Wednesday, May 30, 2007

theological threat

I saw a sign on a truck driving up I-5 today, "I'LL COME BACK TO GET YOU. LOVE JESUS." The sign was painted on the back of the cab of a semi in white letters, all caps, on a light blue background. If he had been hauling a container the message would have been hidden. But he was hauling a load of rebar tied to the bed so the words could be seen above the load.

The message could be taken a few ways. is it a personal not from Jesus? A friendly, reassurance from a departing friend that we won't be left behind for long? In that case you could read the LOVE JESUS as a signature line, like, "Sincerely" or "Your Friend."

But I noticed there was no comma in LOVE JESUS, which presesnts the alternate reading that it's actually a command. After all, the theology of Jesus' coming back to get us is not necesarily a happy event. On the Day of Judgement Jesus will come to separate the sheep and the goats and most of us are goats who will not be rescued by Jesus our friend, but banished to Hell by Jesus our Judge. The way to avoid damnation is to LOVE JESUS, or else.

The trucker's message combines reassurance and threat, because the actual Christian theology of Judgement carries the same mix, which makes it troubling. Should I love Jesus because I'm scared of him, or because he's actually lovable in some way? The people I'm inclined to love don't demand love, they inspire it. And the entrance fee for divine satisfaction is simply love (as Jesus taught), not belief in a particular doctrine.

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