God’s character of self-sacrificing love must be clear to both angels and men. Our image of Him matters not only for the future but for today. It affects not only contemporary politics but our views of who God is.
The traditional view considers the judgment scary. We’ve been taught that it brings punishment. Because the Judge of the Universe determines every verdict, there is no need to explain or reveal anything. The kind of judgment that plays out in our courtrooms, however, makes it hard to see the theological beauty and sense behind God’s judgment.
In the messy landscape of human perplexity, we are called to bring that kind of love into the world. May we relinquish our self-focus and pursue the only effective way to live together in healing and justice. This is the only way to follow Jesus.
The people’s desire for equality and fairness and their leaders’ thirst for power only fueled hatred and contempt for their enemies. Without Jesus’ grace or forgiveness, one doesn’t seek fairness but instead ugliness, oppression, or even violence.
God loves everybody and seeks the highest good for all, yet He also warns of serious consequences for failing to live up to our responsibilities. I can understand consequences, but why must there be an eternal lake of “fire and sulfur” at history’s end?
When I was young and working in my family’s vegetarian restaurant, I often had opportunity to sit and have meaningful conversations with customers during my lunch break.
Conservatives tend to visualize God as well suited to meet their goal of social order, while progressives see God as better suited to meet their goal of social tolerance. In a sense, therefore, we all shape God in our own image and apply our perception of His authority to ourselves, which sets us up to experience God in specific ways.
Believing in a judgmental God can be dangerous. Assuming that God demands an ethic of retribution not only gives a penal flavor to our theology but also encourages zealous violent retribution by cultivating its justification.
Tucked away in an obscure collection of texts in 2 Samuel 21 is a story occasionally cited to suggest that God’s avenging anger needs appeasement. Nestled within this depiction of atonement is the ancient notion of bloodguilt, while a lesser known story is easily overlooked, lacking the attention it deserves. It tells of a woman burdened with grief and searing pain because her two sons have been torn from her. Rizpah is her name. The story has not gone unnoticed, however, by many a brave mother gripped by despair and grief at the death of a child. Such women, left powerless and bereft, receive little mercy.
I have gained a few Jewish friends over the years, and most do not normally encourage proselytizing Christians. However, one older gentlemen I’ve had the privilege of meeting invited me to visit his newly renovated synagogue. He gave me some shofar-blowing lessons, and we spoke about the Bible and the Sabbath. Before I left that day, he asked me to consider converting to Judaism and joining his synagogue.