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.