Often we portray God as either a rigid, unyielding God or else a God who is around only to please people. To both extremes, I would say they are wrong.
Remembering Jimmy Swaggart’s fire and brimstone message in the 80’s and 90’s, I cannot help but to see the wrath of God coming down from heaven like the rage of an unforgiving hurricane. The message of vengeance still echoes in the minds of anyone who might have heard it, or the mind of anyone who sees it on today’s pulpits or at funerals. Westboro Baptist Church is the church that protests funerals because they believe that everything bad in the world happens because people have disappointed God by supporting gay marriage.
Lyle Spangler, a pastor at Fremont Presbyterian Church near Sac State, said that Westboro Baptist Church is not encompassing the fullness of God and who God’s character is.
“They are 100 percent correct in the sense that God hates sin - that God is angry at sin - but they’ve forgotten the other part of it which is what happens on the cross,” Spangler said.
Verne Bowers, who is on the advisory council for Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Elk Grove, said that smaller evangelical churches like Westboro Baptist Church become so literal in their translations that it becomes the negative side of scripture, which is interpreting it using human knowledge.
“They become so self-righteous so to speak and that’s not what our Christian faith is all about,” Bowers said.
And then there is the message of a feel-good God: the one who is only there to tend to our wants and needs. This may be the God that is most attractive - the one who gives you things, like money, houses and perhaps even fame. It is this God who is being portrayed by primarily the more successful churches like that of Creflo Dollar, a famous preacher who talks often about God’s “promises” of wealth and success.
Jon Mroos, pastor of Elk Grove Bible Church, said that this particular portrayal by a lot of Christian churches is incorrect.
“What’s being proclaimed in this new-age church movement is that God is ‘here for you,’” Mroos said.
Christians who scare people into Christianity, or coax them into it, often only see God in a dim light and tend not to look in the brighter light - the one that shows the many facets of this God. The remedy is to give people a balanced perspective: the God who balances out good and bad, right and wrong, saint and sinner.
Exposing the balance of God brings Christians back from the extremities of a God who is there only to give people satisfaction, or a God who is here only to condemn the world, and into a God who may just stand in the middle of both sides.
And the middle may just look like a guy who came to save the world.
“I think that if we could get a fresh view of the God of scripture and take out any past experience or past knowledge - put it on a shelf the best we can and explore the genuine God of scripture, which he is the rescuer - we would find great delight in that God,” Mroos said.
Although everyone has different interpretations of who or what God is, Christians should open their minds to the fullness of God. And then, within its breadth, come back to the middle.
As people we know that the invisible cannot be seen even in the light. I am not one to carve in stone what that image looks like, but being that we all are a little bit better with a balanced mind and life, I choose to believe this to be true.
Isabel can be reached at: email@example.com