How Can A Loving God Be So Hateful?
Ahhh now we have some beautiful questions, but asking a question simply for the sake of asking a question is about as good as last year's calendar. The only good questions are those that lead to truth, so truth is exactly what we should aim for! (for more on truth check out this great blog)
Let's point out some of the major stories in the Bible that tend to put us off:
1. God banishes Adam and Eve for eating a fruit (Gen. 3)
2. God floods the world because it was evil, essentially killing all mankind except for Noah and his family (Gen. 7:21-23)
3. God tells Moses and the Levites to kill their fellow Israelites for worshiping a golden calf. Three thousand die. (Ex. 32:27)
Why do these stories make us so squeamish? Most likely it's because most humans have a concept of innocence and righteousness, and when we picture this bully of a God inflicting torment on innocent people it causes our blood to boil or turn cold all together.
You should be irate at such injustice. You should hate it when the innocent suffer and the helpless are oppressed. The world reacted in awe at the Sandy Hook shooting that took place not too long ago, but after the initial shock wore off people were demanding something that they could only express using the word "justice." I cried with my wife as we spent the better part of our day watching the heart wrenching interviews of a community (and world) completely thrown off balance. As humans we have an innate ability to recognize injustice.
This, I believe, is the same way we look at many of these wrathful stories. This simply couldn't be the God John talks about as being love. In a sense you are right. The God you've built up in your head while being hand fed half truth is much different than the God of the Bible, both Old Testament and New.
The truth is...
None of the stories within the Bible tell of God punishing the innocent. Every occurrence of God's wrath happens as a result of evil.
3. God told Moses (and Moses told those dedicated to God) to kill their fellow Israelites after they
worshiped a golden calf. The dead were over 3,000. At first glance this seems a bit like over kill (no pun intended), but we really have to look at the big picture instead of judging by face value. These people had just been saved by God from the Egyptians. They had seen the great miracles done by God through Moses including the parting of the Red Sea! They knew first hand the wonders of their God and owed everything to Him and yet while Moses was away (receiving the Ten Commandments) they lost faith in their God and decided that they needed a God that they could see because after all they never actually saw the God of the Bible, only His miracles (sound familiar?). Once again no hint of innocence in this story.
Not in any of these stories do we see God act unjustly. On quite the contrary we only see God upholding goodness, doing away with evil, and standing for justice. It seems that we often have trouble connecting wrath with justice but can you really have one without the other?
Many ask "Does the punishment fit the crime for most of these stories?" After all they just ate some fruit, the world was just being the world, and the Israelites were just scared. I don't blame you for having these questions. They were mine as well. But in asking them we reveal our ignorance: our ignorance of the true magnificence of God and the true sacrilege it is to not have faith in Him (the root of all sin).
Were I to willfully break a plate in your house you would be a little upset but not inconsolable. But if I were to break a plate that had been handed down from generation to generation in your family and given to you by your Grandmother the night before she died...we might have had a fight on our hands. So what's the difference? The value of the thing broken! In saying that the punishment doesn't fit the crime you are saying that the the glory of His name just isn't that important. He isn't some deity made by human hands nor is He some genie in a bottle to be summoned whenever it pleases you. He is the God that created the Universe just by speaking! To underestimate the crime is to underestimate His worth.
We demand justice for the shooting at Sandy Hook but what does that really mean? It means that the person responsible for the crime face the appropriate consequences. Were the judge to say to the shooter "That'll be two years community service for you, Sir," we would riot! So why then such indignation when God does exactly what our hearts desire for Him to do? Perhaps because we realize that we are no different than disobedient Adam and Eve, nor are we any different from the unfaithful Israelites who turned to other gods at the first sign of trouble. We recognize an uncanny resemblance between us and those that incurred God's wrath, and that is absolutely terrifying. We cry out for justice, but our cries are empty until we realize that we stand guilty of the very evil which we cry against.
The truth is that the moment we first sin we are worthy of death. In all of the biblical accounts when a person or people group sinned they should have died on the spot, but instead God withheld the fullness of His wrath. He didn't just throw His wrath away because, as mentioned, that would make Him unjust, but though we didn't deserve it He stored it up and placed it on His Son Jesus whom willingly endured the terrifying wrath of God for all that would simply believe in His name.
This is the beauty of the cross! It is where the fullness of God's love and the fullness of God's justice crash head on at full speed. Our debt is paid by the blood of the perfect and holy God-Man, Jesus Christ, and we are afforded the ability of restoration in God's great and unfathomable love! Hopefully you can see a little more clearly that the God of the Bible is indeed love and that His love is not contradicted by His hate for sin and unrighteousness. Indeed within ourselves we find that we truly hate these things too.
“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”
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