1st Timothy 2:4 states that God desires all people to be saved. Despite this, many Christians believe this is not true; at least, many believe that not every person will be saved. I realize such statements about universal salvation are particularly painful in light of terrorists attacks in Nairobi, Kenya and Peshawar, Pakistan. If we are honest, it seems that we do not want every person to be saved: not those who rape and murder, kill and slaughter supposedly in the name of God. We want God to punish such people!
Here’s my perhaps unpopular yet clear-eyed truth: I believe that, sometimes, being a prophet is not about doom and gloom. Preaching the truth is not always about denouncing evil and the wicked ways of crooks and thieves and murderers. I believe that, sometimes, being a prophet is about pointing to good news: like a light shining in the darkness, the good news about ideas that are so unbelievably wonderful that, maybe, you and I can’t even wrap our minds around them. The good news that God will create peace that is not simply the absence of violence but the presence of harmony and reconciliation between all of God’s children. The good news that, yes, God wants all people to be saved; and, yes, God gets what God wants.
Let’s be clear: this does not mean that every action is right. The biblical witness is clear, from the prophets to the psalms and from the teachings of Jesus to the epistles of Paul, that God does not condone or sanction or turn a blind eye towards any injustice. It is important to note that in 1st Timothy, even as God desires all people to be saved, God wants those same people to come into knowledge of the truth. God wants us to the right thing, to love others even as we have been loved.
Yet, this desire neither contradicts nor negates God’s other desire for universal salvation.
It seems to me that, if we have the freedom to choose, for example, hate over love, then we have to recognize that God also has a choice. God can choose not to let our evil be the last word. God can choose not to accept our rejection. God can choose to love us, and keep loving us, and still love us, despite what we have done, and do, and keep right on doing. And that choice to love, no matter what, seems to be God’s greatest power, the most almighty aspect of an Almighty, All-Powerful God, the simple yet utterly profound claim that God can choose love, no matter what, like this poem by the Muslim mystic, Hafiz:
Not once in all this time,
Has the sun ever said to the earth: “You owe me.”
Imagine a love like that.
It lights up the whole sky.