Glass Half-Full Theology

Rick ShallenbergerYou are familiar with the old adage of looking at a glass and seeing it as half empty or half full. The idea is that if you are an optimist, you will see the glass half full. If you are a pessimist, you will see the glass as half empty. I tend to be a glass half full type of person. But I wasn’t always that way—especially when it came to my spiritual life.

When I was younger, I tended to lean toward the glass-half-empty view of my life with God. Whatever I did, however good I tried to be, it was never enough. I always felt condemned, because I knew I was a sinner.

My view was fairly simple. God was good and holy; humans were evil. I memorized a few scriptures that reminded me that there is none good, that all have sinned and fallen short, that the human heart is desperately wicked, etc. These verses, standing apart the rest of the Bible, framed my thinking about God, about Jesus, and about myself.

Because of our sinful nature, I believed, God the Father had turned his back on mankind, and the Son had to give up his equality with the Father to build that bridge back to him. Jesus came to earth and lived a perfect life, only to die on a cross to pay the penalty for my sins. I knew I could spend the rest of my life doing good and I’d never be able to repay Jesus for his sacrifice. My half-empty-glass approach to life kept me focused on the human plight—the human failure.

Then one day when I was reading the book of Romans, God began to open my eyes to his love and grace. I started to see the glass as half full, not half empty. I saw that the Bible focused on salvation, redemption, and deliverance, not on sin and weakness. The great themes of the Bible do not dwell on human weakness, but on God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to redeem and deliver. God got my mind and focus off of me and on to Christ. The glass became half full when I started to see what Christ gave me—forgiveness, acceptance, love, adoption, inclusion.

Seeing Christ at the center of everything increased my faith in the God who gives us the gift of salvation simply because he loves us.

My biblical, spiritual and theological glass is now half full, and as a pastor, I rejoice when I see others’ glasses becoming half full as they see God’s word not as condemnation but as a constant affirmation of God’s love, acceptance and inclusion.

With the assurance of God’s faithfulness, demonstrated by Christ, testified to in the Scriptures, and ministered to us by the Holy Spirit, I yearn for the day when the ascended Christ will appear, and we’ll all finally see the glass neither as half empty nor as half full, but as totally full!

Rick Shallenberger, 2011


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