Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Is God REALLY loving?

Having recently 'visited' (in person, in dialog, and/or in print) a number of churches over a number of continents, I've been struck by how each one has a tendency to start with God where they (felt) need Him most.

  • the East African church sings of victory and release from oppression
  • the Irish church creates art involving the sea, the reality of death, and the 'thin veil' between the realm of God & angels and humans
  • the U.S. church filled with those recovering from various addictions speaks often of Satan and demons / spiritual warfare, of harsh realities and Spiritual platitudes
  • the various North American churches that speak of God's acts of making our lives better (in Canada, U.S., even parts of Mexico)
  • the Palestinian Christians who pray often for the release from the oppression of the Christian Nation (U.S.), the local Arabs, and the Jews - praying many of the Psalms.
And God seems to be just fine with this - meeting us in our situation (vs. us going to Him in His situation). In my objective (ha) assessment, this seems extremely kind of God Almighty.

I know God can see the ramifications of all decisions, so I'm a bit surprised by His willingness to let us start with ourselves - we seem to have a very hard time moving on from this spot (known as 'you are here')

During a conversation about Galatians 1 Tara and I were having with two other couples, Tara noticed that we all have our favorite picture (metaphor) for God: King, Father, Rock, Lover, and Hypocrite. This got me thinking about how we use 'Biblical' metaphors but often with a localized twist. "King" probably means something different to me (here in the leaderless state of Washington) than to my friends in Saudi Arabia - different still than my friends in Jordon. Different still than our brothers and sisters living in tribal situations in the mountains of South America or the island-tribes of the western Pacific.

And once again, I came across the phrase that makes me puke: "A God of Love ______ [insert what one wants God to be, usually justified by a narrow focus on certain parts of the Bible]."
  • A God of Love wants me to be happy (so that's why I'm leaving my spouse) - heard this in 3 divorces to-date
  • A God of Love wants me to feel loved (used for everything from helping Evangelicals and/or Catholics trying to overcome religious guilt to Oprah's 'religious' advisers condoning homosexuality)
  • A God of Love wants me to have a deep, personal, intimate relationship with Him (based on how certain words in the Bible are taken to mean what the speaker longs for in most relationships, in general)
  • A God of Love wouldn't... A God of Love would... A God of Love won't... judge, condemn, make me feel bad, keep me from feeling good, leave me oppressed, let me fail financially, etc.
I am not espousing God is not involved / wanting to be involved in our lives. I am not stating God doesn't care - deeply! I am not denying that God is intensely moved by compassion.Ephesians 1, for example, raises in me some doubts about the me-centeredness approach. I appreciate how God comes to me where I am - I think the problem arises when I define God according to my situation alone.

Seems like we have a hard time letting God be bigger than my situation - my survival, sustaining, or benefit is just not the extent of God's greatness and power. Unless life is all about me. Which it is not, no matter what I say!

No comments: