A few days ago, I had a real argument with a friend about abortion. I’ve known him for years, and normally I just back down and let him believe whatever he wants. But for some unknown reason, I leaned in instead, and it devolved into a disagreement about the character of God.
Now, I don’t want to be an apologist for abortion, and that is not what this post is about. My opinion is that the government isn’t removing abortion because they care a twit about unborn children. It is a rallying cry to get evangelicals to vote for them and that is all. But, the argument devolved into our opinions about the nature of God, and my friend told me that because I saw God as ruthless at times, I wasn’t a Christian. He sees God’s nature as just love. I see more than that.
I am a Christian. I believe in Jesus, His death, His resurrection. Another person’s opinion about my salvation means nothing to me. I don’t answer to him or any other person about my relationship with God. But I couldn’t keep the accusation out of my mind so after mulling it over, testing it, I came to the conclusion, my relationship with God is healthy because I don’t have to ignore the parts of His character that scare me.
One of the surprisingly disappointing things I learned when my marriage fell apart was just how little my husband understood me. He had painted in his mind a picture of who I was and what motivated me to match what he needed me to be, but when the storms came, those assumptions didn’t hold at all. I’m a very introverted person, but I’m transparent if someone asks, and to be married for so many decades and realize my partner wasn’t paying attention was a real bummer.
When I read the Bible, and as I came to form an idea in my mind about who God was, I don’t remember editing Him. Maybe I did, but I don’t think so. Instead, I did accept that He was a god and not a man; as such, I assumed that as a mere human being, I wasn’t going to understand why so much of what He seemed to do was so ruthless. He had all the firstborn children in Egypt killed; He told the Jews to wipe out every man, woman, and child in wars to take territory. He struck David and Bathsheba’s first born child down because of their sin, and though David fasted and prayed that He wouldn’t, He still did. The story of Noah’s Ark is brutal if you think of it from any point of view other than Noah’s. There are TONS of stories that make me, as a human being, a little uncomfortable about God’s decisions.
My friend’s argument was that I was concentrating on God as He was in the old testament instead of the new testament. Yes. I know. According to James 1:17, which is found in the new testament, God does not change. So, while I completely agree that God is love, I also know, He has other characteristics, and pretending He somehow became someone different between the old and new testaments isn’t truthful.
God does not leave the guilty unpunished. ~ Exodus 34:5-7
God brings princes and lords down. ~ Isaiah 40:23
God was pleased to crush His own Son. ~ Isaiah 53:10
God isn’t a human. ~ Numbers 23:19
God is capable of fierce anger. ~ 2 Chronicles 30:8-9
God is a consuming fire and is jealous. ~ Deuteronomy 4:24
God defends the foreigner & accepts no bribes. ~ Deuteronomy 10:12-21
I could could go on and on but you get the idea. Maybe 2 Timothy 3:5, where we are told that in the last days, people would hold to a form of godliness, but deny its power applies to the notion that God stopped being justice-minded, jealous, or steadfast. If you have to hide away from your own mind parts of the bible that display God’s true nature and character, then how authentic is your relationship with Him? How easy is it to serve a nebulous god in the sky who only loves you? Why would you need the fear of God for wisdom then? Who would be afraid of a God like that?
As a person who suffered abuse as a child, I believe the part of God’s nature that demanded justice and would not leave the guilty unpunished not only didn’t put me off, but it drew me to Him. I needed a powerful God, full of passion and the ability to do what I couldn’t. I couldn’t keep myself safe, but by having the ability to hide in Him, and knowing He was unconquerable, just, and would accept no bribes, kept me safe. And knowing He was tough played into that trust as well. I didn’t need an ATM in the sky; I needed protection and justice.
I know all of the perfect, positive attributes of God – loving, merciful, compassionate, etc. – and I’m eternally grateful for them. But I also am not afraid to love the God I don’t always understand, who makes decisions that seem so brutal, devastating, and unfathomable. I can just trust that He knows what He is doing, He isn’t evil, and He had a reason that will work itself out someday that will explain it all.