Lately I’ve felt distant from God, and, honestly, a little angry. Some of it is righteous anger at the awful things that have been (and are being) done, said, and taught in the name of God. But I haven’t just been angry at the people who do these things; I’ll admit I’ve been feeling a little angry at God too. He surely sees the hurtful things that people do and say in his name, and yet he seems to do nothing about it. If someone attached my name to teachings or actions that I knew were wrong, I’d want to make it clear that I most certainly am not okay with those things. So many Christians twist scripture and use God’s name to justify manipulation, abuse, and teachings that are not true to God’s character. How does God put up with it– and why does he? Doesn’t it break his heart? Doesn’t it anger him?
I don’t have an answer, really. I’m going to assume the answer involves love, mercy, and understanding of a magnitude I cannot even begin to grasp. I’m going to assume that God must have a plan. He sees things I cannot– situations, motivations, consequences, people’s hearts– and he must be working it all out in ways I don’t perceive. The only other option is a God who’s weak, passive, cruel, or non-existent. And my heart tells me that just isn’t true; my heart tells me God is there, and that he is powerful, loving, and good.
But as I think through all of this, I feel God nudging me to consider some hard questions and answer them truthfully…
Yes, there are people who do and say wrong things in the name of God. But what if I’m one of those people and I don’t realize it? After all, it’s not as though I have a flawless understanding of God; perhaps there are things about him that I firmly believe to be true, but they aren’t, and those beliefs influence my actions. If that were the case, would I want God to become angry, lose patience, and disassociate himself from me? Would I want him to punish me and make a public example of me? No. I would want him to patiently work in my heart, show me the areas where I was wrong, and point me in the direction he wants me to go.
So why do I want him to make a big scene when people continually attach his name to things that are not of him? Honestly– and this is a hard truth to realize– I guess it’s because I believe they’re wrong and I’m right, and that they deserve his anger and I don’t. It’s as though I believe that at some point, the transforming love and grace of God are not enough. In the face of lies, oppression, violence, and abuse, love and grace feel too subtle, too weak, not big enough, not powerful enough. (I know this isn’t the case, but I’ll admit that it feels that way sometimes.) I imagine that God does feel angry and heartbroken when his people attach his name to things that are not of him. Yet he chooses to respond in love.
All I can do is ask God to show me how he feels toward those who do wrong things in his name and to help me see them the way he does. Left to my own devices, I become angry and harbor these feelings I didn’t even realize I had, feelings that they don’t deserve his love, mercy, and grace.
They don’t deserve it. But I don’t deserve it either. That’s the point of grace.