Growing up, I was taught to be terrified of God, as if God was rooting for me to err so He could pounce. Thankfully, in my teens, influential people led me on a different path. They showed me scripture passages describing God as a merciful parent, full of compassion, forgiving, faithful, and inclusive. They especially showed me Jesus, who not only welcomed the poor and sinners but ate with them, defended them, and identified more with them than with religious leaders of his day.
Are both views of God in the Bible? Certainly. But we need to look at the Bible through the lens of Jesus, who tirelessly tried to correct our flawed images. What view of God did Jesus teach? And how did Jesus, the incarnate God, live his life in reflection of his knowledge?
Sometimes I despair because the Gospel message seems lost. Increasing numbers of angry but self-righteous people spewing hate in God’s name. They judge anyone who looks, acts, or worships differently as inferior and undesirable. They call other people animals or label them in ways not justified by facts. To these, Jesus says, “…you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you.”Bottom of Form
Admittedly, there are no easy answers to the world’s dilemmas – trade, immigration, war, foreign relations, climate change, economic inequality, racism, and other issues. But today, standing up for the Gospel of Jesus often risks the fate of Jesus – persecution, betrayal, death threats, and perhaps even death itself.
Instead, Jesus calls us to civil discourse without name-calling or sound-bite labels. He teaches compassion for the poor and disenfranchised who, despite popular rhetoric, cannot improve their position by working harder. He demands care for families desperately fleeing violence and persecution. He calls for societal reforms to combat racism, and a budget that reflects moral concerns rather than power and wealth.
Jesus challenges us to ask who our God is, and whether his Word has a home in us. His voice joins martyrs whose sacrifice calls out from beyond the grave to ask what we, in this day and age, are willing to risk in order to live out the vision of God we believe in. I hope and pray that by the way I live my life, by my words and actions, I may be counted among the faithful followers of Jesus Christ and the God of love he proclaimed. I pray that God’s word not only has room in me, but takes root and produces fruit.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.