Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Two-Faced God

I have come come to the conclusion that I want a 2-Faced God.

I have been involved in a Bible study this summer on God's Attributes. We started out with "incomprehensible" and moved from there to Just(ice), Mercy (merciful), omniscient, omnipotent, sovereign, immutable (which means unchanging), Holy and a few others. The teachers asked us if there were any attributes we hadn't covered that we would like to hit on in these last few weeks. I thought to myself, "well where are all the bad ones? You know....anger, wrath, vengeance?"

One of the first things we learned is that "God is who He is, all the time" and "God is all that He is, all of the time." In other words, God doesn't stop being loving when he is angry. All of this was well and good as long as I focused on me. I want God to be loving to me. I want a Holy God. I want a sovereign God. I want God to accept me even though I've done some awful things in the past. I want God to see me with a clean slate and love me regardless of what I've done. I want God to be merciful to me. Check, Check, Check. I'm good..........

What about everyone else? When God points his big finger at the world, what happens when things are not directed toward me? How does God's loving kindness, mercy and justice reconcile with the abuse I suffered? That sure wasn't loving or kind toward me.

Of course it all comes down to man's free will - right? Otherwise we'd all be puppets on strings? How many times have you heard that argument? (guilty of making it myself, even)

My teachers talked about the fact that every person suffers physical death followed by an eternity - man's free will determines where they spend eternity --- either heaven or hell. Also that man's small circle of freedom is permitted within the vast circle of God's sovereignty. Even Satan had to get God's permission to act (see book of Job).

So where does that leave me? The good thing is that I can freely choose heaven, regardless of all the bad things I've done. The bad news is that so can Toilet. The good news is that God is in control of everything. The bad news is that Toilet couldn't have acted without God allowing it in his sovereignty.

I'm guilty of proffering the platitude about bad things happen because it turns you into the person God wants you to be. You had to go through this so you could relate to others in this way, yadda yadda yadda - I believed it for awhile. But the more I think of it, the more it pisses me off. If God is all big and powerful, why couldn't He point his magic finger and make me into the person I need to be without all the bad circumstances? Stop the train of doom and gloom and put me on a different track?

My teacher directed me to Genesis Chapter 50 which is the story of Joseph and his brothers (see here for whole story). Joseph's brothers intended for him to die, at worst, or to be sold into slavery, at best. Potiphar's wife made false accusations of assault against him. Joseph was neglected by the cupbearer and suffered seven years of hard famine. At the end, Joseph says, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (NIV) Other versions say, "But as for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good." -or- "God made it turn out for the best." -or- "God turned your evil into good." - or- "Ye meant evil against me but God meant it for good."

So God's plan is unchanging (immutable). He always intends good. But man's free will often turns to evil. Evil is prevalent. God though turns the evil into good and uses it for our long-range good.

Okay, I can live with that better than the platitudes above. A commentary I read said, "This must be so. Otherwise we'd all be useless and damaged goods." That makes sense - if God couldn't transform abused children into warrior adults, there'd be no use in surviving. I could give up the fight now.

But I still struggle with the dichotomy. What is it? Hands off or hands on? At what point does God say, "hey wait a minute, time to step in and stop the evil and start turning it into good?" Is it the kind, open, welcoming hands --- or the powerful hands of wrath? I want both - the kind loving face of God to look toward me. The mean, revenge-seeking face toward others. Maybe that makes me a hypocrite or vengeful or mean and nasty...........

I'd like to think maybe I'm not entirely off base. The book of Nahum (Chapter 1) says in the beginning -

The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies.
The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.

Then later on -
The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.

So is it too far-fetched to say I want the first verses toward my enemies and the last verse toward me? I want a 2-Faced God -- one side toward me, and the other side facing out, defending me, and wreaking destruction on my enemies; forgiving me when I've done wrong, but destroying those who wrong me.
I know it is self-centered, but at least it's honest.


Beautifuldreamer said...

I think we all have times when we'd love to see our enemies facing the punishments of God, while at the same time desiring His mercy and lovingkindness for ourselves.

The wrath of God is actually that point at which He gives someone up; walks away from them forever because they've chosen to exclude Him from their life. We think of His wrath in human terms, maybe along the line of road rage when someone just loses it. But God's wrath is something else altogether, and in a way it's even fiercer than any blast of sudden anger.

It may not seem fair that Toilet has the same choice that you have in deciding to walk with God, and that he has the same forgiveness available. The mercy and grace of God is a mystery too wonderful for human beings to comprehend in their entirety.

While justice does not usually prevail in this lifetime, the time is coming when all will be avenged. Yes, Toilet may accept forgiveness (I know nothing of him, so don't know how likely this is), but forgiveness doesn't wipe out the results and consequences of his actions.

I don't know how God will choose to even all scores. I don't know how he can love and forgive those who abuse children--and in my most honest moments, I don't know why he extends love and forgiveness to me.

The parable of The Prodigal Son portrays an angry elder brother who has always kept his nose clean and gets pissed off because when his prodigal younger bro comes straggling home, their father welcomes him with open arms. And then there's the parable of the vineyard workers; the ones who signed up at the last hour earned as much wages as those who toiled in the heat of the day.

Sometimes God doesn't seem fair, but His mercy must be deep and comprehensive enough to forgive even the worst of sinners who repent at the eleventh hour, or it's not really mercy at all.

Anonymous said...

I love this post. I've had so many of the same thoughts. I like what Beauty says, as well.

I think it's crucial to stay honest before God even when we realize we are believing or desiring something that is apparently contrary to what we've been taught to believe and desire. We can trust God to lead us into all truth. That's what I get most out of Job -- God praises Job in the end not because of his doctrine, but because of his honesty and his relentless clinging to God, even when his clinging is basically shouting, "hey! aren't you good? can you show it please?"

lawyerchik said...

This was such a great post, Enola! I've felt those things, too, over the sheer number of times my parents moved me and focused on their own wants instead of considering what might truly be best for me, and I've wondered why God didn't just intervene and make them let me stay put and form good relationships that would teach me to trust other people instead of being afraid.

I haven't come up with any answers yet, but the one thing I do remember is that God is slow to wrath, which is good, but that His judgment will be poured out on the nations. Either way, I have learned to trust in the fact that God's judgments are perfect and appropriate and sufficient - what He chooses, He chooses, and if I focus on Him and obeying what I know (not on my own but in His strength), it is easier for me to not think as much about those things and live in more joy than heartbreak.

Difference for me is, I have a father who might be selfish and self-centered, but who would never deliberately hurt me (he forgets things or wants a laugh from others more than he remembers that what he might say or do would hurt his kid, but nothing serious...). It's harder to trust God as your Father when your earthly father was untrustworthy or even malicious/horrible.

Patricia Singleton said...

There have been several times in my life where I got really, really angry at God. The last time was when my best friend was murdered. I raged against God for that one for about two years. At some point during all of that, someone told me that God had broad shoulders that could handle any anger that I could dish out and still love me any way. I like that.

Colleen said...

Great post. I have probably gone through most, if not all, of those feelings and thoughts. The day I realized that God loved my father as much as he loved me, I realized that God truly is Love and Mercy. He does not think the way we think. Which is probably a good thing. Otherwise, there would be no hope.

Kahless said...

I think such matters are too deep for me.