God is a mystery,but if you are a married man, you know that so is your wife! However you won’t usually avoid knowing her or trying to understand her because you sometimes don’t. God is mysterious,but mysteriously good and mysteriously loving and mysteriously awesome and He isn’t so scary He is to be avoided. In Hebrews 10:31, when talking about “insulting the Spirit of Grace(or God), it says “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of a living God”. Of course that is true but to help us try and understand our God ,we will need to grasp the healthy balance of two seemingly opposing personas we see in God that walk together. We see this balance all the time as we read through the scriptures . But it is not a good/bad dualism or even the ying yang in Tao. It is the likable/lovable vs the frightening/perplexing.
Today there is a new wave of understanding about God’s nature of grace. But as people dive into these wonderful truths they can tend to get carried away,then come to crazy conclusions and say things like, “God is so gracious,I’m sure satan can be saved, too!” Or, “I am pretty sure we don’t even need to read the Old Testament as it’s irrelevant.I’m all about Jesus.The God of the Old Testament was guilty of killing people and I can’t reconcile or believe in a God who would do that! Those stories must be just allegories”. While I can see how people might go there, they seem to miss the point that God is beyond our comprehension! His ways inscrutable…and He is beyond understanding. The bible tells us God can actually give us a peace that defies understanding! So why is it such a stretch to think we are invited and asked to BELIEVE ,but not necessarily UNDERSTAND? Winston Churchill after WWII,when trying to describe the way Russia operated, called them, ”a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. Now that was trying to understand and describe how the police state of the Soviet Union worked. But God is infinitely more mysterious than that! Yet the problem is not with GOD. Because there is one thing we can be clear about, and that is that GOD is good,loving,merciful and HE is LOVE. So whether we understand HIM or not, God is the unchanging ONE, not us. WE are the ones with the challenge of believing in a being we scarcely understand.
The fear of God could be said to be the acceptance of these extremes of compassion,love,mercy & grace on one hand and righteousness,justice,truth and wrath on the other! These contradictions are seen all through BOTH the Old and New testaments and can confuse someone trying to have faith in a God he barely comprehends. For example the characters of suffering JOB and joyful JESUS don’t seem to intersect, but God thinks they do. Another example of this kind of apparent tension is in Luke 12 where Jesus,notJob,said this:“I say to you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” Luke 12:4-7
Jesus is telling us of His Father’s devotion,attention and care for us,reminding us how He doesn’t forget to supply for and take care of us because we are more valuable than many sparrows. But He says this right after we are told to fear Him, as He is the one who can throw us into hell! Again, here are the two seemingly opposing and incongruent personalities in one BEING! I really think the fear of God comes when we can begin to believe in and trust in this ONE where these two opposite extremes seemingly coexist. While we have a hard time understanding passages like “Jacob I loved,Esau I hated”, they still aren’t going away and we too have struggles of thought over people and things as well. We question whether we should trust people or not.God did that with making Saul king.
As mere humans, we struggle admitting we might be afraid trusting in someone so “bipolar”! We might rather to “edit out” that which we struggle with, rather than attempt to accept and believe in such a paradoxical God when we don’t seem to understand Him right then. An example of changing theology to make sense out of and accommodate the incomprehensible God ,was when Rob Bell wrote a book called Love Wins,which many said clearly rejected the notion of hell and embraced the idea ALL will be saved or universalism. According to Martin Bashir,the host of a CNN interview, “You’ve indicated one of the problems with the book, is you’re creating a Christian message that’s warm, kind, and popular, for contemporary culture but it’s, frankly, according to this critic, unbiblical and historically unreliable. That’s true, isn’t it?” Bashir, sensing Bell’s duplicity, became irritated by Bell’s refusal to give him a straight answer and then accused him of speaking out of both sides of his mouth. After Bell tersely denied that he was a Universalist, Bashir (too liberal to be a friend of all Christians) immediately followed with a scathing indictment: “You’re amending the gospel so that it’s palatable to contemporary people who find, for example, the idea of Hell and Heaven very difficult to stomach. So here comes Rob Bell, he’s made a Christian gospel for you and it’s perfectly palatable, it’s easy to swallow.” Rob Bell took so much flack for that book and his seeing embrace of Universalism, he was forced to resign his church and was last seen on Oprah.
We all love to say God is LOVE, there is no fear in LOVE and LOVE never fails! But God is also TRUTH. His word is a two-edged sword and while we may struggle with it ,He sees NO contradiction in being two seemingly opposite things at the same time. He even tells us to “speak the truth in love.” Glimpses into God’s apparently fickle humanness can horrify most Christians even when they don’t want to admit it. It is unsettling to hear God say to Moses He wanted to do away with Israel and start over with Him because of their stiff-neckedness(Ex 32:9&10) But what if we are seeing God’s divineness, not His humanness in those times? Why would God let us see this side of Him except to show us how we can identify as His children? His patience lasts for eons. Ours, maybe a few months.But the divine spark we each have makes us capable of awesome things! Many of us see only out of a religious perfectionism and idealism that has rejected God and even ourselves since the Garden! Remember,we are the ones made in HIS image,not the other way around. While human nature strives to create and believe in gods they can understand, we are faced with trusting & believing in a God that will NEVER be comprehended or fully understood here in this life and probably the next. But this God took the dramatic step of invading our world and dying on our behalf to have a relationship with us! Now that is a mystery!