I was hanging out the other evening, doing my usual thing, talking to people, getting to know people, building relationships. Well, that all sounds very church-plenty, and all of that was true, but let’s be honest: I was having fun.
Anyway, I started talking to someone, a person I know to be a person of faith, and she wasn’t in a good place. At one point during our conversation she just said, “I hate God. Do you ever hate God?”
I wish I could say that was a tough question. I wish I could engage my theological education and religious experience to say that God is above that, or beyond that, or… something. But the truth is that it’s an easy question.
Yes. Sometimes I hate God.
Don’t get me wrong. There are a million thing in my life that I wish were different, and none of them are God’s fault. God didn’t make my choices. God didn’t create my circumstances. God didn’t cause me to lose a friend, or give my mother the pneumonia that took her from me. God doesn’t operate that way.
And that’s why I sometimes hate God.
Because God could operate that way. Because I believe in the power of God, and I know that God could do it, if God chose to.
No, I didn’t blame God for my mother’s death. I was not angry at God for that. It was a circumstance of the world, and my mother was unlucky enough to get caught up in it. No, I didn’t blame God when I had to drop out of college and give up on a few of my dreams. That was just more world circumstance, and a financial puzzle we couldn’t unravel.
But I know God is a God of good, a God of love, and I look around the world and I see… terror. Fear. Injustice. Hatred.
That same night, in that same place, well, there are words I won’t even quote. I won’t give them air, or put them in print. But at that same place that same night someone I’ve never met before in my life, someone to whom I am an utter stranger, used one of those words to describe another patron there while talking to me. And it’s not the first time since I’ve lived here that someone has done that exact thing.
Hatred. Prejudice. Injustice. I see these things, and I know they are not God’s creations, but neither are they God’s will for our world. And God is a God of love. A God of goodness.
God is a God of redemption.
So why, God, why won’t you redeem this?
And so, yes, sometimes I hate God. I can’t help it. There is so much in this world that needs redemption, and, like many of us, I’m so tired of waiting.
But maybe, maybe, what I’m really angry about is that it’s not God’s job to fix this.
It’s ours. Yours and mine.
17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 1
In Christ, God reconciled us to God’s self, and then handed us the ministry of reconciliation, that, through us, reconciliation might continue. As we have become new creations in Christ, God asks us to be ambassadors for Christ, so that, through our efforts, through our work, the world might be made new in Christ as well.
That’s a lot to ask of us.
That’s a lot to ask of me.
And yet, that’s what God asks of all of us: that we take up the mantle of preacher, teacher, evangelist. Because if the world is to be saved, and God so loves the world, well, we have work to do. And God yearns for the world to be saved.
13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 2
And that’s great, but there’s always the “Remote Island” question. If someone lives on a remote island, somewhere in the Pacific, say, and they are born, and grow old, and die, and never hear the name of Jesus of Nazareth, can they be saved? There’s a ridiculous to that argument, as if we, humanity, can place limits on God’s grace.
But closer to home there are people right next door who are living on a remote island. They are isolated by those very things I’ve mentioned: fear, prejudice, injustice, hate. They are isolated by the way they express their essential personhood, as children of God created in the image of God. They are isolated by the way they are given the gift of love.
No, we can’t limit God’s grace in their salvation either, but we can hear the continuing words of the Apostle Paul:
14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” 3
How are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? It’s hard to believe, in this country, that there are people who have never heard the name Jesus Christ. But hearing that name is not the same thing as hearing of him. Because many people in this country have heard of a Christ who is judgmental. Who hates. Who casts people down. Who chases people away from the church, and away from the side of God.
And many of those people love to hate in God’s name.
Those people have never heard of Christ. Because God is love, and Christ is God, and no greater love has anyone than this, that they are willing to go to their death for the ones they love, and God so loved the world that Christ came to go to death for us as an expression of a love that is so powerful that you and I could never comprehend its depth.
And so you and I have work to do in this world. And it’s hard work, and it’s dangerous work. And it could leave us exposed, and open us up to pain and ridicule.
But it’s so important.
And yes, sometimes the work will frighten us so badly that we’ll cry out to God, that we may even come to hate God in our anger. But remember that even Jesus cried out his despair to God from the cross, crying out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
But Jesus wasn’t just proclaiming his fear and despair. He was also declaring his faith, because that line, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” is the opening of the 22nd Psalm, which begins:
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel. 4
But also reminds us:
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him. 5
So it’s ok. We have hard work to do, and it’s full of risk, and sometimes we’ll be sad, or angry, and sometimes we may even hate God. But God’s got big enough shoulders for us to cry on, and a strong enough heart to hear us, not with retribution, but with love and forgiveness.
And most of all, with grace.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), 2 Co 5:17–21.|
|2.||↑||The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Ro 10:13.|
|3.||↑||The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Ro 10:14–15.|
|4.||↑||The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Ps 22:1–3.|
|5.||↑||The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Ps 22:22–24.|