i co-lead a small group of teenagers who are leaders of other small groups of their peers. i've only been doing it for a couple of months, but so far it has been a really great experience. these young people challenge me with their energy and their willingness to think that anything is possible.
anyway, we had a great discussion at our last meeting (wednesday night) and i just wanted to share some of my spiritual/mental meanderings that have resulted from that conversation. we began by talking about anger, but ended up dealing with some pretty big issues. we dealt with God's anger and Christ's anger. we wandered aloud, "did God really kill people in the old testament period? is it ever ok for God to kill? is it ever ok for God to lie? did God cause Katrina or the tsunami? of couse not. but we so easily assume that God caused horrible disasters that killed thousands of people in another time in history. why?
well, my thought on this is that we are often lazy literalists who are afraid to really read the text. i propose that we are guilty of painting God as an agry serial killer who is allowed to kill at will, but who holds us to a higher standard. "do as i say, not as i do," this God says, right before turning a woman into a pillar of salt or allowing an entire city of people to be brutally murdered because this land was promised to some other people. this God we have painted, or inherited, badly needs both anger mangagement classes and some training on laws dealing with civilians - even the most brutal armies in history have shown more mercy than this God.
we desperately need to repaint this God.
you see, this is not really our God at all. our God is a god of justice, yes. that is one of God's legs. and it is a strong and crucial leg. God's other leg is mercy. and as we read in luke 15, God uses both of these legs to not walk but run to us. God runs to us and embraces us and welcomes us and restores us and celebrates us. God does not kill us. God walks through life with us. God does not strike us down with disaster. God lifts us up with hope.