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God's Unconditional Love and the Last Judgment
Q: As a practising contemplative/meditator for many years and a more recent follower of Father Thomas Keating's spiritual advice and direction, I do have one "very spiritually perplexing question" that our group is unable to answer. Hopefully you can free me and perhaps others from a deep fear of God related to this question. The question is as follows: If God loves us unconditionally as Father Keating often makes explicit, then how are we to reconcile this with a "last judgment" that is referred to in the Bible. How can there be a Last Judgment or any judgment at all if we are loved unconditionally? This question is spiritually "eating away" at me ... it would be very helpful not only to myself but to our contemplative group regarding its resolve.
A: Here is another way of looking at this question. God does loves us unconditionally but they key is - do we return that love? God does not judge us - we judge ourselves by what is lacking in our love. There are no surprises at the last judgment; we already know what we have done wrong and need to ask for forgiveness now. God, like the father in the Prodigal Son parable. is always waiting for us but will not force us - free will is always there.
My dad had a wonderful way of dealing with us as kids. He would call us in individually and ask us, "Is there anything you would like to tell me?" If we told the truth and took responsibility for what we did, we would be given a hug and a kiss. If we lied and tried to justify, rationalize and glorify what we did, we were punished, and rightly so.
The choice is ours. God's love is always there - where is ours? I hope this sheds some light on this very important question.
What a joy it is to have a support group on this journey - you are blessed.