These questions have plagued me since I was five years old. I desperately wanted to please God, but I feared Him. My worship looked more like a heathen cutting ritual than a love relationship. I would have been totally fine with being a slave to this almighty Being, but there was one obstacle to my slavery: Jesus.
This Jesus refused to let me grovel before Him. He kept doing crazy things like getting down on the ground with me. What kind of a god is that? I couldn't get away from His surprising love, no matter how deep I hid in my guilt. So who is this guy? He says He is God, but then why does He identify with me and love me instead of opening the earth to swallow me as punishment? The more I read about Jesus, the more I realized who He is. He is Love. I saw His hands bless little children. I saw His hands touch diseased men with whom no one else dared identify for fear of polluting their own bodies and souls. Those hands wrote in the dust instead of throwing stones at a shamed and justifiably condemned woman. They calmed the waves and stilled the disciples' fears instead of sinking the boat as punishment for their unbelief. These hands healed the severed ear of one of His abductors, caring more for His lynchers than His own life. Nails tore through the flesh and sinew of these hands as He was spiked to a cross by the people He... loved... in the ultimate act of identifying with our sin and suffering.
So Jesus said He was God. Then, why didn't He act like God? Why did He refuse to call down fire from heaven to destroy the obnoxious people who challenged Him, as His disciples recommended? Isn't that what God does? So, perhaps He was PART of God... the merciful, loving side. Maybe His purpose in coming to earth was more about showing us how God wants US to live than showing us who God is. After all, a God whose only weapon is Love is pretty wimpy, right? Most likely, the OTHER part of God is the "just", angry, punitive God that destroyed people for their sins, nearly destroying whole nations (children and animals included) in His erupting wrath at their disobedience to Him. Jesus' disciples had the same questions. Once they believed Jesus was the Son of God, then they wondered, "Who on earth (or in heaven, or wherever He is) is the Father?"
7"If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also;
from now on you know Him, and have seen Him."
8Philip said to Him,
"Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us."
9Jesus said to him, "Have I been so
long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me,
Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us
10"Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and
the Father is in Me? The words that I
say to you I do not speak on My own
initiative, but the Father abiding in Me
does His works.
11"Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me;
otherwise believe because of the works themselves. "
Jesus says, "Phillip, you want to know who the Father is, and what He's like?
Do you know the person with whom you are talking? Have you seen the way I
act every day? That is the Father." So God is Jesus, just as much as Jesus is God. How can this be true? Was Jesus lying? No, He said He is the personification of Truth... and His life validates His claim.
We've left an element out of this equation. From whom does sin, darkness, death, and all things evil find their birth? Who seduced Eve to obey himself instead of the One he hates with seething passion? God is not the only One who wants our souls. Satan wants to see us hated and destroyed just as much as God wants to see us loved and redeemed. Oh, how vulnerable God made Himself when he gave man the ability to choose our allegiance! Like the prophet who married a prostitute, God passionately loves the people he created... even when we run from His love to the one who will destroy us.
So what about the Israelites who whose rebellion was punished by the earth opening her mouth and swallowing them alive? What about the man who was struck dead as punishment for touching the ark? What about Ananias and Sapphira, who fell dead after, as Peter told them, "lying to the Holy Ghost"? What about the people who are in hell? Might God not be the punitive Being we picture? Might the things we term God's judgments be Satan's final destruction of the people who chose him instead of God? That, I believe, is Satan's intent.
I Peter 5:7casting all your anxiety on Him [God], because He cares for
8Be of sober spirit, be on the alert! Your adversary, the devil,
prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Admittedly, with our view of justice being shaped by the judicial systems of this world, things like the last judgement can look heartless and punitive.
Matthew 25:31When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy
angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from
another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33And he shall
set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34Then shall the
King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the
kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35For I was an hungred, and ye gave
me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me
36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in
prison, and ye came unto me.
37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying,
Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee
38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and
39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you,
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have
done it unto me.
41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart
from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his
42For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and
ye gave me no drink:
43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and
ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a
stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye
did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life
What does the heart of God look like when He sees the people who have spent a lifetime running from His love be consumed by the darkness they chose to serve? Might it be bleeding just as much as the hands of Jesus bled as He hung on the cross? Might there be tears instead of anger in His eyes as He says, "Depart from me?"
I still don't understand God or pretend to have Him figured out; He mystifies me. I realize that this view of God may seem an attempt to reduce Him to something more manageable, but who says Love is more manageable to the recipient than punishment?