I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’ -Matthew 7:23
Dear members and friends of the Swedenborgian Church,
God is love. And, love accepts, comforts, and heals all. Yet, in the Bible we find plenty of places where we find God not only expresses anger against certain people, but also announces painful consequences toward their actions. In other words, we could interpret that God hates certain people and make sure they suffer as a consequence of their choices and actions. How can a loving God do that?
If truly loving means accepting whatever actions and choices your loved ones desire, the world would fall in to an immediate chaos. The reason is very simple: we all know that untamed desires of humans (including you and I) are often not healthy or nourishing, and frequently destructive to oneself and others. But making appropriate and healthy choices at all time is extremely challenging because it requires analyzing and understanding one’s desire, which requires an ability to see oneself objectively. So then, choosing what is good and thus truly beneficial to oneself and others means overcoming one’s untamed desires and properly managing them. However, if we were to allow all people to choose whatever they desire and accept them accordingly, I am not sure that any human society would function and last. Historically, one of the reasons that birthed of the legal system was that as humans began to create a society composed of many different individuals, they recognized and agreed upon the danger of their own desires and selfish nature.
God is love. And, as love, God loves all people no matter what. According to Swedenborg, God loves angels in heaven, humans, and evil spirits in hell more or less equally. The problem lies not in how God loves, but arises from how we receive and appropriate love that is from God. Just as there is the saying, “the morning dew on grass becomes milk if consumed by a cow, but poison if consumed by a snake,” what is from God can become either good or evil depending on the kind of person who receives and appropriates those gifts. At birth, human hearts are neither good nor evil, but simply neutral. Each heart becomes either good or evil in accordance with the life that each individual chooses to live. The more selfish a life one chooses, the more evil one’s heart becomes. But the opposite it also true: the more selfless a life one chooses, the better one’s heart becomes. Therefore, what Jesus meant by saying, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers,” is not about the people who made mistakes, but about the people who continually choose to live a life of selfishness because they delight in such a lifestyle. This, being purely selfish and thus ultimately self-destructive, is alien to God’s nature and not compatible with the reality composed of divine influences. Thus, when a human being is fully engaged in a selfish life, God has to give the strongest warning possible. Just as life and love cannot thrive in a selfish environment, God cannot stand when a human is continually choosing the opposite of life and love.
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee