Looking out over a sea of dead bodies, Rev. Jim Jones was overcome with grief. He retreated to his living quarters and dropped to his knees in prayer. Remembering all the moments that the message of God had passed him by, he cried out for forgiveness. The cries weren’t enough to drown out the cacophony inside his head though, and unable to live with the shame of what he had done, he picked up his gun and pulled the trigger.
Immediately Rev. Jones met God, and was overwhelmed by the love, the simple, unwavering, overwhelming, perfect love. “How can you love someone like me?” Rev. Jones asked. Without hesitation, God replied, “You are sick. I’m the great physician. Do you want to be made well?” In the midst of such love, Rev. Jones didn’t hesitate – “Please!” – whereupon a fire that burned off all the evils he carried swept over him. When the fire died away, he was ushered into a place where the souls of Jonestown awaited.
Rev. Jones realized where he was: back in the jungle of Guyana. Jonestown was once again known by its original name – the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project – and it was perfect. Everyone was equal. There were no shortages. God walked amongst them. This was the Eden that they had all dreamed of.
Love had won. The evils of Jonestown were forgotten. On the outside of such a place, were all the people who believed that such redemption was impossible.
In the economy of God, those who believe themselves to be righteous are always the ones who end up on the outside looking in. Those who know they’re not, are always in.
I often wonder if people are capable of conceptualizing redemption. We live in a world determined to punish the guilty instead of repairing the broken. Most often, we believe that the worst of the worst are forever beyond God’s love. Such thinking is heresy in the light of a God who had the tenacity to declare, love for “the world.”
I’m not interested in what people think God can’t do, because I know better. Eventually, every knee will bow and confess that “God is love.” Those who confess with their mouths will be saved. In the end, we will all rest in love. Of this, I have no doubt.
One day – sometime in a new world where love reigns – I hope to visit the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project. Maybe out working in the field, I will meet the new/complete Rev. Jim Jones, I will be reminded of the eternal redemptive power of God’s love, and I will see the fulfilled eternal beauty of the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project.
In the fields, the united voice of the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project rose up, “God is able! Love has wiped away every tear from our eyes. There is no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain. The old order of inequality has passed away. We are the power of love to redeem all things.”
(Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood is a Baptist pastor, theologian and activist living and working in Arkansas. Dr. Hood’s extensive work has appeared in numerous media outlets, including in the Dallas Morning News, Huffington Post, Fort Worth Star Telegram, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Los Angeles Times, WIRED magazine and on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and NPR. He writes regularly at https://www.patheos.com/blogs/jeffhood/.
(Jeff’s other articles in this edition of the jonestown report are Love Is the Word and On “The Letter Killeth”. The collection of his articles for this site appears here. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)