Saturday, November 03, 2007
The Wrath of God?
Unfortunately I saw the piece on 20/20 this week interviewing Shirley Phelps about the Westboro lawsuit. It was disgustingly awful to watch children singing "God Hates the World and All Her People."
Admittedly this particular group is extreme fringe. However I feel that same disappointment when I read websites, blogs, and comments that portray God as hateful and angry. I believe a message that heavily emphasizes judgment and wrath misrepresents God.
On a certain website, concerning the gospel as presented by John MacArthur, Doug Pagitt was quoted to say: "I do not say "perverted" lightly, either. I really think what he communicates is so distant from the message of the Bible that it is dangerously harmful to people."
It is harmful if the message portrayed is so far from the truth of who God is that it repels people. When people preach a narrow gospel of an angry and vindictive God, they don't seem to realize that they project their own anger and hatred onto God.
I believe it was Anne Lamott who said, "You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do."
Sometimes I wonder about why people hang onto this angry version of God. They seem afraid to believe in God's kindness, love, and mercy. Kind of like it's too good to be true.
It's not just the extremists. I think most of us have a small piece of the angry God that we've struggled to let go of, the picture of God we imagine when we are feeling ashamed or unworthy - the disapproving father, the harsh taskmaster, the unsatisfied perfectionist.
What if we are transformed by love instead of by law?
Legalism requires the harsh language of sin, judgment, and wrath. But what if God is completely confident in the power of love to transform a heart without threats and intimidation? Of course, living that way would require faith in the transforming power of God's love instead of trusting in control.
Personally, I think the greatest revelation that we, individually and as the church, will have is a growing revelation of God's love. His love has the power to redeem and restore in a way that judgment and condemnation never can. I don't think we, the church, have yet come close to imagining or expressing the depths of God's love.
Can His love be taken to an extreme?
I don't think so. What do you think?