As expected the more I write about the goodness of God the more I see two reactions. For some they are weeping with joy when they see the freedom of Jesus. They will say things like “I had no idea” or “why didn’t I hear about this” or “I have always known this but had never heard anyone talk about it” or “thank you Jesus.” I really like the last one.
The other side of the coin is not as complimentary. The reaction is most emotional when I suggest that the wrath of God is a good thing or the fear of the Lord is our anticipation of Him doing something amazing in our lives. I can say with certainty that those are the traits of Jesus. I believe that Jesus is the exact representation of God (that is what it says in the book) and I believe that Jesus came to reveal the true nature of God (the truth) to us by His interaction with us culminating in a self-sacrificial death on a cross at the hands of fallen humans (that is in the book too). Still there are those who insist on a wrath (irrational, immoral, forever punishment and torture) that is not God. I think I know why. I’ll get there, give me a few lines.
Is it possible that the Bible leads us to Jesus and Jesus leads us to the Father? When we know the Father we know God. When we know God we know who we are. When we know who we are then we can become who we are supposed to be. When we are who we are supposed to be then we are like Jesus who reveals the Father…upward spiral. Could it be that all of what we see in scripture reveals the discrepancy between our fallen understanding of God and Jesus’ perfect revelation of God? Could it be that our hang-ups, resistance and down-right fury against a picture of a loving God is nothing more than our spirit of Cain trying to get out? Does your head hurt? Jesus fixes that too.
As I walk with Jesus in a greater revelation of His love for me and love for others I am propelled upward to see from the Heavenly places the fallen perspective of a lost human race that just needs to know the love of God. Again, upward spiral. Roadblocks and detours and holes in the road are the attempts of the enemy to pull me back to Earth instead of soaring into the Kingdom. One thought accelerates this rocket…God is good. One burst of fuel makes a course correction…God loves us. One nudge of the throttle…God is not angry at us. One look at the destination…Jesus sets us free. Now we are in command of this trans-warp transport into the arms of love. I really like the upward spiral. Want to get onboard?
So what slows us down, what drags us back, what keeps us from even getting in the spaceship? Jesus said this:
John 8:31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” (ESV)
See the response? We have so many things that we are in “bondage” too. Jesus said this:
John 8:34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. (ESV)
But then He give us the best news:
John 8:35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (ESV)
In the context of this passage the sin that Jesus is talking about is murder in the hearts of these “believers.” They may believe in Jesus but hey haven’t been transported into His freedom. I believe this bondage is deep in many of us. It may not be murder in the sense of shooting someone with a gun but they are the same chains.
Our fallen nature wants to judge. It must judge. It is a master judgment processor. As it judges it assigns blame and guilt like any good judge. When it gets personal then the necessity for a payment is a deep wound that must be healed. These wounds and judgments and guilt assessments are the doors that keep us from the spaceship. They are “water in the fuel” that makes our engine cough. They are the wrong turns on the journey. They are the road-blocks, and pitfalls, and potholes and downed bridges in our attempt to upward spiral. Theses same poisonous vipers are the reasons we oppose the image of an absolutely good and loving God.
Did I get you there? When we have to have someone to blame and we have to see human justice (hang them on a tree) or we have to see payback (put them in the poor house) or we need balance (if I can’t then they can’t) then we need an angry God. Are you surprised? If we are “good little Christians” then we aren’t allowed to hate people under the law of whatever or else. Our hate must be suppressed, hidden, not dealt with and allowed to fester into an all-consuming cancer which can only be cured by a God who punishes my offender for ever and ever and ever. Tell me I am wrong.
This is what Jesus came to set us free from. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. This is the fire of God working in us. This is our upward spiral. We are set free from offense. We live from forgiveness. We see our forgiveness and project that on others. We see how much they are forgiven. Our hearts are changed and we look for mercy. We crave grace. We are desperate for love…not just for ourselves but others. That is freedom. Maybe that is why the first order of business for Jesus after resurrection is this passage:
John 20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (ESV)
Now can you see the power of forgiveness? They are forgiven. God forgives. God has forgiven. Jesus is the proof of our forgiveness. God takes the sin. We show them how to let it go. Now the freedom journey in an upward spiral begins.
Here is a quote by Gregory Boyd from one of his posts:
Getting rid of judgment in your mind is like uncorking an enormous geyser. It unleashes “rivers of living water” within you (Jn 7:39). It releases a powerful flow of love for God, yourself and others that was previously suppressed by your judgment. And it unleashes joy, for there no greater joy than experiencing and participating in God’s unconditional love. – See more
Jesus sets us free of our desire to judge. When we are free from that monster we want to find a good and loving God everywhere. We want to see how amazing He is. We want to find His mercy in every situation. No matter what the words say here or there we know that God is love and mercy and grace and good. It isn’t cherry picking. It is revelation.
Once we have a relationship with Jesus we can see the Father. Then I can read my Bible with the mind of Christ. I haven’t figured it all out and likely never will. There are hard passages to deal with. I can say however that I don’t look for the nature of God in a passage written by a fallen human being with a fallen human perspective. I look for Jesus and then find God. One more verse(s):
1 Cor 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (ESV)
Give yourself permission to jump on the upward spiral spaceship. If you need an angry God and reconcile “forever torture” by the word “Holy” I recommend you gut-check for un-forgiveness. It may be that you “need” an angry God. Jesus is not a murderer or torturer or bully or a punisher. His power, God’s power, is in the cross. When we see that truth we can be set free. When we step into that truth we are stepping into the Kingdom. I say upward spirals for all of us!