I used to think that God was keeping track of every good and bad thing that I did in an effort to evaluate my efficacy as a created being and determine when and to what level He should turn up the heat. It scared me to think that some little stone left unturned could cover up an estranged lie or fit of rage that could cost me my heavenly mansion and evenings strolling along the golden-paved main streets of paradise up in the sky. I even posted on an old blog that I didn’t think it was right to refer to God as my friend. Who on earth am I to have a friendship with God – I’m a subordinate peon at best. Yes, He was the creator but He is also the “I-could-snuff-you-out-at-any-moment-er”
Frightening when you consider it. “O mighty smiter, spare me your wrath for one more day.”
This is the first of what I’m sure will be a long series of rambling but honest posts about how my views of God, faith, purpose and life have changed in the past few years and I’ve meandering along the journey.
Up first… God
Here are the basics. God created the heavens and earth and everything in it. In fact THIS is one of his core characteristics – creating a creation that can in turn create – trees beget trees, people beget people, bacteria beget bacteria. You get the picture.
After he created people, some stuff happened and ever since He’s been trying to get our attention… more about this to come.
First for the confusion – the Old Testament. We see a lot of things happen in the OT. God leads his people from captivity under an evil regime to freedom, provides a ram instead of a son for a sacrifice, etc, etc. At the same time, he calls for the annihilation of entire people groups. It’s odd. I’m not going to lie. I can’t rationalize it away. All I know is that it was very different to hear of a God that wanted to infiltrate human space and time to connect with His creation. He did that first through tabernacles and temples and tablets (aka, the ten commandments + ark of the covenant combo)
Now, it is true that God COULD assume the role of senile old man hurling happenstance lightning bolts towards the planet. But we are given glimpses into the character of God through a guy named Jesus – who also happens to be the last means by which God has chosen to connect with us. To attempt to understand the modus operandi of Jesus is to do the same with the modus operandi of God.
Jesus was a man of ultimate love and compassion, a defender of the weak, an opponent to the stagnant and fallacious status quo. He lived out what the prophets had said hundreds of years before:
Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.
So, who puts the “right” in “righteous”? Again, if we look at what we know about Jesus . . .
He stood up for the woman that was supposed to be stoned and said . . . “Wait a minute. If there is someone here who has never broken the law and sinned . . . then go ahead a throw the stone.” He told the story of the son who squandered the fathers wealth on sex, drugs, and arabian music, and emphasized that the father RAN to greet the “wayward” son before he even made it back home. The father never even asked for an apology. The son was welcomed home no questions asked. This kind of love is what we see in Jesus. What angered him the most was emptiness and shallowness and selfishness. Those leaders who were supposed to be examples of “what was right” were in fact exactly what was wrong. They were the ones that were stoning instead of bridging gaps. They were the ones who were building themselves up instead of building others up. They were the ones that were going through the motions with no concern for connecting with God.
We have this image of God as being a white haired anal-retentive pissed-off judge who finds some perverse joy in banishing the evil to hell. But we have no basis for this except for our own imagined fears, shortcomings, and misgivings. Everything we see about Jesus says that what He thinks about judgement and what we think about judgement are two different things.
All that to say, my first step had to be realizing that God is not “out to get me” and waiting to strike me down. He wants me to love and feel compassion and do what’s right more than he wants me not to dislike, not to be ignorant, and no do what’s wrong. This is a major difference, though not always obvious on the first pass.
But THIS God, who is not angry with me, but wants to connect with me, forms the basis of a completely new understanding of what I thought I believed.