“I could never believe in a God who would…”
I have heard this phrase knocking around a bit here and there. Have you?
I have heard it from folks who have become uncomfortable with a God who is intolerant or angry about this or that. Such a God may seem unprogressive. Whatever the case an ethos is emerging that plays to a tune like this:
I would not want to follow a God who would judge people. I cannot believe in a God who does not accept this lifestyle or that choice. How can a God of love send people to hell? Jesus accepted everyone. God is love and love does not reject anyone.
There are parts of God that everyone likes.
There are parts of God’s nature that almost everyone likes. The warm and fuzzy bits. The kindness of God. The protection of God. The creation of God. His grace. His love. His power. At times we see glimpses of Him going about this kind of business and we catch our breath. The disciple Peter had a moment like that.
The Bible records that when Jesus asked His boys “who do you say I am? “ Peter hit the nail on the head. He perceived it – you are the Christ! A+ Peter, you saw God for who He is. Peter must have stood tall in that moment, affirmed and rightfully assertive. He knew God and he knew him better than the rest of them. I suspect that Peter liked to be right.
Alas, just a bit later on this happens:
From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matt 23 v 21-23)
I don’t really want to follow a God who says things like that.
Peter, who one moment earlier had displayed an intuitive grasp on the mission of God, had every reason to be confident. Here stands our hero, who hears his master go-off on a tangent, that frankly, sounds like a total downer: Suffering, defeat, death? Events that sound harsh, tough and depressing. So how does Peter respond?
Far be it from you Lord!
In other words: Jesus don’t say that! Be kind to yourself. Why would you say that? This is not fitting for you.
And maybe deep inside Peter is feeling: I would not want to follow a God who says things like that.
Jesus offended Peter and Peter offended Jesus.
Peter was offended with Jesus for spouting hard news and Jesus became offended with Peter for refusing to to listen.
Jesus responds like: “Hey Peter, shut your mouth because the devil is talking through you right now. If I am saying something I mean it. When you suggest I should not say something, you offend me. You are thinking like a man but I think like God.”
How would you like Jesus to talk to you like that? Some people say that Jesus only unleashed His intensity upon the religious folk. Not true. Check out the challenges Jesus issues to the ramshackle bunch closest to Him. Read the sermon on the mount. And remember Jesus is literally “The Word”. He did not come to throw away the law and the prophets. He came to flesh them out. Every word matters. Perfectly in sync, flawlessly in balance. We need to eat the whole enchilada. Well, in the case of the Christian, we need to eat the whole lamb, even the grisly bits.
Some parts of God are hard to swallow.
Some parts of God are hard to swallow. He is excruciatingly counter-cultural and always has been. Sometimes He is hard to love and harder to like. One time the children of Israel got so fed up with Him they made a new god by melting down their precious things. When Moses came back down the mountain he flipped his lid, ground up their golden god and made them drink it.
Why would God’s followers reform Him? Why would they want a new god? Because the God of the bible is sometimes hard to follow and He knows it.
God is today who He has ever been. His love is transcendent and unchanging.
Let’s not melt down our precious ideas, cultural preferences or offences and make a new god for ourselves who is easier to worship.
It’s been done before and it’s being done today.