There Are No “God-Free Zones”
I was perusing Deacon John Lozano‘s book, Good News in Bad Times: Discovering Spiritual Meaning Amid Crisis and Uncertainty. One of his chapters is entitled, “There Are No God-Free Zones.” In this chapter, he mentions that people claim that the death of Jesus on the cross is good news. This is one of the most paradoxical statements one could make. It has been said that the death on the cross was Jesus’ clear and final act of unconditional love. It was an outreach without limit.
Human beings find it difficult to understand since we have no experience of a love without limits. We are exquisitely aware of our limited ability to love and to be loved. We have no place in our minds to put such an outlandish belief like this.
Instead, we respond by putting restrictions on the love of God in Jesus. We may invite Christ into our lives. We may profess belief in him but in very subtle and real ways we do not believe. To do so would require us to honestly look within ourselves. We would have to dive into those dark places of shame, guilt, and ugly desires that we keep hidden and ignore. We push God’s love away by saying “Not here. You cannot come in here. Other places where I look good and when I am acting religious are ok, but not here.“ We respond like Peter – “Leave me Lord for I am a sinful man.“
We are accustomed to being left alone in the very places where we need Christ the most.
The deacon recalls a story about a man who he calls Joe. Joe is a good man. He is devoted to his church his wife and his family. He serves others. Everyone admires him.
One day Joe related a story about himself. It involved his deployment as a soldier in the Vietnam war. He befriended a man named Tommy. Tommy was noteworthy for his kindness and incredible compassion. Before joining the army Tommy had considered entering the seminary.
During one especially gruesome battle, Joe was wounded. Tommy ran to Joe hoping to pick him up and carry him to safety. Unfortunately, during that selfless act, Tommy was fatally wounded and died in Joe’s arms.
From that point on, Joe became an extremely angry man. He was angry at God. He was angry at life. Once he came back to the United States he would go out to bars looking for a fight.
One day, during one of these fights, Joe got shot by an opponent who had a handgun. The police arrived and took Joe to the hospital. After his release, they took him to jail.
In his cell, with a gunshot wound in his side, bandages on his body, and two broken ribs, filled with anger, Joe thought
“Tommy did not die for this.
At the same moment, he had another thought. “Jesus did not die for this either.“ It was a seminal moment. After he got out of jail, Joe was never the same.
What struck Deacon Lozano about Joe’s story was not the beauty of the conversion. It is where it happened – in a jail cell. With a bandage on his side. With two broken ribs. With a heart filled with anger. It was precisely there that the love of God came because there are no God-free zones. There are no places where the love of Jesus cannot, and does not, reach.
We find ourselves in dark places in our life. You might be there right now where are you feel alone, afraid, and confused. You are not alone. These are precisely the very places where the love of Jesus appears most clearly. All the bad news places in our lives are the very places for discovering the extraordinary good news. It is a limitless love that has no limits and no boundaries.