For many Christians, they believe God is a loving God, but they really like the image of a tougher, uncompromising, threatening God instead.
How would you describe God? For some of us, we picture a loving God who values everyone of us. But for others, God is vengeance first: they look for reasons God might want to “go after” people they don’t approve of then sit back hoping to watch it happen.
I remember a 1975 episode of M*A*S*H in which a combat pilot ends up in the 4077th. He’s the picture of what many evangelicals assume Jesus Christ to be: handsome with broad shoulders, brown hair and blue eyes.
He’s quiet, gentle and kind.
He has no dog tags, and when Radar asks his name, the soldier answers, “I’m Jesus Christ.” Over the course of the episode, we learn he’s actually Capt. Arnold Chandler, a pilot who has been in a B29 dropping bombs for the past two years, a thought that brings tears to the soldier’s eyes.
“They’re my children,” he says. “Why would I hurt my children?”
Why wouldn’t we love this kind of portrayal? It was Jesus Christ, after all, who managed to narrow the 10 Commandments down to the (three) Greatest Commandments: Love the Lord with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.
Yet there’s a secret fantasy, it seems, among some Christians: their image of Christ (and through it, God), isn’t the man who protected the captured adulterer from the angry mob. Instead, he’s the angry one overturning tables in the temple to chase off the swindlers.
They love the image of “righteous anger.”
I think it gives them some level of confidence to fuel their own anger directed toward anyone who disagrees with them. It feeds their ego. It justifies their prejudice. It stokes the flames of anger they carry with them toward everyone who’s different.
And somehow, they are able to sit in confidence — if they think about it at all — that their image of God would never be angry with them. It’s only everyone else who’s the potential target: they’re the only ones who are right.
And perfect, of course, in God’s eyes.
I’m sure God does get angry sometimes. I fear He gets angry about being portrayed all too often as being an angry God all the time.
For me, I think the loving God is the much stronger God. Being angry is easy. Being angry takes no wisdom whatsoever.
Being loving in the face of adversity, hatred, wrongdoing isn’t. Christ tells us to forgive those who sin against us. That’s a hard thing to do.
But that’s what we’re called to do.
By a loving God who’s much more powerful than the “angry” image too many seem to have.