I believe that when we think of people in judgmental ways, it isn’t necessarily because we are bad people, but it might be because we have an image of God that is punitive, harsh, and condemning. A God who draws lines in the sand, dares you to cross it, and smacks you if you approach it.
Maybe it is reasonable to assume that if we think like this about God, we treat others as we expect God to treat us.
How do we approach God in prayer or worship if we believe he is a God who behaves in this manner?
I imagine many people stop approaching. And those that do, do so with fear and trepidation. If I were afraid of getting swatted around by God, I’d work hard to stay out of his way. And I certainly wouldn’t come to him with my issues.
Where does a guy sitting in a jail cell for twenty years find hope in a God like this? How does a young wife who is cheating on her husband with her tennis instructor every Tuesday sit without wriggling in her women’s bible study every Wednesday if it teaches about a punitive God? What about that kid who just figured out how to access porn over his tablet that his mommy got him to play candy crush? Is God accessible to the hood rats and hoodlums of the world? Is he accessible to those doing the best they can AND messing up in the process?
I wish I could articulate this better, but I have this feeling that although most of us can talk a good game about God’s mercy and grace, I fear that when pushed to the limits and lines of the implications of a God like this, we might balk. And that’s unfortunate.
In the Psalms, I think we find a way back home to an understanding that allows for the fact that life can be a mess and people aren’t easily stereotyped.
Why do you stand so far away, Lord, hiding yourself in troubling times? Psalm 10:1 CEB
The psalmist dares to express his true sentiments. Is this as guy who is afraid God is going to smack him? I don’t think so, or else how could he dare to be so bold as to ask God to come out of hiding! This is authentic, real, the kind of thing I might be able to say to my husband during an extremely stressful life event. I might say to him, “Hey, I’m really hurting here and you seem distant. I need a hug and some salted caramel gelato and you are holed up in your office playing solitaire on the computer!” This is how real people talk when they trust one another. But they don’t usually talk like this to people who actually are distant and unsafe. I can blurt stuff out like this to my husband because although I feel that he might be far away, I know that he loves me and perception is not always reality.
So today, ask yourself if maybe you have some skewed view of God that is confusing you, causing you to be less than honest with him about what’s going on with you, what you need, and how desperately you want him to show up for you….even if you are in prison, or cheating on your spouse, or looking at porn.