Fr. G H Duggan's article "How unconditional is God's love?" (November 1999 AD2000) requires comment. It is important to speak the exact truth about God because nothing is more tragically effective in keeping people from God than false teaching about Him.
This article creates the impression that God is a strict headmaster who, at baptism, gives us a free place in His charity school together with a rule book, then summarily expels anyone who breaks the rules. If we turn to Jesus (God incarnate) we will learn the truth about God. Jesus called God "Abba" and Himself told the parable of the prodigal son. God is a loving Father. He loves each of His children absolutely and unconditionally. His nature is faithful love - it cannot change. His love will never waver or be revoked. But, as He wants to be in loving relationship with us, He gave us the gift of free will - we must choose to love Him in return.
The commandments are indeed commendations and sign-posts showing us which decisions lead to degradation, despair and death of our heart and soul and which decisions lead to life and love and the fulfilment of our deepest hearts' desires. God constantly pours a superabundance of love over each of us but, faithful to His gift of free will, He never forces or constrains our decisions. But if we make even the smallest genuine response to His love, He runs eagerly to embrace us to the fullest extent of which we are capable and will allow. Everyone who has ever lived must identify with the prodigal son and humbly acknowledge "Father I have sinned before heaven and before You" (Luke 15:21). If we begin to identify with the older brother, self-righteousness sets in.
Jesus never denounced sinners. He reserved that for the hypocritical, self-righteous religious leaders who did not draw people to God by mirroring His loving compassion. So let us not make judgements about who is saved and who is not. That is God's business. Jesus said (to the chief priests and elders) "I tell you solemnly, tax-collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of heaven before you" (Matt.21:31). Jesus did not condone dishonesty or prostitution, though He consorted with public sinners. By reaching out to people with great tenderness and compassion, while clearly and gently naming their disordered behaviour as sin, He led people to true repentance. Let us do likewise.
LOUISE HOWELL (Dr)