Monday, September 16, 2013

Brimstone or Love?

When Mary Shelley wrote her horror classic Frankenstein, she wrote it as a dare.  She, her husband Percy and two other friends were telling stories one evening while on vacation in Switzerland.  Up to that point, Mary had only published a collection of travel letters and was not known as a storyteller.  However, she had been suffering from a dream that had haunted her for weeks.  She told her friends of her dream as if it were a story.  She won the contest and was challenged to pen the dream into a novel.  Later Mary wrote these words about her monster and the monster he created: “What terrified me will terrify others.  I need only describe the specter that haunted my midnight pillow.”  It would be her only truly memorable writing, yet it is one that had influenced philosophy, religion, art and literature for nearly 200 years.

How do you imagine God?  H. G. Wells, the author of such science fiction novels as The Invisible Man and The War of the Worlds, once said of God that “He and His hell were the nightmares of my childhood.”  Do you imagine God as a monster that haunts your dreams?  Do you imagine God sitting on the throne in Heaven waiting for you to mess up so that you can be punished for your crime?  Do see imagine God as one holding you over a cauldron of brimstone taunting you with searing pain and torment? 

Or do you imagine God who cares about you and is waiting for you to return home?  I firmly believe that many people unfortunately share Well’s concept of God or believe that God “haunts” their dreams as Frankenstein’s monster haunted Mary Shelley’s dreams.  They have missed the true nature of God.  It is true that God has rained down wrath upon those who deserved holy judgment.  For example, Genesis 19 records the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, destroying them because of their immense sin and violation of God’s sovereign reign over life.  The anonymous author of Hebrews reminds us that “our God is a consuming fire” (12:29, NRSV).  And Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Psalm 68 presents a God that makes “heads roll” and splits “the skulls of the enemy” (68:21, MSG). 

Yet, we also read of a God who offers a sacrifice to atone for the first sin (Genesis 3:21), and the aged apostle John reminds us over and over again that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, NRSV).  Remember that image of God walking around the battlefield smashing the skulls of the enemy in Psalm 68?  David sets up that grisly image with a word of praise, for he has been rescued by this warrior God who showers love on the faithful: “Blessed be the Lord—day after day he carries us along.  He’s our Savior, our God, oh yes!  He’s God-for-us, he’s God-who-saves us” (68:19-20, MSG).

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