Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The God of the Extremes

Recently, while googling a few innocent words to find a picture for a blog post, I was stunned to see several sexual pictures show up – a couple of them downright obscene. It nauseated me for a moment.
The other day, I witnessed an irate man in the Target parking lot screaming with absolute rage at a woman who had accidently hit his truck with her car. It hurt my heart to hear it.
I just recently found out that an old friend is separated from her husband and dating someone else. I almost cried.
Suddenly I seem to be confronted all day long with evidence of how broken and fallen humanity is (including myself), and I'm finding it almost unbearable. I'm repulsed. And I'm heartbroken. I wonder sometimes how God can possibly stand us – why he doesn't just destroy us all now.
I haven't always reacted this strongly to sin, my own or anyone else's. Usually, I treat it pretty casually, I'm afraid – just as most of us do, even the Christians among us. We proclaim loudly and boldly that God loves sinners and so do we, and then we immerse ourselves in the fallen world, becoming increasingly numbed to the horror of what's going on around us . . . and ultimately what starts happening within us. We laugh it off. Oh, old Joe and his beer that he can't handle! Old Martha and her cattiness! Old Bill and his greedy ways! We even choose to watch it as entertainment. We pay darn good money to watch people destroy themselves and each other.

But my recent reaction (and where exactly it's coming from, I can't say) saddens me some, too. My repulsion makes me want to cocoon myself away from the world, isolate myself from all the badness. That's the other extreme we believers tend to get pulled into, it seems. We condemn sin and sinners and hate them so much (even while we say we love them) and want to separate ourselves completely from that world – so we create our own little world with our churchy music, catch-phrase t-shirts, and scripture-coated breath mints, a world where we are completely useless to the work of Christ's kingdom. God, I thank you that I am not like other people, the publican prayed in Luke 18. How familiar that rings sometimes.

And we think the solution is to find a happy medium between the two positions, because we're wimpy finite humans and that's the best we can do or imagine. The problem comes when we paint God with that same paintbrush. I've been struck lately with the fact that God is such mystery, that He is rarely, if ever, the Golden Mean we strive for. More often, He is something that we have a hard time conceiving: he is the fullness of the two extremes. He is fully God AND fully man. He is transcendent AND personal. He is holy and just, AND He is loving and merciful. The fact that He can fully and completely embody two characteristics that we see as incompatible is part of what makes him God and us not.

God hates sin – fully, completely, and passionately. And he loves sinners – fully, completely, and passionately. That's what the cross is all about.

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