(Richard Rohr’s original blog post can be found here.)
Love [people] even in [their] sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God‘s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love. —Fyodor Dostoyevsky
God restores rather than punishes, which is a much higher notion of how things are “justified” before God. The full and final Biblical message is restorative justice, but most of history has only been able to understand retributive justice. Now, I know you’re probably thinking of many passages in the Old Testament that sure sound like serious retribution. And I can’t deny there are numerous black and white, vengeful scriptures, which is precisely why we must recognize that all scriptures are not equally inspired or from the same level of consciousness. (This is why models of human development like Spiral Dynamics can be so helpful.) Literal interpretation of Scripture is the Achilles’ heel of fundamentalist Christians.
Yes, you have to begin with dualistic thinking, just as you must first develop a healthy frame before you can move beyond it. Jesus often made strong binary statements, for example, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24); “The Son of Man will separate the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:32-33). We must first be capable of some basic distinctions between good and evil before we then move higher. Without basic honesty and clarity, nondual thinking becomes very naïve. We must first succeed at good dualistic thinking before we also discover its final inadequacy in terms of wisdom and compassion. Not surprisingly, Jesus exemplifies and teaches both dualistic clarity and then non-dual wisdom and compassion: “My Father’s sun shines on both the good and the bad; his rain falls on both the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).
The ego prefers a dualistic worldview where bad people are eternally punished and good people (like ourselves) are totally rewarded. The soul does not need to see others punished to be happy. Why would anyone like the notion of somebody being tortured for all eternity? What kind of psyche or soul can condemn others to hellfire? Certainly not Divine Love.
As long as your ego is in charge, you will demand a retributive God; you’ll insist that hell is necessary. But if you have been transformed by love, hell will no longer make sense to you because you know that God has always loved you in your sinfulness. Why would God change policies after death?
We are all saved by mercy and grace without exception—before, during, and after our life in this world. Could God’s love really be that great and universal? Love is the lesson, and God’s love is so great that God will finally teach it to all of us. Who would be able to resist it once they see it? We’ll finally surrender, and God—Love—will finally win. God never loses. That is what it means to be God. That will be God’s “justice,” which will swallow up our lesser versions of retributive justice.