A colleague friend of mine shared with me that his son had asked him if God loved the devil. We talked about how children have this tendency to see the world differently as adults; I shared that when I was a kid, I wanted to write a story about a demon who embraced love and ‘turned’ but I was dissuaded from it. [Five to ten years later, Mike Mignola unveiled Hellboy at Comic-Con.] But the truth is, that if we open up our eyes to the way God works, things stop looking so black and white, and love may be bigger than we can imagine.
As Barbara Brown Taylor writes in Learning to Walk in the Dark, we tend to divide the world into opposites, like light and dark, good and evil, or us and them. Sure, it simplifies our decision making or worldview, but it fails to recognize that things are often more complicated than that. If we look at the story of David, we see that God chooses David to be the next king of Israel because he sees David’s heart (I Samuel 16:7), but as king, David seduces a married woman and has her husband killed (II Samuel 11). We’ve seen falls from grace, but in I Kings 9:4, God says to Solomon: “If you walk before me with the integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe all my laws and decrees, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever.”
Wait, “man after God’s own heart?” Are we talking about the same guy?
Apparently God doesn’t evaluate the same things that we do.
So, I’m not talking about a feature-length film about how Jesus and the devil grew up in a different part of the Garden of Eden together, and they wrestled and played and then God chose Jesus over the devil (who probably had another name, like “Steve”). That motion picture will be coming this fall from Ridley Scott and Christian Bale, about Moses and the Pharaoh, and it’s called Exodus. But the thing is, if we believe that everything can be redeemed, and that one day every knee will bow, then isn’t it possible that the devil has a change of heart? Isn’t it possible that if God can use David and you and me, that God could use the devil?
So, if God can use you and me, and Saul/Paul, and for the moment let’s say the devil, then don’t we need to stop judging whether other people are salvageable or not? Don’t we need to recognize that if we can get to the point where we actually believe Romans 8:38-39, “for I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height or depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” then everyone is worth saving?
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m tired of hearing that those who abort babies or perform the operations are damnable, or that homosexuals aren’t going into heaven, or that suicide is the unforgivable sin. Maybe I’m just tired and you can chalk this one up to a completely different theological meltdown. But what if Jesus does love the devil? What if he can save him?
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says he sees Peter (another good for nothing jerk turned leader) as the rock on which “I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” If we’re going to get church right, we need to stop thinking it’s us versus them, and recognize that if God can use us, then God can use anyone, that if God can save us, God can save anyone, and that if God loves us, then we should love everyone.
I agree — and actually find scriptural support for the notion in the parable of the indignant good son (aka the Parable of the Prodigal Son). The best indication you are correct is how scandalous the idea can be.
Countering the notion is, of course, the weight of Predestination. But I take a non-linear atemporalist view of the Kingdom, so the paradox doesn’t trouble me in the least.
I’m rather fond of the image of Satan alone on his throne, the last holdout rebel, and a small fearless child coming as an emissary to invite him home. I was surprised to find, many years ago,Gaiman’s Sandman books (I think it was) envisioning something similar (yet with a much more cynical result).
Greg, I recently bought American Gods but I haven’t read Sandman. I think that your Prodigal Son comparison is a good one. Isn’t the figure of the devil as a fallen angel who longed to be his own man “prodigal” to the nth degree? Personally, predestination (broadly) doesn’t work for me because free will trumps all of that for me, but that’s probably for another blog post. I wonder if an innocent child would be enough to get it done…