A God Like Us Isn’t God
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
First Sunday of Lent
God is all loving. God is angry. God is harsh. God is forgiving. In the Bible or common opinion, Christian writers or daily preaching, God’s moods frequently seem to conform to our moods.
A friend once refused get involved with religion because the God people presented to him was like “a mentally ill lover: warm and tender one moment and murderously violent the next. That kind of person will make you crazy. The only way to stay sane is to stay away. I don’t know whether God is actually like the picture people paint or people paint God to look the way they want Either way, no thanks!”
Sometimes the unpredictable, dangerous picture of God arises because folks naively imagine God as simply a super-human being, giving him familiar qualities so that he is, by turns, heroic and mean, loving and hateful – like we are. But there’s a deeper difficulty.
God loves and wants to give joy to everyone. How do we portray God who loves everyone but observes some of his loved ones inflicting pain on others of his loved ones? If I, as a kid, whacked my brother, my mom would comfort the victim of my nastiness and tend to his hurt. Turning to me she would yell, “Joseph, go to your room and stay there till I get to you.” I was about to feel several things; love wasn’t one of them. We’ve few images to portray God loving those who hurt his beloved.
Great world religions try to avoid ascribing human weakness to God. Christians have the revelation of Jesus which should have protected us from such a failure. It hasn’t. By the second century the Book of Revelation portrayed Christ wreaking vengeance upon Rome for its persecutions of the Church.
A God who loves our enemies and us alike challenges everything: who we are, who our enemies are, who God is and what our lives are about. We assume that God wants what we want. And on the deepest level that must be true. Yet we’re missing something basic.
A fourth grader once observed to me with some agitation, “If we love our enemies, they won’t be our enemies anymore! We won’t have any enemies. How can we do that!?” We have much to learn.