Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Does God Hate People?

A friend at BeliefNet wrote about her belief that God hates her, because she is not Christian. In the course of our discussion, she presented Scripture which she feels proves her case, Here are those verses and my responses. My friend also selected the titles for each set:

1. Spiritually Dead
Ephesians 2:1-2 “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”

We see all the time, how people do as they like, thinking they are good, simply because they are doing as they please. The Nazis, still emblematic of institutionalized evil, for the most part actually believe they were morally superior and ethical. Eugenics, Racism, Genocide, just for starters, all found value in their eyes because it pleased their moral relativism. And the Nazis were far from the only such example; we see all sorts of people who try to justify hate and selfishness, even to pretend they are doing good instead of base evil. This has always been so; when the Romans crucified Christ, they believed they were doing the good of maintaining social order under law, while Caiaphas believed he was letting one innocent man be killed, in order to prevent a bloodbath.
Man needs God. Always has, always will. And that means that we have to be open to His law and commandments, which comes from loving God and our neighbors. Call it “spiritually dead” or whatever you like, but in the mortal life we are missing a great part of our greater identity and purpose, to become greater than just animals.

2. Already Under God’s Wrath
Ephesians 2:3 ”All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.”

Seriously, we all do that, or once did. We desire a thing out of self, we act out of anger or greed or whatever, again listening only to that Self. It’s only the plain truth, that we need to be different than just follow selfish desires, even though that is our natural condition.

John 3:36 ”Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.”

This is a hard lesson, but the key word is ‘reject’. Reject isn’t to misunderstand, or to consider carefully the object, but is defiance. Every day, we wake up and often take for granted the day we have been given. We have no assurance, none of us, that we will wake up the next morning, but God grants that life to us, every day. So eventually there comes a time, when we learn the truth of God, and at that point, we either accept it or not. I would also remind the reader, that Jesus’ own disciples, men who saw Him every day and heard all His words and teachings, missing nothing, had a very hard time accepting His truth. Read through the Gospel accounts, and see how many times Jesus asked why they still did not understand, still did not believe. It was only on the road to Jerusalem, where He was to be crucified, that Peter confessed openly that Jesus was the Christ, and even then, some of the disciples did not accept the truth. Thomas, in particular, is an example of how hard-headed these guys were. Don’t you think that, seeing how patient God was with these disciples with Christ, He would be even more patient with people trying to seek the truth without direct resources? So, don’t be afraid to seek out the truth, there is no sin in that! If I am wrong in my contention, you are wise to check out the matter, and if it happens that I am right, then you will be that much more confident in your faith, when you have arrived at your discovery. Just be sure that you do not despise Christ, if you find He is what He says. I would apply that same care to how I address the Buddha or Mohamed; while I have not found support to convince me that those beliefs are correct, I still accept that God reveals truth to those who will accept it, and I will not despise anything unless I know that it is evil, through discernment and the light of God’s grace. For example, I despise Communism, because I have discovered that Communism is always the enemy of the individual, denying individual honor and accomplishment in place of the collective, which is unjust.

3. Storing Up Ever Greater Wrath
Romans 2:5-6 "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God "will give to each person according to what he has done."

In this verse, you should know that Paul was not writing to Pagans or Atheists, but rather to professed members of Christ’s fellowship, who nonetheless did as they pleased instead of obeying God. In Chapter 2, verse 3, Paul warns the Roman church clearly against hypocrisy, writing “Do you suppose, O man, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God?” This verse then, was not a threat to those outside the Church, but a warning to those who claimed the Word.

Romans 1:29-31 "They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless."

Rome was the quintessential cosmopolitan city of Paul’s day, and as often happens when humans have a few things which work, they get proud and arrogant. This was the generation just before Nero, after all, and throughout human history we see all the things Paul writes about here. When has the world been without crime, even rapes and murders, even children killing parents and parents abusing their children and their spouses? Sadly, this verse is a telling barometer of a constant human equation of misery. The good news comes afterwards in this book, where Paul explains that God had made a better, even perfect, way available to us.

4. Law or Conscience Constantly Accuses
Romans 2:14-15 (Gentiles) ”show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.”

It’s commonly accepted that there is a sort of ‘natural law’, though it’s argued whether the law is natural or just taught to everyone, which prohibits certain acts and demands certain standards. You know, don’t kill the innocent, don’t be cruel to children or the weak, do accept responsibility for the effects of your actions, actions and even words have consequences, and so on. And the reason there are so many busy psychologists, is because yes, we do battle with our consciences in our minds, wrestling with the morality and weight of our decisions.

Romans 3:20 ”Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”

This is actually a good bit of news, if you think it through. The problem, you see, is not compliance, but what is in our heart. If a man could be saved through his own works, then he might become proud of his own work, and forget the reason we serve God at all, which should be from love and in imitation of His holiness. Knowing we all suffer under sin, we realize that what we need, try though we might to do good, is to find a rescue from that sin, and the new life where sin is no part of us.

Romans 4:14 “…law brings wrath

Actually, that’s from verse 15, but it makes sense if you can read verses 14 and 15 together, so: “If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression”. The difference is the consequence of Grace, and the source of hope, which is faith. Law is about limits, whereas faith has no limits.

Galatians 3:10 ”All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ "

See my last answer.

James 2:10 ”For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”

Same point. The law is the law, it is a restriction at best, and serves no purpose except to trip people up. Accordingly, the only resolution is to live by a better code.

5. Not one good deed accounted to their credit
Romans 3:12 “…there is no one who does good, not even one.”

And this is because only God is truly good. When we get high on our selfish egos, we want to claim things for ourselves, but in the end, we do only what we can, which at best makes proper use of the tools, skills, and resources God grants us. We either do what is our duty, or we do evil. This is good, though.
The Saturday before Easter, I took my daughter to an Easter Egg hunt. The church running the event had an interesting reward - everyone turned in their plastic eggs for candy, but everyone got the same amount of candy each, so it did not matter if someone grabbed a whole bunch of eggs. Everyone enjoyed the chance to pick up eggs freely, and no one was encouraged to be greedy or rude.
So, by not allowing even a single person to be able to claim that he does not need God’s grace, we are all granted the same grace, in the same measure.

Matthew 12:33-34 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Context is critical here. Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, and addressing their critical flaw, but one common to many of us; they thought they were good men, but their actions showed the truth, that they pursued ego in place of God’s will, and their pride instead of acting with honor, and in selfishness in place of caring about others.

Isaiah 64:6 “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags

Same lesson.

Romans 14:23 “…everything that does not come from faith is sin.”

This sounds harsh, but it’s actually an important warning. When you drive, you don’t check your fuel gauge to know your speed. We all want to do well, and so we should focus on the spirit which drives goodness, the Holy Spirit granted us by God.

6. Incapable of pleasing God
Romans 8:8 “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”

Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God

From what I have written before, you should now be able to see why this is so. It is not because God does not want us to please Him, or that He should spite us in any way, but rather that if we are to succeed, we must learn what counts in matters of goodness, and pursue the right source.

7. Enemies of God
Romans 5:10 “…we were God's enemies

Context again. Paul is reminding the believers that they are completely changed from before. They do not do the things, they do not even think the way they used to, because they God now, where before they hated Him, even though they did not realize it.

Romans 8:7 “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.”

Paul writes here just what Jesus warned; a man can not have two masters. We are all so very used to getting our own way, to the point that we sometimes do and say what we know, at some deep level, is really wrong. And so unless we give ourselves up to God, we don’t want to obey Him; we want to be in control, not surrender to God. And even after one chooses to believe, he must always remember his former ways, not to cut himself down, but to focus on why he chose God in the first place.

Colossians 1:21 “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.”

Again, we who believe all used to do as we wanted, and so would oppose anything that took away that control.

James 4:4 "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

Again, remember that James wrote these words not to the general public, but to members of the church. One of the dangers of the Church is dilution of the Gospel. Christ did not die on the cross for us, so that we would be slightly better and mix His ideas in with a bunch of our own!

8. Incapable of Atoning for Sin
Psalm 49:7-9 “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him-the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough-that he should live on forever and not see decay.”

Thank you. That verse is one of the reasons I am so sure that Jesus Christ is God, as is His Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus did what no ordinary man could do, and it explains some important points about God - God the Father could not die, lest satan win, nor could the Holy Spirit suffice in that role, being spirit in form. Christ alone was able, willing, and worthy.

Matthew 18:23-25 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.”

And when the man begged him for mercy, did not the king in that story forgive the entire debt, in essence taking the cost to himself?

Micah 6:6-7 “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

Same lesson. We cannot undo our sins, any more than a man can operate on his own heart. Just as a man must trust a surgeon for his body, so we must trust God for our soul’s rebirth.

9. Blind and Deaf to Spiritual Truth
Matthew 13:14 “In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: " `You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”

That statement was not made to say so of all men, but to explain that if you will not consider the truth someone says, then no matter how well you understand the words, you will miss the message. The Pharisees, determined to beat down Jesus rather than consider the least of His teachings, closed the door to their own discovery.

1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

As before, we are all so very used to taking care of ourselves, the idea of depending on a God we do not see, do not touch, indeed whose very existence we cannot prove, would be foolish indeed in human eyes!

1 Corinthians 2:14 “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

It sounds strange, but if you are depending on material things, the things which are spiritual will seem very foolish.

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

The idea of God blinding people so they cannot see sounds strange, but what Paul is getting act here, is that when we finally realize what God is, and we see the truth of the Gospel, we also realize that every bit of it, even the discovery of that truth is by God’s grace.

10. Incapable of Changing
Jeremiah 13:23 “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.”

This is why Jesus spoke about the need to be ‘born again’. It puzzled Nicodemus to hear it, but Jesus was really speaking about basic, fundamental transformation. We cannot be different on our own, but God makes us new, in His purpose as well as His image.

Ephesians 4:19 “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”

That speaks to habit. We all know that good eating and exercise habits are essential to healthy living, and also that poor eating habits and lack of exercise also becomes a habit. So much more so for the spirit!

Now, all these answers may or may not address the real questions you have for God, but this much I can assure you is true. God is neither hateful nor malicious, and everyone will receive either Mercy or Justice. On this all truth is based.

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