God’s Fine Print

Nothing in fine print is ever good news. ~ Andy Rooney

Ever notice how our lives seem to be filled with fine print? We’re confronted on a daily basis with offers too good to be true, often failing to notice the fine print beneath the offer. Upon reading the tiny type at the bottom of the offer, the end result is that we find, in fact, the offer was too good to be true. We’re a people who love to get something for nothing and are continually fooled into thinking something for nothing actually exists.

In very many ways, I was taught growing up all about God’s fine print. Sure, they may call it Good News but, as Andy Rooney says, it turns out nothing in fine print is ever good news.

God is love. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But, wait. Someone seems always ready to point out their own version of God’s fine print. You are loved – but only if you do x, y, and z while rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time. You are loved but if you’re not careful it can all turn on a dime and leave you in a world of hurt. We’re dealing with a finicky God here, you’re given to understand, full of contradictions and not a little vengeance.

I’m afraid I heard too much of what others believe compose the exceedingly long list of reservations contained in the recitation of caveats to God’s love. I’ve long had my doubts, however. It seems to me God’s love has to be either/and or either/but. Either God is love (and I am loved) or God is not (and I may be loved, but it depends). A long list of buts would simply prove that God is not love. That seems, for me, not to be an option.

Here, then, is the sum total of what I believe to be contained in God’s fine print:

”                                .”

It’s a rather quick read. As it turns out, there really is one thing we have that qualifies as getting something for nothing. While there appears to be nothing I can do in this life to earn God’s love, it is there nevertheless. While I can certainly treat my neighbor better than I’m accused of doing on occasion, I do not have it in my power to lessen God’s love for me when I don’t. I’m simply not that much in command of the world around me. Sure, it took me a long time to realize it, but I’m finally ready to admit the world does not revolve around me.

So, when you’re tempted to listen to those who place conditions on a love God refuses to place on himself, I might suggest that you say to those people, as Jesus said to Peter, “ ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’ ” [Matthew 16:23]

But, you may ask, “Why should I do good things when there’s no threat of punishment?” I’ve always considered this to be a ridiculous question. The threat of punishment doesn’t encourage me to love God and my neighbor, it merely puts me in a position of resenting the need to love God and my neighbor. Rather, the freedom received in believing that I am loved by God is the only encouragement I believe actually works. It stops judgment on my part, reminding me that judgment is not my job. That belief allows me to see my neighbors as the flawed humans I know myself to be, and in turn to give them the same break I’d like for myself. God, after all, is in the redemption business — not the punishment business. Punishment is what we do to ourselves. Or, if we don’t, there are always plenty of others at the ready to do the punishing themselves — and that, thankfully, is not of God.

If there’s any fine print in God’s repertoire, I believe it is the same as the big print: God is love. And if God is love, you are loved.

Now, that’s good news.