After I first started following Christ, circa 1972, I devoured the Bible. I loved it; I needed it. The stories about Jesus especially gave me hope. He was so self-assured, kind, smart, unflappable–all the things I didn’t feel I was. The way he treated the underdogs with respect, dignity, and love let me know he would treat me likewise.
Not to mention the miracles and all the other amazing stuff he did and said. Jesus made me feel good. I couldn’t get enough and toted my Bible everywhere I went.
But after a time certain parts bothered me. For example the story of Ananias and Sapphira dying after lying to Peter and God about how much of their money they donated from the sale their property scared me spitless. I mean I was–and still am–far from perfect. What would stop God from just taking me out? I probably deserved it.
How do we deal with the Bible stories about God we are uncomfortable with, don’t like, or that scare us spitless?
For a time I ignored them and only paid attention to the sections that made me feel good.
In seminary, though, I had to face these ugly pictures of God and humans. It is in seminary also, however, I learned to reason the difficult passages away.
One branch of scholarship simply decided that the parts of the Bible they were uncomfortable with were not inspired by God but made up by humans. The trouble with this, as you probably know, is that more of the Bible is harsh than sweet and, in the end, this group began to call the whole book myth.
The opposite branch cried foul to that but developed a whole series of complicated systematic theologies to explain many of these problem passages. Some of these explanations made sense, some did not. I agree with many of them. But they are often convoluted and too complex.
Slowly I’ve come to see that maybe the problem is not with God or the Bible, but with me. My view of God is askew. And coming up with ways to validate my perspective on life and God only puts more distance between God and me. I have begun to believe maybe God holds more in his hand for me (and all of creation) than me feeling good.
If God’s top priority is other than making me feel good or be happy, then maybe it’s okay to be uncomfortable, not like, and be scared spitless by certain parts of the Bible and God. Maybe I’m supposed to feel that way and not know all the answers.
It seems to me God does not view pain, death, and even life the same way we do. Are they to God as splinters and knee scrapes are to parents of young children? We care but know they are not the end of the world.
Somehow I’m beginning to see how God, with his vast view of eternity, knows that seventy to eighty years (more or less) of life containing a mixed bag of pain and joy that ends in death is only a blink of his eternal eye. Beyond that blink lies much more than we can think or imagine.
Should I be scared that God let Ananias and Sapphira die because of their lies? Sure enough. God is not safe. But God is so good that he will not let what happens to us in this broken world to define him or us, because there is so much more in store.