I may be going out on a limb here, and maybe I’m in the minority, but I highly dislike when God is pulled into political arguments to make a “point” by people who really have, to be blunt, no clue what they are talking about. These people usually try to pigeonhole the Lord into two categories – love and vengeance. They focus on very narrow parts of the Bible, mostly “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” and then will pick and choose various parts of Leviticus and Deuteronomy to show how most of the Old Testament isn’t relevant anymore and can be conveniently ignored since we are cool with divorce and eating shellfish.
Theologian, I am not, but I do pay attention to the world around me, have been blessed to have friends willing to engage in spiritual and religious discussions, and I know some truly wonderful people who have dedicated their lives to God, both lay and religious. I know people who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious” and others who have cast away whatever religious upbringing they might have had and consider themselves agnostic or atheistic. Others may have no spiritual or religious guidance and float from church to church still seeking something, and they themselves are not sure what it is. None of them deny that human beings are made not only of mind and body, but spirit as well. Perhaps this is why it irks me so much when people try to use God, and it is always the Judeo-Christian God, to serve their own political ends. We must accept gay “marriage”, because Jesus said we must love everyone. We must not judge the woman who has an abortion, because Jesus said, “Judge not, less ye be judged”. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone used the story of Jesus stopping the crowd from stoning the prostitute to defend the hook-up culture*.
The problem with only using these few verses or passages is that there are 73 books in the Catholic Bible. Protestant versions vary; the King James version, for example, has 80. Out of these books, there are countless verses, as each verse is only a sentence or two. So yes, Jesus did say, “Do unto others whatever you would have them do unto you. This is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) but a few verses later He followed that with “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in Heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.'” (Matthew 7:21-23) In Matthew alone, Jesus speaks of punishment for wrongdoing at least as much as he preaches love and forgiveness. Indeed, he often speaks of ways to avoid sin, to give up material world goods in order to bring oneself closer to His Father. Does your hand or eye cause you to sin? Pluck it out or chop it off. Better to lose a hand or an eye than to suffer eternal damnation in the fires of Hell. Men, stop oogling women. He who hath looked at a woman with lust in his heart has committed adultery with her already. That’s a two-fer right there, with the 9th Commandment (adultery) and one of the Seven Deadly Sins (lust). Moses permitted divorce, but Jesus spoke against the practice, again saying that it forced women to commit adultery.
Here’s the long and short of it. People sin. We do bad things, we hurt others. We make mistakes, we falter. We tell little white lies, and we tell big whoppers. We mess up. Big time. God knew that 2000+ years ago, and Jesus came down to take the heat for us. Instead of us suffering eternal damnation with no hope of Heaven, He took the punishment. We’re not entirely off the hook though. Like a parent, God is looking out for our best interests. He will comfort us when we’re sad, rejoice with us when we’re happy, and when we screw up, as we will do inevitably, we will be punished in some way. A child who was allowed to run roughshod over his parents is a child who will grow up to be a spoilt pain in the butt. Any parent of a toddler knows the benefits of a time-out. Yes, God DOES love us, more than anything, because like we create our children, God created us in His image. Like we reprimand children when they misbehave, so must we be reprimanded. It’s the consequence of having free will. Catholics call that place of “eternal-yet-temporary” time-out Purgatory. It is, from accounts I’ve read, definitely a place of punishment, and not in the “sit here and think about what you did” type, but bearable because souls there know that it is temporary and one day we will be reunited with Christ.
Beyond that? God is God. The Alpha and the Omega. The beginning and the end. He cannot fit into any little political idea. He cannot be narrowed into one, concise statement like “God is love” fluff. That’s just the first sentence. God just IS. In fact, He summed it all up quite nicely Himself, without any help from us.
*For what it’s worth, His last words to the prostitute were, “Go forth, and sin no more.”
EDIT: I found this blog post over at the Matt Walsh Blog. It’s one of my favorite blogs, and Matt pretty much summed up what I said above, just better. 🙂 I hope he won’t mind that I’m linking to it from here. Please read it.