Friday, October 14, 2011

God hates you?

A video has been going around online featuring a prominent pastor telling his people (or at least those in his church meeting that day) that God hates them. This leader is someone I've benefitted much from, though I don't see eye-to-eye with him on a number of issues.

All events have context and in recent years, even this year, some well known leaders have wanted to say God doesn't get angry and hell will be empty and such like. To which others have piped up that we must re-emphasise the holiness and wrath of God. And make no mistake God is wrathful towards some and Jesus is the clearest teacher on hell.

But...

God isn't a set of attributes to keep in balance. A bit of love, a bit of holiness and so on. God is a community of persons, and we know who he is as he comes to us in the person of Christ. Jesus loves us and gave himself for us (Gal 2:20) and he said, John 16:27, the Father himself loves us. He is all love.

Which means, however frustrating and unchanging people are, the answer isn't for a preacher to stand over and against their people. Behaviour frustrates, budgets can be pressing but harrassing people into change is not gospel ministry. As Christ makes his appeal through preachers they call people to come and be welcomed, loved, drawn, cared for. You can't microwave maturity by blow-torching people, tempting as it is. And I've tried it. It's not nice to do, and its horrid to hear.

The Triune God is all love. When he burns its passionate love in jealous protection of the Son against whom the world rages, the Spirit who is grieved by love spurned, and the Sons bride who he protects with his life. In the end justice will be done, but these are days of patience and mercy and love, as is true also when the NT summarises the OT (in Romans 3). His forgiveness is excessive. In these days of patience the preacher is to offer Christ who came out in love to find us. Such a preacher speaks the word of God and nourishes the people and offers life to the dead.

The preacher will be like their Christ, which is disturbing if your Christ is isn't full of love. The Biblically revealed Christ doesn't quench the smouldering wick or break the bruised, and preacher who sets Christ against people may have strayed from him. The Christ is no mean, spying dictator who is over and against people, he's the shining light and spreading love of his Father who came and was afflicted with and for us. His love is most seen and enacted, felt, and known in the Sons incarne life, death, resurrection, ascension and outpouring of the Spirit into our hearts.

Divine holiness is extreme personal love not scary power. Divine wrath is what happens when perfect love is refused. God was not eternally wrathful, he was always love. He always will be. So why speak otherwise? Why do anything but invite, woo, allure even hardened rebels with tender words of Christs love. People will either receive Christ and doubtless be radically transformed, or they'll refuse him to their own doom. Ours is to portray Christ and him crucified in the full technicolor of the Scriptures, in the full beauty and loveliness that is his.

Sitting under such preaching will soften hard hearts or harden them - depending on the Spirit's gracious movement upon his people. The Spirit-filled Christian will be comforted and encouraged, and warmed and helped and loved. Heavy handed exhortation wont be needed, because they'll be well nourished and strengthened. It might seem peculiar to pull back from exhortations and applications in favour of proclaiming Christ, but nothing changes someone more than meeting Christ, and nothing less than being told what to do, and nothing is more Christian than to be invited to receive Christ.

10 comments:

  1. I've also been hugely blessed by Driscoll's preaching over the years but wasn't really sure what to make of this latest controversy. thanks for this post which is a really helpful response

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  2. This is a really well rounded response - it is refreshing to read something that isn't a personal rant against someone. You have calmly and wisely pointed us back to Christ. We are, after all, human and each one of us will make mistakes - yes, even preachers! (Oooh on dodgey ground now as married to one! ;D) Just good to remember Christ is perfect - and full of love! Thanks for this.

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  3. Funny how we've made 'holiness' cold and dry, and an attribute on a list when really the community of God is set apart (holy) by how excessively each person loves the others. We are the cold, dry ones. The idea that love and wrath ought to be 'two sides of the same coin' or that God's wrath is somehow divorced from his love seems more and more hellish. It is better for us that God is wrathful! For we can be certain a wrathful God is love.

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  4. Fotidzo writes:

    I love this post. But I have a question, let's assume i'm preaching Psalm 5 or 115 and I have to deal with vs 5. what do I do with the present tense verbs "You hate all evildoers" or with Romans 1: 18 "the wrath of God *is being* revealed..."

    Surely whilst inviting sinners to come to Christ I want to say that God's love for His Son is their biggest hope and greatest danger as long as they remain where they are?
    I guess I am just trying to figure out in my head how to communicate the God of love who does hate those who are against His Son, whilst loving them at the same time. Comments? Help?

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  5. I think the question is what's the preachers task?

    Is it to say "come to Christ who loves you, and know that evil will be dealt with, his enemies vanquished"... or is it to say: "you're evil and God hates you"

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  6. That is one of the most eloquent and well put things I've ever read from you Dave. I really appreciated how you describe the relationship between love and wrath and how you explained that threatening or telling them God hates them will not produce any positive change.

    I am not a fan of the preacher you mention, although I think his heart's in the right place. I think what he said was plain wrong as well as unhelpful.

    However, I have a nagging doubt because if the preacher is like their Christ, will they ever say "get behind me Satan" or "Woe to you....woe to you... woe to you..."?

    Similarly, if we are Spirit-filled people will we "convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment"?

    Jesus doesn't bruise the smouldering wick etc, but then Mary says something striking in the Magnificat:

    "He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
    he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
    he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty."

    I see Jesus doing that all over the Gospels. He is gentle, wooing and alluring and inviting to those broken and poor in Spirit, but to the strong and rich he is brutal. In both I am convinced he is loving, and his heart of eternal hearts is in the blessing (not two attributes to be balanced as you say), but reluctantly and with tears he is the same God who in Jeremiah 9:1-11 who weeps "fountains of tears" as he announces that he is going to make Jerusalem a wasteland.

    On your question in your comment, it is a famous description of the preachers job, from Jeremiah's commission in 1:10 to tear down and build up. It is also just what the pastor does as he plunges the baptised into the death of the water before raising them up to new life. If we just say "come to Christ" then that is no hope to those imprisoned by sin (i.e. everyone). It is like inviting people to the beach when they're in Wormwood Scrubs. However, if you say you've died in prison condemned by God when Christ died and you're a new-born freeman loved by his Father because Christ is risen... then it's not an appeal to our free-will but a announcement of a victory won.

    Just musing because I don't have it worked out.

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  7. Something of how come to Christ is death and resurrection in him, union with Christ usually opens things up!

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  8. Excellent post! I've been thinking about this today. Psalm 5:5-6 says that God hates all evildoers and abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful men. Yet we seen God's love for all, demonstrated through Jesus. Maybe we just don't see things from God's perspective.

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