Why do we seek God? Assuming that if you are reading this, you have at least some interest in the question… Those a certain age may know a song released by Heaven 17 in 1981; it was all the rage when I was a student and has the lines “Come and join the fun on the way to heaven, Come and talk to God on the party line. If you can’t be bothered, we don’t need you; We’re going to live for a very long time”. It was an ironic commentary on what can seem to be a common attitude amongst some people of faith; a motivation that is ultimately rooted in self-centredness. I recall a former local vicar, whose favourite line in a sermon was to warn all his hearers that they faced “a lost eternity” if they did not believe. I am uncomfortable with an approach that on the one hand threatens hellfire and damnation and on the other, is just another way of looking after ourselves. This seems at odds with so much of Jesus’s teaching, who commanded us to love one another because God first loves us. In a recent book (“Humbler faith, bigger God”), one my favourite theologians, The Rev Dr Sam Wells, has addressed this issue in a way that speaks to me.
“If we seek God because we want heaven, we don’t deserve God. If we want God because we want to avoid Hell, we’re headed for Hell. But if we desire God because we want nothing other than to be in utter relationship with the source, origin and purpose of the universe and if we trust the God who came in flesh and died emptied of all but love and rose, because in the end love is stronger than death and will never ultimately be separated from us-if that’s what it’s all about, all about for ever, for us- then God will give us that relationship for ever”.