I used to struggle greatly with core issue in my walk with God: how did God think about me? When I came to mind, what were his impressions and thoughts of me? When the Bible says that he “loves” me, is it the love of someone obligated by a contract, or was it one that held endless emotion, filled with delight and joy in his unique creation? I couldn’t see it being the latter because I knew myself too well – I was a person like any other – one whose life was filled with mistakes and failures. How could God delight in me?
So one day I asked him this, and he answered me in a way I couldn’t disagree with; a way that speaks to your heart like only he knows how to do. It was through this interaction, and many thousands later, that I came to see how God sees me, and by extension, his people, and by extension, all people. We are all his unique creations, each one of us designed without a duplicate. When we die, this world will never see one like us again. To the people who belong to him, he delights in them in a way that transcends my understanding of joy. To the people who do not know him, or who want nothing to do with him, he longs to know them like a lost child – desperate to hold and comfort and love them, a unique and beautiful creation, but has decided to let them make their choice.
This picture of how God sees me and other people, however, did not match up with popular Christian theology. There’s a lot of talk about the “depravity” of humanity, and how utterly evil and completely corrupt we are. It doesn’t help that this mindset has a few verses (and I mean few) that appear to support this, such as Jeremiah 17:9 in the King James Version: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” If our own hearts are by design the worst thing in the universe, there isn’t any way God could want anything to do with us, much less think about us in any positive way, least of all with joy.
This picture of humanity was developed and codified by Christians about 1500 years ago, and came to be known as “original sin.” Because of Adam’s original sin, we have all been born completely evil in every thought and deed. More extreme but predictable versions emerged later that said we are completely unable to choose God at all, but God, like a great puppet master, turns on a “God” switch to make some of us evil creatures into good ones.
The motivation behind this picture was straight forward. Clearly everyone makes mistakes and sins, and there had to be a really good reason why God chose to become human and be tortured to death to reunite us with himself. So it was decided that to make sure what God did (something that drastic) was justified, all humanity had to be seen not only in a state of being incapable of a perfect sinless life, but incapable of anything good at all. If anyone was capable of anything really good, God’s death wasn’t really necessary.
In my bible reading and study, especially in the Old Testament, I have found this picture of humanity to be untrue of how God really thinks of people in regards to sinful and right living, and it certainly is not a picture of how God thinks about me in the real relationship I have with him right now. So what I wanted to do is to take a serious look at the biblical texts that write extensively about this issue. I believe it is time to seriously question this doctrine and see if there is a better explanation for why every person struggles with sin and brokenness, and why it was completely necessary for Jesus to die for us so that we might be reunited with God. What follows is a serious study of key Old and New Testament passages including original language research. Enjoy!
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