Read: Spirit of Holiness
The world (that is, everyone and everything) is heading toward judgment. The Bible makes that clear, and McLaren does not sidestep that fact, or dismiss it in this week’s reading.
But what kind of judgment? If we see ‘condemnation’ as a synonymn for judgment, then we will understand it punitively. But if we see ‘restoration’ as a synonymn for judgment, we will understand it redemptively. The former idea creates a fear-based faith, while the latter generates a hope-based faith.
McLaren calls restorative judgment the arc of the universe. When I read that I thought to myself, “Our job, like the animals who got on Noah’s ark, is to get on God’s arc–and be saved.”
McLaren rightly notes that restorative judgment does not eliminate pain and suffering in God’s final analysis. In fact, the more we have become glued to that which is false, the more painful our final judgment will be. And none of us will pass through “scot free,” because none of us has lived a completely righteous life. We will all pass through the fire, but it is a refining fire, not a destroying fire. It is the fire of love.
But there is more, and it is actually the best part. God’s restorative judgment is a refining process that can begin now. We do not have to wait until some eschatalogical ‘final judgment’ to have a bonfire of purgation that calls for a firey furnace and flames that light up the night sky. Instead, we can let the fire of the Holy Spirit cleanse us of any current unrighteousness through the refining process of conviction, confession, and cleansing.
Judgment–the final word. But because the arc of the universe is holy love, it is a restoration, not a damnation. The only folks who will miss it are those who refuse to accept this severe mercy. And if that turns out to be even one person, God’s heart will still be broken because God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to salvation (2 Peter 3:9).
There is only one invitation: get on the arc.