A few Sundays ago my friend, and our pastor, Scott Stewart made a point about people creating God in their own image. It was almost a passing comment, but it stuck with me. He simply asked the question, “When is the last time your God contradicted you?” I have heard the argument, and even made it myself, that God must not be real because of such and such. Or, I’d believe in God if only this or that weren’t the way He acts. It was only when Scott said what he said that I realized exactly what was wrong with my thinking.
I will admit, I don’t like it that certain things are true. I don’t like it that there is a place of eternal damnation and separation from God called Hell. I don’t like it that I can’t do what I want to do when I want to do it without consequence. I don’t like the fact that “as long as it’s not hurting anybody” I can’t just do what I want. I have to have my heart in the right place. I have to behave out of love and respect for God and for others. I don’t like it that I can’t just behave on my own self interest. But, it is true. And the question of God saying “no” to me is one that I have to face.
If the god I have imagined never contradicts me, then that god is not real. If God never says “no” to me, then I am perfect. And surely, I am not perfect. If God never says “no” to me, then I have set up a false god in my mind that will give me, as my dad says, “all e’s and no b’s” for the rest of my life. It is a god who has no substance. It is a god of “love” not a God who is Love. The difference is subtle on the surface, but is fundamental. A god of “love” is a non-god who is all hugs and flowers while I am destroying myself. A God of Love is one who rebukes me, and corrects me because He wants me to know better and to be better.
I have spoken with so many people who have had permissive parents. They allowed them to drink and smoke and cuss and fight, and basically do what they felt like doing from as early an age as they wanted. When I was younger, I thought that must be the coolest thing ever. I thought how much I wished I could smoke a cigarette at 13 years old in my bedroom. As I got older the friends of mine who had the permissive parents started to change their minds. More often than not they began to complain that they didn’t really feel loved by their parents. Still, I wasn’t convinced. I thought how odd it was that they would not think that having a buddy for a parent was the best of all situations. But as I got older I finally started to realize the truth of the matter. A parent who allows their child to do whatever they feel like doing, even though they themselves know the consequences, is basically saying, “I’d rather avoid an argument right now, and be the ‘cool parent’ than to protect you from your stupid choice.” A parent who says, “No, absolutely under no circumstances will I allow this to happen.” Is saying, “I love you. I know what will most likely happen if you do this, and I will not allow you to do this to yourself.” Even if that parent errs on the side of being too strict, in the long run they are showing more love. (Of course there are parents who are too strict, and for the wrong reasons as well. There are parents who say no to things because they are afraid of what their child’s actions will make them look like to the community. These are the parents who provoke their children to wrath. This is acting from a Pharisaical, legalistic, and self-centered heart, and is not the type of “strict” parent I am referring to above.)
God is like the good parent, but multiplied infinitely. He knows the things that we are doing that will ultimately harm us, and/or those around us. A god who lets us get away with whatever we feel like is no God at all. A god who didn’t get upset with us for acting in a way that brings harm to ourselves or those around us would not be a God of Love. In other words, when is the last time your God said “no”?
I, like so many others, have used the excuse that since I disagree with what God says, then God’s authority is void. That it offends my sensibilities that this or that aspect of God’s law is there is no reason to doubt God. In reality, it is evidence that He is real. Timothy Keller puts it this way:
“For the sake of argument, let’s imagine that Christianity is not the product of any one culture but is actually the transcultural truth of God. If that were the case, we would expect that it would contradict and offend every human culture at some point, because human cultures are ever-changing and imperfect. If Christianity were the truth it would have to be offending and correcting your thinking at some place.”
Anything that never contradicts my thoughts is my own relativistic ideal. I know from experience that my own ideals can be dead wrong. And relativistic morality is no way to go either. I cannot claim that all morality is relative to the situation. To say so means that I have to agree to the “morality” of groups like the KKK or the Taliban. I have to agree that under the socio-economic standing of the majority of people living in Nazi Germany, the actions of the Nazi government are justified. We can’t have it both ways. If my morals are relative, then everyone else’s have to be as well. That means everyone. There is an absolute morality that we appeal to. The question is which morality do you subscribe to? And beyond that, who will you hold accountable to that morality? Do you hold the conservatives accountable for their lack of interest in moral social issues like the plight of the poor and immigrants? Do you hold the liberals accountable for their lack of interest in personal moral issues like sleeping with whomever I want whenever I want? Or both? Do you hold yourself accountable for whichever side you tend to err? Does your God ever contradict you? If you answer “no” to that question, you might want to reconsider your “god.”
“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.” – Revelation 3:19