Growing up in church gave me the impression that God is love.
But I think we’ve flattened his love into a soft, heart-shaped sugar cookie type of love, so easily consumed.
I say this because it’s been a rude awakening as I’ve actually been reading through the Bible. In there God seems ruthless and brutal more often than he seems kind and nice. He tells Joshua to kill all the impure nations in the promised land even though they were just minding their own business. The Jews get off track for a generation and they get severely hacked down in size. Even Jesus is just really confrontational and rude a lot of the time. He calls pharisees serpents to their faces. He even calls his right hand man Satan. Even a really decent prince comes up to him asking what else he must do and Jesus basically says, “it’s not enough; give me more.”
This guy seems anything but sweet and palatable. Has church been lying to me all along?
I thought maybe so until I was reading about the ruthless God in Judges at the same time as I was reading about the good father figure in Proverbs. I realized two things that made it all come together.
First, most of the horrible things that happen to us are consequences of our own selfish decisions.
And second, he lets those things happen to us because there’s a good chance they will draw us back to Him, and make us more pure and righteous than we were before. It’s just like sometimes a good father has to look pretty mean in order to do really loving things for us. And when he does inflict the punishment himself, it is basically for the same reasons. To draw his people back to him, make them more mature, and make them purer. To help them be the most he has made them to be. This is the God we serve.
He may not always be nice, but He is always loving.
But then again this is the same God who forgives because he wants us with him. He throws our disobedience as far as the East is from the West so that he can be with us. He is the man who sought out the beggars and the cripples and brought them new wholeness that no one else could or would. This is also the God we serve.
So now I see God as more than a flat, soft, sugar cookie word that I consume to feel happy. But he is still definitely love. In fact it is a deeper, fierce, jealous, purity-seeking love that challenges, breaks down, builds up, and if I’m listening right, consumes me.