Something that bothers a lot of Christians (and non-Christians) is the seeming contradiction of God’s character between the Old & New Testament. In the Old Testament, God often seems very angry with people- like a cruel old man seeking vengeance on anyone or anything that doesn’t fall in line with His ways. Then comes the New Testament and suddenly God seems to become a kind and loving father who patiently waits for everyone to come home into His arms.
This apparent split personality of God has been one of the most difficult issues for anyone who studies the Bible. Some of my friends think that maybe God's been evolving and adapting, just like we do. But I wonder if it's merely that we're gowing up as a species and our understanding of who God is, is increasing and expanding?
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Last night, I forcefully removed my son’s hand from the stove control and he screamed at me. His eyes filled up with tears and he had a little meltdown right there in the middle of the kitchen. Now, he’s usually the sweetest little boy in the world, but when he wants something that he’s unable to have, he gets furious. Sometimes he becomes so angry that he can’t function and we literally have to pick up and remove him from wherever he is and hold him close until he calms down.
I’m not sure what's going on in that little brain of his when these meltdowns happen, but I wonder if his anger isn’t pointed directly at me and his mom. He still knows that we love him, but since we’re keeping him from his desires- we’re villains, thwarting him at every move.
I can only imagine that it’s going to get worse as he gets older.
My experience with my own parents was mixed, too. As a child, I had a terrible temper and I got in trouble for all sorts of things. My mom and dad were often viewed as the enemies, always dishing out punishment, making me eat food I didn’t like, forcing me to go to bed when I didn't want to, and giving me rules and restrictions that a lot of my friends didn’t have.
It wasn’t until I graduated from High School and was out from under my parent’s constant supervision that we became friendly with each other. Gradually, we developed a different sort of relationship and I began to see how their “restrictions” and “punishment” were actually for my own good. Due to their influence in my life, I had a little more discipline over my own actions and was able to make better choices.
I see now that it wasn’t always vengeance or cruelty that drove them to put rules and restrictions in place. It was more often kindness and love. It was merely my own immaturity that made me view them as villians. It was my adolescent and teenage brain that hadn’t grown to the point where I could see the whole picture of what they were trying to accomplish.
And I bet my son is going to have the same feelings about me as he grows up.
In the middle of the kitchen floor, while Ethan was still crying, it suddenly made sense why God seems to be so mean, angry and jealous in some places and so kind, loving and compassionate it others. It’s because the story of humanity is much like the story of a little boy who's growing up. At some points, God gave rules and then gave grace. At different times, He disciplined and befriended.
God is fathering us and just like is for all sons and daughters, His methods don’t always make sense in the moment. There are times when He seems like the villain rather than the protector. There are times when He seems to needlessly keep us from our desires. But as we mature in our ability to know Him and understand this world we live in, we’re able to see more clearly that the whole picture is love- even those rough patches when everthing seems to be out of sync with how we’d expect a loving God to act.
Nathan Key likes to think about faith and philosophy and talk about it with others. He lives with his family in New Hampshire. He doesn't always refer to himself in the third person.