Everybody thinks they know, love, and serve the “right” God. But do they? Which God do you know and serve?
The Angry God
In those writings most Christians refer to as the Old Testament, we find a God who bears a striking resemblance to the gods of the nations that surrounded ancient Israel. Anger him and you suffered (poor crops, infertility, death at the hand of the enemy, the earth opened and swallowed you). Please him and you were blessed (good crops, many children, victory in battle).
Dare to venture too close to that God and you would be struck dead. Remember the sons of Abinadab who touched the ark when the oxen stumbled (“the Lord almighty, who is enthroned between the chrerubim that are on the ark”), and were struck dead. Remember the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest may enter, and then only under extremely restricted conditions. Any who violated those restrictions were struck dead.
The God of Love
Is it possible for us to see a God who by his actions said, “You don’t have it quite right. I am not exactly who you think I am. Therefore I will come and walk among you, heal your diseases and teach you who I really am”? The Jesus of the New Testament differs remarkably from the God portrayed in the Old Testament.
Yet we believe God is unchanging. If that is the case, what must have changed is our understanding of God. Rather than a God who was supposedly behind everything bad that happened (dishing out punishment, judgment or whatever you want to call it), we find the God who loves, the God who freely gives grace and fellowship with himself.
We must remember that those who wrote the books of the New Testament had been schooled in the God of the Old Testament. Even those who had walked with Jesus had not forgotten that God. Do not vestiges of that God appear in their writings?
Do not vestiges of that God pop up even among modern-day Christians? We find the God who destroys cities with Hurricane Sandy, the God who kills millions with AIDS, the God who delivers devastation to individuals and families. We see the God who sends divine retribution our way because of our sin or supposed sin.
Which God Do You Know?
Is it possible that many if not most of these things are the direct or indirect result of the “sins” of people, whether it be personal sins, sins of others or collective sins?
I may not have caused my disease, but the people who many years ago buried toxic waste on empty land, land on which my house was later built, greedy people who did not want to pay for proper disposal of the waste, were responsible for my disease. I may not have caused the hurricane, but is it possible it was caused or at the least worsened by ignorant, greedy people who have so polluted our world that the very weather has changed?
Rather than blame God for every bad thing that happens to us and to our world, lay the blame where it really belongs, at our own feet. Do we really need to be protected from an angry God, or from ourselves?
Is God really the Angry God, or the God of love? Is this the God who slays us or the God who loves us, the distant God or God among us, the God of vengeance or the God of grace?
Which God do you know?