My god ... "isn't concerned with hell or punishment" ... "is all about what I say, memorize, have in my head" ... "is always tolerant" ... "never condemns" ... "never divides" ... "is on OUR side" ... "has a 'sin scale' which grades all of us by the degree of OUR sin" ... you get the point. We have a habit of defining God within our own understanding, our own prejudice or our own standards. I hear it all the time. We define God and then do life according to that definition. The reason I know this is that I float into this kind of thinking sometimes. I read something in Scripture that brings me up short (a very good trait if God's word). I didn't capitalize "god" in that 1st sentence because my god isn't God at all. My plastic Jesus isn't Jesus at all. If my understanding is the standard, then my artificial and contrived deity is far from being the God of the universe.
As I read scripture I am confronted, challenged, pushed, pulled and very uncomfortable. I try take in what God/Jesus is saying and desire to sift truth from falseness. The real Jesus conveys some really hard teachings. Those teachings are profound, true and part of what we must grasp to develop a solid relationship with Christ. It is a bit like a child that has cut his/her foot on a rusty piece of metal. Painful things must happen for the cut to heal. The wound must be washed ... it will hurt. Parents that wash the cut and pour alcohol on the wound. Wow, that hurts! If the cut were serious it might require stitches, a tetanus shot and additional painful treatment. But the pain is necessary for the healing.
Over the next few weeks we will look at some of those painful teachings of Jesus. The ones where Jesus says he came to separate/divide/sift (Luke 12:51-53), anger is murder (Matthew 5:22), Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6), there is no "fence-sitting in faith (Matthew 12:30), love your enemies (Matthew 5:43-45), there is a place of "weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:41-43) and if you are for Jesus don't be surprised if the world opposes you (John 15:18-20). These are some painful verses that, if we work to understand them and trust God's meaning, might just heal us and make us stronger in our faith. They are verses that might just help us make sense out of our messed up world where disasters wipe out people, property and provision. They might let us process evil that possesses people to shoot hundreds at rock concerts. They might make us realize there is good and evil in the world and that we are given a great gift of God's word that helps us be part of the good. Maybe they might help me understand why I still do stupid, wrong and very imperfect things when Jesus told me to become perfect (complete) by God's standard. Hard teachings ... but we live in hard days, don't we? Randy