“Don’t mind me; I’m a universalist heretic.”

I’ve been on a bit of a Graham Cooke kick lately–specifically his message titled, “Inheritance” (which, if you have never listened to–or just haven’t listened to it in a while, you should click here and have a listen before reading on).

This message has had a profound impact on me over the years, but recently, the truths God speaks through Cooke have been running through my head on repeat.

With the help of my Thai teacher, I translated Cooke’s message into Thai and have shared it at church, in the art studio and in one on one prayer sessions with my Thai friends.

The School of Promise (SoP) recently held their annual English camp which I volunteered to help at.  During a planning meeting we were discussing the objective of the camp and trying to come up with a camp theme.  As this message has become a staple in my spiritual life, I suggested, “God loves you 100%”.  I talked a little about Cooke’s message, said that I had it translated in Thai and suggested that we read it to the kids and base our ‘spiritual time’ on this message.

My colleagues liked the idea and we designed camp around this theme.

Camp went well.  The kids listened to Cooke’s message, a couple of teachers shared testimonies on how the revelation of God’s great love has changed their lives and we had an activity where the kids wrote out the things they don’t love about themselves, nailed those to the cross and them proclaimed God’s 100% perfect love over all our short comings and imperfections.

All in all, I would say it was a successful camp.

On the final day of camp, one of the SoP teachers stopped to thank me for sharing what I had shared with the kids.  She told me that she really loves this particular Graham Cooke message and will often share bits and pieces of it with Thai unbelievers.  She told me that she loves telling people, “God loves you 100%,” but that after sharing this she often feels remorse because she worries that if we stress God’s great love to sinners–while they are still walking in their sin–how will they ever feel conviction and change their ways?

My favorite part of “Inheritance” is when Cooke says:

“He (God) loves you 100%, He won’t love you any better when you become better.

He loves you 100% right now; and even if you have no plans to become better, He will still love you 100%, because He loves you, because that is what He is like.

And even if you don’t want to change, He will love you 100%.

Even if you have no plans to walk with Him, He will love you 100%.

Because that’s His nature. He loves all the way, all the time.”

These truths directly contradict the idea that we need to stop sinning in order to receive God’s love and salvation.

Through out my conversation with the SoP teacher I began to realize that while she really wanted to believe this message–it had yet to become a truth to her.

Our conversation went back and forth for a little while.  She quoted scriptures to me about God’s hatred of sin and how He turns His back on sinners and I did my best to explain my thoughts on God’s infinite love and our justification through Christ.  We were both stubborn in our views so in order to diffuse the conversation I just said,” You know–I can’t pretend to understand the vastness of God and His love and my opinions may not be very popular…so you can just write me off as a universalist heretic, it’s ok.”

Conversation over.

 Throwing the words “universalist” and “heretic” around do tend to make people uncomfortable.

But more and more, I feel like these may be words that the majority of mainstream christians would use to describe me.

After living in Buddhist country for three years and being forced to learn how to connect with God without all the christian lingo/ideology/iconography that has surrounded the first seven years of my walk with God–my idea of who God is and how great His love is has expanded.  It has been forced to.

Having Buddhist grandma die after living a devout life of Buddhism, not ever knowing Christ’s specific love for her…

or having a young man die in a motorbike accident after living a life of neglect and abuse, never once being told he has value or purpose…

or a girl taking her own life after being sold and used since she was a child, not ever being called a beloved daughter…

These sorts of situations begin to challenge ones views on eternal damnation for not accepting Christ in your life.

God loves you 100% right now.

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

  1. at the same time; meanwhile.
    “he starts to draw, talking the while”
  1. during the time that; at the same time as.
    “nothing much changed while he was away”

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Before circumcision was law, Abraham was justified by God. Before the disciples believed who Jesus was, they were chosen to do great works.

While we were still sinners…

Even if you have no plans to walk with Him, He loves you 100%…

It seems that, more and more, performance and religious rituals have taken the place of justifier in the church.

That the free gift of salvation is only free as long as it’s followed up with a devout, religious, holy, sinless life.

I can not believe this.

If righteousness comes through performance, Christs’ death is worthless. Christ paid the price.  100%. End of story.

The price has been paid.

Christ’s death covered my past sins.  Christ’s death covers my current, repeated sins.  Christ’s death covers my future sins, my unbelief and my incomplete theology.

Is his death not enough for my buddhist brothers?

So. Maybe I’m a universalist heretic?

Maybe you’re going to be worried about my theology and praying for my mind to renewed…and for my salvation.

Maybe this is just a phase that I will grow out of (like obsessing over cats or drawing pictures of robots).


But in the meantime, I chose to stand on and believe in God’s perfect love.

I chose to believe that nothing will draw people into God’s family in a more complete and authentic way than their experiencing the infinite love of the Creator.

And I choose to honor the Lover God by loving those He loves–even when they don’t (won’t) love Him back.

He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because that is what He is like.

An Addendum:

    I was really worried about writing this post, knowing that it may be slightly controversial in a couple of places.  I do want to make it clear that I still very much believe that Jesus is the One way to life eternal and I believe in hell.  The Bible seems clear about these facts.  I, however, believe that we, in our christian minds, send people to hell much more readily and freely than God does and that it is God’s greatest desire to see all of His children honored with Christ in heaven and that He will pull out all the stops to get everyone of us with Him.
    I do not, necessarily, believe that sin sends us to hell. Every single one of us will die in our sin–even conscious, repeated sin (gossip, unforgiveness, half-truths…etc, etc, etc…). But rather, I believe that some, having experience God’s ridiculous love will still chose to reject Him and chose hell for themselves.
    I am also aware of my youth and ignorance and incomplete revelation of God and am willing to be refined in my understanding as I continue to walk with the Lord.



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6 responses to ““Don’t mind me; I’m a universalist heretic.”

  1. Kelsie

    Love this. This sermon has stuck with me since the race, and is always a good reminder of God’s love every time I hear/read again!

  2. You’re awesome, Samara.

    There’s a reason people have debated issues such as predestination vs. free will for centuries. It’s because you can find Bible verses to back up both sides in the debate. I, too, have wondered about issues such as salvation, heaven, and hell, because the airtight Christian doctrine I’ve been taught my whole life seems to have been pieced together from various Bible verses picked out of different chapters and books. I’m not saying it isn’t true or I don’t believe it, but when you look at Jesus’ words about salvation or heaven or hell there doesn’t seem to be nearly as formulaic of an answer. He told the thief on the cross that he would be with Him in paradise, but I don’t remember the thief asking Jesus into his heart or even stating that he wanted salvation. Anyway, what I’m trying to say, is that I don’t fault you for asking these questions and I think it’s healthy for people to use their God-given brains to consider these things. Of course, finding answers is another matter. I can’t say I’ve come up with answers to all of my questions.

    As far as people not sinning anymore, I am reminded of Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” God created us to do good works, and I think our desire to do good works and not to sin, if it is born out of a healthy relationship with God, is our response to God’s love. A lot of people (like me) who were raised in Christian homes were punished as kids when we did wrong, so we learned to not want to sin for fear of punishment, but I don’t think that’s how God wants us to view our actions. I think He’d rather we avoid sin because we love Him in response to His love for us. Because we desire to have a close, loving, relationship with Him we don’t want to do things he wouldn’t want us to do.

    I listened to the message in the video. It was quite comforting, but honestly, I’d prefer to hear the full message that the segment was taken from. I like to know the full context of what was said (which is not to say that I’m against what was said). It reminded me a bit of a video of a message we watched for the discipleship school called “The Resurrection Side of the Cross” by Chris Gore. I couldn’t find the message online (we watched a DVD). I heard afterward that there was some disagreement amongst our school leaders. I guess one liked the video and the other didn’t.

    I really appreciate and resonate with messages that emphasize God’s love and acceptance. I think we need more of these messages in the evangelical church, but I think a lot of leaders are afraid that people will misunderstand a message like that as a license to sin. But if people really care about honoring God and know their Bible (Romans 6…) that shouldn’t be an issue. And if people grew up going to a conservative Christian church, they’ve probably already heard a lifetime’s worth of guilt-trip messages.

    Sorry for the long response, but this is something I’ve thought about before. And bonus points for mentioning circumcision…

    • samara marie

      Paul! As always, thank you for reading and for your thought out response. One of the biggest things we’ve been talking about in our house lately is how little any of us will ever fully understand about God, grace, and salvation, this side of eternity and so while I know I will never fully understand who GOD is–I want to err on the side of LOVE rather than the side of judgement.

      My prayer, lately, has been that the Lord give me grace to live out my convictions and LOVE unconditionally the hard ones to love. The funny thing is… the hard ones for me to love are not the sinners, but rather the ‘holy’. So, I’ve been asking God for an extra dose of loooooooooove so that I can practice what I preach. haha.

      Also–I did not think at all about circumcision being funny. So your last comment made me laugh.

      Thank you again for reading and responding.

  3. Mom

    As always my dear, sweet, beautiful, wise daughter your writing is wonderful. The first time I read this (yes, I have read it more than once…. Actually about 5 times now) my thoughts were immediately brought, Back to the prophecy that was spoken over you by Dan Gruber. I wish I remembered it word for word. (Dan said he journaled it.) The part that impacted (has stayed with) me all these years were: You (Samara) will write and paint in such away that it will bring many (cross cultures & religions) to the Lord!

    My darling daughter, I am a witness to God’s prophecies about you being fulfilled. Not only has he fulfilled his prophecies but he has also given me my hearts desire that I prayed over you before you were born.

    The inheritance by Cooke was awesome!

    Eye opening – he can only love us as much as we love ourselves.
    I have so much more to say….

    You are 100% right to err on the side of LOVE!!!
    Love outrageously – Love unconditionally – Love no matter what
    You cannot fail living this way.
    Love you to the moon and back
    My sunshine 🙂

  4. He loves you, because He loves you, becasue He loves you…
    so glad you shared this
    good to read and to be reminded of the truths in that message
    I need to listen, it’s been a while:)

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