Two years ago I started Owl of the Desert to share my poetry, and soon after I began this Blog.
To be honest, few people seem to get my poetry, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that my poems are plain to anyone who has the spirit of prophecy.
Take that, Isaiah!
Now, after two years of warming up, the time has come to begin a Series on a topic we all care very, very much about:
The love of God.
Please secure your belongings for take off!
Where's the Love?
I hear people on Facebook say they can't believe in God because, after all, what sort of horrible parent would treat their children so poorly?
And even if God were real, they say, they still would not worship him because he's a bully and unworthy of our admiration.
Exhibit A: The Flood.
Is it surprising that some people compare God to Hitler, as if genocide were a main feature of his gospel?
Well, before we get too judge-y, let's pause and ask ourselves why they think this way.
Is the problem we've been taught God is something he is not?
Can we really blame them?
I think these people are not really talking about God but his caricature.
And I think we can all acknowledge that, as believers, we have some explaining to do.
Exhibit B: The Crusades.
Who is God, Really?
I want to share three quotes to set up the question, "Who is God, really?"
1. C.S. Lewis 2. Lectures on Faith 3. Epistle of 1 John
1. Brother C.S. Lewis
"As long as a man is thinking of God as an examiner who has set him a sort of paper to do, or as the opposite party in a sort of bargain — as long as he is thinking of claims and counter-claims between himself and God — he is not yet in the right relation to Him. He is misunderstanding what he is and what God is."
(C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001, 145.)
2. Lectures on Faith, Lecture 3
"Let us here observe, that three things are necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.
"First, The idea that he actually exists.
"Secondly, A correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes.
"Thirdly, An actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his will."
3. 1 John 4:7-8
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
I think it is interesting that this scripture tells us the way we "know" God is through the lens of love.
But if God is love, then why does he seem so mean in the Old Testament?
"Don't Smite Me!"
Sometimes I encounter verses in the scriptures which confound me, leaving me with the impression God is vengeful and in the business of punishing sinners.
Like Corianton, I struggle to understand the justice of God in the punishment of the sinner.
As an example, the Lord told Martin Harris in D&C 19:15-18:
Repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth
I've often wondered, how could the loving God I know and adore say something like that?
Those are not feel-good words, so how do they fit in the gospel message?
Why do prophets use words like smite and rod and wrath when discussing God's justice?
After all, an abusive parent doesn't win Father-of-the-Year.
I think things will make more sense if we can figure out what the Lord means when he says he will smite us by the "rod of my mouth."
- Is that the iron rod?
- Is it the word of God?
- Is it a good tongue lashing?
- Is it the lake of fire and brimstone that burns our souls with regret and grief, knowing we have rejected the Spirit of the Lord?
Perhaps John the beloved can help here. He explained in Revelation 19:15:
And out of his mouth proceedeth the word of God, and with it he will smite the nations; and he will rule them with the word of his mouth; and he treadeth the winepress in the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
Okay, so maybe it's not God, but his word that smites?
(Is that why He compares His word to "a two-edged sword?")
Hmmm. How do words "smite?" In what way do words "rule?"
As we explore these questions, I want to suggest that God does not punish us: he doesn't need to because we're plenty good at punishing ourselves.
The Grapes of Wrath
What about God's "wrath?"
There's no way around this one. How are we to reconcile God's anger with his love?
Well, remember what John said?
He treadeth the winepress in the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
What does a winepress have to do with wrath? (Yes, that winepress ― "the place of the press," Gethsemane, where he bled from every pore to spare us from suffering.)
Ask yourself: WHO is the recipient of all of the winepress's wrath?
Not us. Looking at it this way, God is not the source of wrath but our avatar who shoulders it in our stead (if we repent).
The grapes of wrath are something Christ drinks ― He, God Himself (!) swallowing the very last bitter dregs so we don't have to.
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might NOT suffer if they would repent.
But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed from every pore.
Well that's interesting. According to this, God doesn't want us to suffer.
"God, are you there? It's me, Margaret"
Do you know someone who makes suffering a way of life?
Isn't it alarming how depressed we all are (me included, never-you-mind) when the Bridegroom is feasting and making merry, microbrewing wine and having a good time with his friends?
In the scriptures we hear so much about the joy of the saints. "Men are that they might have joy," right? That sounds nice.
Instead, attending Sunday School may make us believe that "men are that they might have suffering."
And so is it any wonder atheists do not believe in a God that, like a mad scientist treating us as His lab rats, tests his children to help them "grow," hurling those that don't make-the-grade into a hell-pit of lava and brimstone for eternity?
No thanks. I don't want to be God's experiment!
I want to be his child. I want to live in a world where "children shall grow up without sin unto salvation" (D&C 45:58) and where "there shall be no sorrow because there is no death" (D&C 101:29).
And so in this Series, God is Love, we're going to try to unmask a righteous, loving Heavenly Father . . .
. . . and if you're up for it, see what all the hubbub is about "the pure love of Christ."