Since I became a Christian again in college, for the most part, I haven't had difficulty with the idea of God as a loving Father. I think it's because my father was so loving that it seems totally natural.
I've been reading "Searching for God Knows What" by Donald Miller lately. I like the way he describes the Biblical stories, not just in an analytical way, but really getting into the emotions and what things meant to people.* I was totally stopped, however, on page 139:
And so when I consider the way I am treated by Christ, the degree of kindness with which He guides me, I know that as Napoleon said, I would die for him because he threatens me; I would die for Him because he loves me... [emphasis mine]
I still can't get into, or over, the italicized phrase. I haven't resumed reading the book, and I won't until I can get past this idea.
At first I was surprised at myself. Of course, Jesus loves all of us. That's what it's all supposed to be about. Jesus is supposed to be the loving, Human Face of God.
However, I realized that, deep down inside, that wasn't my picture of Jesus.
How do I have a view of Jesus that varies so much from my view of God?
I went back to my original impression at the top of this post. If I could, in some way, understand God's love by looking at my father's love, what did I have Jesus tied to? It didn't take me long to figure out.
Jesus started the Church/church. That kind of puts him, in a Catholic sense, in the same place as the Pope, who would (when there is one again) definitely disapprove of me because we've used birth control and now dear husband has a vasectomy.
Okay, what about in a Protestant sense? No help there. Jesus ends up, subconsciously in my mind, linked to some leaders of local churches - ministers, priests, preachers, etc. [By the way, I'm discovering all these assumptions I had that had never totally reached my conscious mind before. This isn't something I ever consciously put together.] These particular leaders speak very authoritatively and often are very good at raining down judgment. There are some preachers I've heard that made me feel like I'm definitely one of the "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction" (by God) [Romans 9:22].
In fact, I realized that I've incorporated every story where Jesus is angry into my view of Him, but not the stories where he is gentle.
One of the ministers I've known that was the best at raining down judgment was at the church we went to when I was in college. I knew that I wasn't everything that women were expected to be at that church. If I saw him coming down a hallway, I'd hop into the nearest Sunday School room and become engrossed with the bulletin boards. I didn't want to encounter his judgment.
I realized that this is the sort of thing that I have Jesus linked to in my head. Subconsciously, I've concluded that Jesus is Someone to avoid because of judgment.
I've read all the verses where Jesus is loving and gentle, but I can't hang anything on them. They're in a story, but they don't enter the real world for me.
I have known gentle ministers and priests - both men and women - so that's not it either.
I have no conclusion to this post, just wandering thoughts (and a window box from Charleston).**
* The sermon last Sunday was like that. It was my favorite sermon I've heard at our church.
** We were there for half of last week for part of older son's last Spring Break. Daughter is home on Spring Break this week!