“Do good to those that hate you.”
It strikes me that Jesus said a lot of things that he couldn’t possibly have meant. You know, the stuff about him being One with the Father, only doing or saying what God told him to. It just isn't true. I mean, it can't be. If it were, that would make God out to be the biggest hypocrite or downright liar this world has ever known. Does Jesus, being God's self-appointed son and representative, have a lot of deception to answer for?
God’s own hypocrisy
The Father God that much of the western church today believes in, does not seem to follow his own rules. Or, perhaps in more gracious terms, through his incarnate representative Jesus, he asks things of us that he himself has no intention of doing. To much of the Western Church, God is an all-powerful being, who has held back his wrath for a time while Jesus and the Holy Spirit do their thing, patiently waiting for the end of the age to pour out his unbridled wrath on unbelievers and unrepentant sinners.
Yet on innumerable occasions, Jesus exhorts his listeners to love one another, love their enemies, do more than necessary for those that demand from them, unreservedly forgive everyone and give generously to those who have no ability or inclination to return the favour.
He himself unashamedly hung out with sinners and healed people from all corners of society. In the end, he willingly and lovingly submitted himself to the wrath and violence of man, when he could have freed himself with a simple word. And at the end of all of this, Jesus offered no wrath, only mercy and a simple cry of forgiveness.
Jesus’ mindset is the same as God’s
If Jesus is One with God the Father, as he claims, and does nothing apart from him, then surely we should believe that God's mindset is the same as Christ's. Philippians 2:5-8 reveals that Jesus' message of love is best exemplified in not lording his divinity over us, but lowering himself to the place of a servant for us, doing good even to those who hate him. Why then do we continue to believe in a contradictory God that does and will continue to lord his divinity and righteous anger over a sinful humanity?
Who is mistaken?
Or maybe Paul got it wrong in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 5 when he declares that love “keeps no record of wrongs”. This seems to conflict with the common belief that God is indeed keeping records of everything sinners do in order to cast them off into judgment at the end of time.
Has Paul completely misjudged God? Or have we? Have we created a god in our own wrathful image to believe in?
If this holy 'god' of righteous anger is love as it says in 1 John chapter 4, his love is vastly different to the love that Paul espouses.
What are the implications?
Does this wrath-filled god have any intention of loving his enemies, or doing good to those that hate him? Come the day of judgment, he is not about to unreservedly forgive these people or generously pour out mercy and grace on those that don't deserve it. The only thing this 'god' seems to love is telling his followers to do things that he is never going to do himself.
This raises a lot of questions for me. If the Father truly is a God of righteous wrath and coming judgment as is often claimed, then Jesus has lied to us all in falsely claiming to be the Son of God. Has he really misled us as to God's character? Or have we completely missed what he was saying?
How can God be righteous if he is avoiding the grueling task of forgiving those who have done him wrong? How can he be loving if he requires the death of a perfect man in order to look favourably on anyone? How can he be just if he demands that we keep no record of wrongs when he has a ledger filled from here to eternity?
Or has something gone astray in our understanding of who God is and his relationship with humanity? Could Jesus actually be the exact representation of God as he says he is? “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.”
God loves humanity more than we do
Or perhaps God loves humanity even more than we Christian faithful do. Perhaps he does love his enemies. Maybe while we were sinners he did die for all. Maybe he does do unending good to all those that hate him, just as Jesus asks of us. Maybe we worship a God who is the embodiment of humility and servanthood, as the incarnation of Jesus shows us. Maybe, just maybe, God first does for us everything that Jesus asks of us.
Where this leaves your theology, I don’t know. But in the end, I’m personally left with two choices. Either God is coming to judge sinners with holy, righteous anger, which makes him a hypocrite and Jesus a liar. Or God is exactly who Jesus says he is, full of mercy and love for all of his children, even the black sheep in the family.
The answers that the Church has previously put forward only seem to breed deeply concerning questions. The God that I’m hoping that Jesus portrays raises other, vastly different, and more hope-filled questions. God is certainly much bigger than my understanding. He is a mystery, Paul says, that is revealed in Christ Jesus.
“For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:19)
Russell has a heart for community and reaching out to the marginalised and forgotten. He is getting to know the God of infinite goodness and is living a joy-filled life with his wife Belinda and three children in South-East Queensland, Australia.
See all previous articles by Russell Croft