What If… God isn’t sitting there waiting to strike you down?

Posted: June 22, 2011 by Nathan in What If...
Tags: , , , , , ,

I used to tell a joke when I was a child that went something like this…

A vicar and a member of his church were playing golf one day. The church member was having a particularly bad round and as time went on he was getting more and more annoyed. Every time he missed a putt he would shout out “Darn, I missed!!”. As this continued, hole after hole, the vicar was getting very concerned. Again the church member missed a short putt and sure enough shouted out “Darn, I missed!!”. The vicar warned him that this was not a good thing to say and if he said it again God would strike him down. On the very next hole the church member missed a very short putt and just couldn’t stop himself and before he knew it the fateful words “Darn, I missed!!” came shouting out of his mouth. There was a huge flash and a lightening bolt came zooming out of the sky and hit the… Vicar on top of his head, killing him immediately. There was a few seconds pause and then a booming voice came out of heaven “Darn, I missed!!”

This is the view many people have of God. We don’t expect the lightening bolt but we do have an image of God sitting up in heaven just waiting for us to do wrong and punish us for it. We believe that God has set out all these rules and regulations, dos and don’t and now he sits there just waiting for us to muck up. God is waiting like a divine policeman ready to slap the handcuffs on and march us away to hell!! After all God is a God of justice and judgement so why shouldn’t this picture of Him be right? However, my understanding of the character of God is completely different. I don’t believe God sits there with lightening bolts and judgement but with plasters (band-aids) and words of encouragement. I guess it’s a little like a father teaching his child to ride a bike. He gives instruction, he tells how best to do it, he runs alongside us and he encourages us every step of the way. From the child’s point of view we won’t always listen, we’ll have our own ideas, we’ll say “dad, let go of the seat, I can do it!!” and inevitably we’ll fall off. Now, as human fathers and mothers, there is the temptation to shout and say “see!!, if you’d let me help, if you’d done it my way you would have been all right!!” However, on our good days (and God only has good days!) we pick our child up, we wipe away the tears, we put a plaster on the graze and we encourage them to get right back on the bike and try again. God is like us on our very best day, and so much more. He watches us to instruct us, to encourage us, to help us and when we do wrong, when we come of the rails, fall of our bike He is their to wipe away our tears, mend what is broken and restore us in every way necessary. He may have the right to be annoyed, to tell us that we didn’t do what he told us to do. We may deserve to be told off and be sent to the naughty step. However, God is far far more concerned with the hurt we may have done to ourselves than with our disobedience. He doesn’t sit there longing to judge and punish us but longing for the best for us in each and every situation.

 

Just as an earthly father, God has set boundaries for us. Boundaries to protect us and help us. God knows that if we break these boundaries our lives and/or the lives of others will not be as good. God doesn’t make rules so that he can punish us when we break them he makes rules so that we can live life to the full. So God says, look, don’t murder people because if you do they won’t be able to live life to the full but you won’t either. You may be consumed with guilt, you may have to become secretive and even hide away and ultimately you will probably have to spend years without your freedom in prison – now that is hardly being able to live life to the full.

 

I guess it depends how you look at it – some people see them as rules – I see them as pieces of wise advice. It’s up to us whether we take that advice or ignore it. I believe, that at the end of the day, it is us who loses out if we ignore it. God is not going to send a lightening bolt if we do wrong but if we don’t do wrong our lives will be so much better for it.

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Comments
  1. hmm…I’m not sure how that fits with Acts 5:1-6 nor rather a lot of the Old Testament. Although I agree with you that our God is not one who throws lightning bolts first and asks questions later, he is more than just a genial old Santa who gently gives advice which we can take or leave. As much as he is the God of Love He is also the God of Justice and I don’t think it fair or right to play that down. If you do then the slippery slope to believing that all will be forgiven indiscriminately is not far away. Theology tends to fall apart at that point.

    Despite this, I agree that we have an image of God punishing us in this world that is out of proportion to the reality. I was brought up to believe that every cut or graze I got was God punishing my sins and it was years before I could shake off such thinking. I know others who will tell me that the cold or the back ache I have is as a result of sin I am holding on to. The reality, more often, is that others are trying to get ‘one up’ in Christian circles rather than any punishment from the Lord.

    As always Nathan, thought-provoking stuff 🙂

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