I’ve got issues. While Jesus has always been my jam, for a long time I thought God more than disliked me. Worth, belonging, and love are fundamental human needs and I was convinced when it came to our Creator and Ultimate Reality, I’d struck out on all three accounts (as had everyone else). I now realize this deep shame for being human was a HUGE part of why I was enslaved to porn for ages. After years of attempting to quit by trying harder and being better, and ALWAYS failing, what freed me was encountering the God who wildly and unconditionally loves, accepts, and approves of me.
This is the fifth (and I “think” final) blog in a series on common lies we believe about God, versus what I’ve come to understand is True, life-giving, and loving. My hope is to spread the bliss and abundant life this paradigm shift has brought. With that said, you can certainly read this part alone, or to get more of the “story” and where I’m coming from, you can start at Part 1 here: https://gracenpeaceyoga.com/2018/05/13/lies-we-believe-about-god-part-1/
God’s Wrath is Like Ours
I’ve been having a lovely conversation with a great guy in the comments on previous blogs who sees some things differently than me. I really appreciate how he’s engaged with curiosity and kindness, seeking to both understand and be understood. I mention that because he’s brought up God’s wrath more than once. I believe we have this falsehood in culture that wrath is a bad thing, an angry disposition, and/or a deliberately harmful action. We think of wrath in terms of the Liam Neeson character in the “Taken” series of movies or Charles Bronson in the “Death Wish” films. My point being is that we assign a “humanistic” wrath to a holy and good God. We see injustice and wrong, and think it should be met with violence and punishment (wrath). The thing is, I’ve come to believe this is NOT God’s way.
God is Light and Love; meaning God’s wrath is bringing whatever ills we’ve done into the FIERCE presence of Light and Love. I emphasize FIERCE because True Light and Love will burn away anything that isn’t good, which typically hurts. AND it is also the most restorative and life-giving thing possible. God’s wrath is a restorative and life-giving blaze that cleanses us of our violence, tendency to exclude, ill will, tendency to blame, gossip, hurts, negativity, judgments, condemnations, proclivity to shame, destructive criticism, and so on. In short, I’ve come to welcome and crave God’s wrath because it’s a GOOD thing for everyone!
God is Large and In Charge
This goes hand-in-hand with the last one. Christians view our Creator as omnipotent, or all-powerful. I agree this is part-and-parcel with what it means to be the Divine. The thing is, it’s easy to also think this means God controls everything and everyone, and that God is heavy handed in the use of Divine power. This makes sense because in the world, that’s what we do. A SUPER helpful way of thinking of this is phrases I’ve gotten from author/pastor Greg Boyd. He speaks frequently of “power over” and “power under”. The way of the world is power over, wherein those with power control, manipulate, and coerce those “under” them. Conversely, the Jesus’ Way (God’s Way) is power under, wherein we use our strengths, abilities, gifts, and so on to come under and empower, enliven, and encourage others… JUST … LIKE … GOD … DOES.
Another really helpful way to think of this is to hold these two statements to be equally True and important: God is all-powerful AND all-vulnerable. Love is a risk. Anyone who’s loved and lost, whether it’s via a break-up, divorce, death, etc., knows this. God is Love, and desires relationship with us, which means our Creator’s Heart is left wide open to being rejected and hurt by us.
God is a Man
Yes, God incarnated (i.e. took on a body) as a man named Jesus. This totally made sense in a patriarchal time and place. YET, both male AND females are equally made in the image of God. More to the point, a friend of mine in seminary beautifully said: “God is FULL of gender.” In ancient Judaism, it was literally a sin to mentally image God as a man … or a woman for that matter.
Here are a couple of tidbits you may not have heard. In Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, the nouns have gender (masculine, feminine, and neuter). Right at the beginning in Genesis 1 we see God BOTH referred to with a masculine AND feminine noun. How beautiful is that? Additionally, at the end of Genesis 1 we see God talk about making “both male and female” in the divine image. The more interesting thing, in my mind, though, comes in Genesis 2. We read a second, and different, creation account from Genesis 1, wherein God first makes a “man” named Adam, and then takes a rib out to form the first woman, named Eve. The thing is, this is an interpretation of the Hebrew. The original language literally says God made Adam, which SOMETIMES means a man or the name Adam, but MOSTLY is a term for humanity/human. Thus, another interpretation of the text is to read that God made the human, and THEN split the human into man and woman. Again, we can pick that up in the Hebrew by noting it isn’t until after the split that the words shift to a noticeable differentiation.
God Makes Us Bad
As near as we can tell, original sin is NOT something Jesus would have believed in. I say that because Jesus was a Jew, and for a brief time the Jewish people tried that belief on for size, but it didn’t take long for them to discard it as UNTRUE. Muslims, who believe they are the brothers and sisters of Christians and worship the same God, don’t believe this either. What is more, Eastern Orthodox, which was at one point half or more of the Church, and is arguably the oldest Christian tradition, does NOT believe in it either. I point that out because original sin is the belief that since Adam and Eve sinned by taking the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, EVERYONE is born bad.
We believe God is good and the Lord is our heavenly Parent, so let me ask: Does a good Creator make bad people? I don’t think so. AND, is there evil in the world? Yes. Do we EACH have the ability and sometimes bent to choose harm and hurt? Absolutely. When I was addicted to porn I believed in original sin. I trusted I was born bad. I thought there was nothing good about me and that the ONLY reason God would or could love and save me was because Jesus died for my horribleness. This mentality did nothing but shame me to my core and lead me to a deeper addiction.
In my head I have like 20 more things I’d like to say on this topic, but instead I’ll point you to the book “Original Blessing: Putting Sin in Its Rightful Place” by Danielle Shroyer. Additionally, I’ll note in the beginning (Genesis 1) God names us VERY GOOD. THAT is the beginning of our story and being. What is more, when Jesus is baptized and our Creator names Him “beloved”, it is ALSO a pronouncement for EACH of us, because Jesus is the first fruit of a new humanity everyone is invited to join … we need only accept this free gift from “above”.
Before original sin, whatever you make of that, came original blessing, wherein God pronounces each and every one of us worthy, included, and loved … NO DOING REQUIRED because it’s a good gift from the good God. The story of Adam and Eve being tempted to eat the forbidden fruit is a tale that applies to us all. The serpent convinced them to NOT trust God loved, valued, and accepted them, and to instead try to grasp and eat the fruit of knowledge on their own … which leads nowhere good for any of us.
God is Political and Religious
I’ll start by saying I think this is actually true … just NOT how we usually think of it. 🙂 Republicans think God is Republican and Democrats believe God is Democratic. Baptists believe God is Baptist and Roman Catholics believe God is Roman Catholic. I’d say those are false. Consider, there are Jews for Jesus, Islamic Christians, Buddhist Christ Followers, Hindu Jesus Disciples, and so on. My point is, our Creator wants no part of the way we often consider politics and religion.
That said, our term “politics” comes from ancient Greek and the word polis. Long story short, politics is nothing less and nothing more than providing for the thriving and flourishing of everyone who is “in”, which is ALL people in God’s economy. So, in that regard, absolutely our Source is political. The Christ is all for the health, wellness, and joy of all beings. Likewise, the origin of “religion” is Latin’s religio, which effectively means to “re-connect”. Religion, then, is the practices that reconnect us to Spirit, other people, creation, and ourselves. So, in that True sense of the word, God is quite religious.
When I was addicted to porn I was in a dark place. The crazy thing is, though, at the time I thought life was good. While there was much goodness then, in comparison to where I’ve gone with my relationship with God, reality, and other people since then … WOW. There’s no comparison. My awe towards God, love for people, and zest for life is SO much greater now than ever before it blows my mind. The shifts in thinking about God I’ve been sharing have been a large part of this transformation for me, so I pray it aids you on your journey too… and I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!
Grace and peace,