeps no record of wrongs.

    I mean, it's a bit ridiculous sometimes, don't you think? I'm just venting guys. Anyone who reads this, I don't know why I'm writing this like this. It seems hateful and ungodly but I keep feeling the urge to write it like this for whoever passes by and actually reads it. It's like I'm showing off some frustration I have with some of the implications this post apparently is drawing out -- as far as a perceive it anyway. I guess it's not really begging those questions in and of itself -- I'm the one doing that. I just don't know how to talk people. To tell them things like this : "God keeps no record of wrongs." Because I can say it out loud, but unless someone really gets it themselves, really figures it out themselves, I mean WHAT'S THE POINT?

    I mean, you can't even read the BIBLE and figure it out?!?! Then what's the point of even trying to preach the gospel at all to anyone?!?!?!?! If the Bible fails at the job, THE BIBLE mind you, then what good are we?????????? The Bible apparently can't even get its own point across in an understandable fashion, until someone more enlightened points it out to the less enlightened!!!!!!! WHAT GIVES?!?!?! I'm sorry yall. I really love Jesus. I love people. I want to communicate that love.

    But it's frustrating when I contemplate things like this: If God is love, and if people need to know God's love -- THEN WHY ISN'T IT ALREADY OBVIOUS TO THEM?! Like.................. If God is love, THEN WHY HASN'T HE ALREADY GOT THE JOB DONE HIMSELF? Like........................................ CAN'T MISTER LOVE HIMSELF GET THE POINT ACROSS TO HIS OWN CREATION HOW MUCH HE LOVES THEM????????????????????????????????????? If He can then.... WHY ARE SO MANY PEOPLE STILL CLUELESS????????????????????????????????????????????????

    Now I must be starting to sound like an agnostic or atheist to someone. Please just chock it up to a crazy ranting stranger on the internet. I am a real person, and these questions do perplex me. But more importantly, THEY PERPLEX MANY PEOPLE. So, to anyone wise enough and destined to answer, what would you respond? I am curious. :)

  9. Even the disciples didn't get it when they walked with Jesus.Why would we humans be any different?

  10. I first heard the idea of 1 Cor.13 being applied to the heart of God from Darin Hufford's The Misunderstood God, and when I thought about it, it was quite liberating (and still is).

  11. Hahaha. Good point. Thanks for the simple-yet-profound answer. I needed to be reminded of that! :)

  12. I actually remember becoming open to universalism as a teenager when I considered 1 Corinthians in light of God being love - it blew my mind that if St. Paul was inspired when writing that letter, then it stands that his description of love is really a description of the character of God. It was a very joyful moment for me - and seemed to be verified by the tremblings and shakings that would often fill my body during prayer at that time in my life.

    Alas, as the years wore on and I shared my charitable view of God with others, I got slammed hard for my views and had people telling me anything between "you were deceived by Satan" to "your heart was in the right place, but I think you need to come to *my church* and get some understanding from people who are knowledgeable about these things..." I eventually went to a Calvinist Christian college where I was exposed to Calvinism and a diabolical vision of God's character and, having been convinced that I had somehow gone down the wrong path in my earlier views, became terrified by Christianity and am now a sort of agnostic who dabbles in hermeticism and western esotericism - neither of which are imbued with anything remotely as schizophrenia-and-terror-inducing as "God is Love + God literally burns people for eternity."

    In any case, I agree with you that it is stunning that the connection between 1 Corinthians and God as Love has escaped people. I think this demonstrates a sort of blinkered manner of reading the bible that many people have been hypnotized into doing by the various church authorities that preside over them - it might be dangerous to "go it alone" in spirituality, but I think it's at least equally dangerous to do "team spirituality" as well. I'm living proof. I think it's just dangerous to be alive, period. There's no escaping danger. You just gotta find the best way of dealing with the slipperiness of life on your own and start making your way through the jungle.

  13. On occasion, I like to read those verses replacing love with Jesus. This helps me.

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