Friday, May 20, 2011

God the Baffling

"The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and fourth generation." - God describing himself to Moses.

God doesn't seem to cohere sometimes. He's a little baffling and frustrating.

On the one side he's compassionate and forgiving and on the other he has storehouses of wrath towards sin. I simply have no idea when it comes to writing about God. Yet like the fool I am, I write on...

But God does cohere. His character is perfect and the picture Moses got when God said the words above was one of consistency.

The Gospel as "Good News" compels us to seek after God, not only because of his compassion but also because of his wrath. We need a God who HATES sin. We need a God who judges. We need a God "who will by no means clear the guilty."

It would and is so much easier to embrace God as a warm and fuzzy Santa Claus in the sky: A God who loves all, welcomes all and overlooks sin. A God who comes to us in many shapes, in many forms and in diverse religions and understandings. A God who doesn't descriminate. A God who doesn't care too much about creed and theology (God-study) and just wants everyone to get along.

We all are familiar with this God. And if I'm honest with myself, for some strange reason, I sometimes wish this was God. He'd be a lot easier to box up and put under my bed at night. He'd be a lot easier to explain to friends. He'd be a lot more fun at parties...

But in scripture God is both merciful and wrathful. He is a God who loves mankind and who thoroughly hates sin. I see this most clearly with Christ on the cross, God bearing on himself his wrath towards the guilty. A God driven by both mercy and wrath - two sides of his glory. A consistent God.

As I've written about before, a pluralistic God doesn't offer us much. Really all he offers at bottom are warm fuzzies and delusion. Our God, the LORD, who describes himself to Moses, is a God who deals in Reality.

This God both forgives and judges. That is the reason he can rescue. Without judgement of sin, I would still be enslaved. And without his forgiveness, I'd have been vaporized.

So I guess I'm writing all this down to see it in black and white. To try and better understand not "my God" but the LORD. For the longest time he's baffled me. And if he quits baffling me, I'll probably not be seeking the LORD. But writing helps me untangle me so I can better see God, I think...

Even as I express what I've heard described as "the kiss," God's mercy and judgement meeting at the Cross, I have to be careful. For I have no idea about mercy, and I have no idea about wrath. In honesty, I only have the faintest understanding of what went down on the Cross.

And if I'm really honest ("Just pull the splinter out Philip!"), I feel pretty smug about my profound insights in this post. But just hit me with "dashing babies against rocks" and see how smug I am.

My guess is God is confusing because we are confused. God seems inconsistent because we are inconsistent. The reason for such great issues as "the problem of evil" lies not with God's inconsistency but with ours.

Once again I can hear the words echoing in my head - the Jewish "Shema" or "Hear" prayer: "Hear Oh Israel, the LORD, the LORD our God is one." It follows that I am not.

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