Monday, August 1, 2016

Genesis 15:6

I have spent a lifetime being angry. Not every waking moment, of course, that's just silly.

But the truth remains that whether it be nature, nurture, or a combination of both, I have been saddled my entire life with a temper that can occasionally generate behavior that I am always embarrassed about after the fact.

I'm burdened with regret for all the wrongs I have done to others by reason of my sin. I have regrets for bad decisions that reach all the way back to ninth grade.

Did I just use the word "sin"? I did. As Andy Stanley has pointed out, referring to my past sins merely as "mistakes" doesn't sufficiently characterize the nature of the behavior nor the damage it incurs.

What I have learned recently is that in an attempt to take responsibility for the wrongs I have done, I have given plenty of gravity to the judgement of God, but not enough to the aspect of God that matters the most: love.

I used to think that people who preached about God's love all the time were not being realistic. Wasn't God the person who ended people's lives in the Bible for all kinds of disobedience? Wasn't God the person who eventually makes a final decision that separates the sheep and the goats, the wheat and the chaff? Wasn't God the person who grants entry to Heaven for the few there be that find it, and casts out into outer darkness those who refuse to obey His rules?

All these years I knew the words, but apparently didn't fully understand what they were saying. I was viewing God through a concept of reward and punishment, much the same way I was raised as a child, and as most people are raised.

My wife and I have been reading through the Bible from front to back. What we've found by reading all the text instead of just cherry-picked passages, is that the history of human beings is steeped in rape and violence, hatred and deceit, anger and retribution, selfishness and tragedy. It's quite similar to Game of Thrones in its shocking details.

What I get now by reading the text from the source, instead of reading other commentators on the text, is that the whole time, from the beginning to the end, God has had nothing but love for human beings, and has demonstrated it by forgiving us over and over again, despite our own propensity to spit in His eye.

What can a father do about a son or daughter who refuses to live a good life and be kind to others? What can a father do about a child who becomes an adult, and can't seem to stop his or her destructive and sometimes hateful behavior?

While a father may at times have to commit himself to things like 'tough' love, the truth of it is that no matter what the child does, the father (and mother) will always forgive the child if the child sincerely seeks reconciliation.

No matter how many times the child errs, the parent will always take the child back.

Because the parent loves the child, plain and simple.

So no matter what you've been told, or what kind of fear and anger you've held onto, the truth so many of us can't seem to wrap our minds around is that God loves us all, and can't stand even one of us having to experience the pain that goes along with bad decisions.

But what can God possibly do for those who refuse to admit they are wrong?

This universe, Earth, life... these are all too convenient to be a statistically impossible accident. The God in the Bible is not a dictator nor sadist. Those are lies that seem probable if a person would rather be angry than thankful. God has never, nor will ever, force our hands. That level of freedom is just one of the many, many gifts we were all given from birth.

A person either trusts God or they don't.



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