The other morning we were singing the African American spiritual “Be still, God will fight your battles (if you just keep still)…” My four year old son, ever the consistent ethicist, blurts out, “NO he won’t, because God’s not mean, fightings mean.”
That’s true, we’ve worked hard to teach our kids that fighting, hitting, kicking, biting, pushing or just plain being mean are not acceptable behavior. Sometimes words are the most destructive thing we can do, like using the word “hate.”
So why would it be ok for God to do those things?
Terribly, some in the church think so. For instance, a celebrity preacher from Seattle recently made headlines with his in-your-face sermon, shouting how much God hates people. Here’s an excerpt:
“Some of you, God hates you. Some of you, God is sick of you. God is frustrated with you. God is wearied by you. God has suffered long enough with you. He doesn’t think you’re cute. He doesn’t think it’s funny. He doesn’t think your excuse is “meritous” [the word he's looking for here is "meritorious"]. He doesn’t care if you compare yourself to someone worse than you, He hates them too. God hates, right now, personally, objectively hates some of you.”
Or let’s not forget that the world is supposed to end today in a blaze of glory, according to one self-proclaimed prophet. Harold Camping, in the news for his missed prediction of doom back in May, is back today spouting a sad doctrine of God’s mean and hate-filled behavior toward us. In his twisted theology, earthquakes, death, chaos, violence and pain are all in store for people who don’t believe exactly like Camping.
But is God really mean? Does God hate, and kill, and judge like these men suggest?
Not according to most Houston area Christians I know. These groups reveal God as a God of love and not violence or hate. They live out a love for all people, expecting nothing in return, and are committed to the common good.
- Newspring is a center for social entrepreneurship and business nurturing in the Spring Branch area of Houston. Because of their faith in the God of love, they are creatively and realistically addressing the instability in our community. Robert Westheimer says in their promo video, “Newspring’s mission is economic development. Our vision is a community that offers people good jobs. Where stable incomes keep people out of the food pantry’s and resale shops; where children can stay in the same school.”
Good jobs are practiced through the Newspring Art studio, where local high schoolers are encouraged to create and sell artwork; through the annual Business Plan Competition at Houston Community College (Spring Branch campus); and through business development and microlending. Newspring practices God’s love not just for the whole person, but for the whole community.
- Healing the Brokenness is a cooperative ministry of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. They live out God’s love by addressing some of the most pressing issues of our day, such as violence, poverty, racism, migration, economics, etc… Their vision is “Bringing together Christian leaders from across racial, socioeconomic and denominational lines for a time of fellowship and learning with some of the world’s leading scholars.” On Monday morning October 24 Michael Emerson of Rice University will speak on the topic “How Race Works in the Contemporary U.S.” A leading scholar on Race, he “will explore the factors shaping racial inequality and race relations today, and consider how we can constructively address the issues of brokenness.”
This lecture series clearly identifies hate and mean-behavior as being outside the nature of God, and speaking words of healing into those places of pain.
- Ten Thousand Villages is one of the world’s oldest fair trade organizations, begun by Mennonite missionary Edna Ruth Byler whose love for God and people sought “sustainable economic opportunities for skilled artisans.” This store spreads goodness across borders by supporting global artisans through the Christian faith.Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade store in Rice Village (2424A Rice Boulevard, Houston, TX 77005) that sells organic fair trade coffees and chocolate, clothing, jewelry and household items, toys and decorations. Volunteering, shopping, and living Fair Trade is a direct expression of God’s love for all.
None of these groups operate out of a theology of God’s hatred. None of them think God is mean.
On the contrary, the very point of their existence is to embody a God of love through both word and deed. So celebrate life, love, and faith today. And together, let’s work to put an end to the mistaken ideas that God is mean, or hates anyone. It’s just not true. And thankfully, there are plenty of folks who know that already. I hope you’re one of them!
P.S. I’m glad you’re still here!