One of the great tensions within our Church, within our Faith, within our community and within our lives has to do with our perception of God. On the one hand we are told that, God is love and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him (1Jn 1:14). On the other hand there is the God of justice, “what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” And these will go off to eternal punishment (Mt. 25:45-46).
The first is what I call the warm-and-fuzzy God whom we believe does not make junk. The problem with this perception is that it too easily abrogates us of any responsibility toward righteous living. The second is what I call the cold-and-prickly God whose love goes only so far and is more concerned about how we live. Then there is today’s Gospel: For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed. Justice, Love, Condemnation—how does it all fit together?
Jesus resolved this issue in more encounters than we have space to recall here but a couple come to mind. He explained how little things can matter with the right heart in the story of the widow who gave her last coin to the temple treasury. He showed us His concern for our righteousness when, without condemning her, He told the woman who was caught in adultery to sin no more. He redefined love from a warm feeling to a willingness to give one’s life for a friend; then He did just that for us.
If my watch is off by 45 or more minutes and I have to catch a plane my situation is not as grave as if it were five or ten minutes off. Think about it. It’s the little things that can make a big difference. The devil is in the details, so what details in my life require more of my attention?
Yes, Jesus loves us infinitely and wants us with Him.
No, we cannot make ourselves righteous but Jesus justifies any of us who believe in Him.
St. Paul tells us that Jesus did not come to condemn. He lists many things that can’t separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:31-39), but he does not include the unholy trinity—me, myself and I. Here’s the answer. I, alone, can separate and condemn myself (CCC 679).