Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28–29, ESV)
Yesterday as I held chapel with the teens I work with, we began to have a great discussion about God and the various character attributes he demonstrates in scripture. One of the guys shared that he was surprised at some of the stories he read about God. He had only heard about God’s love and that God was merciful and kind and gracious. But as he read the Bible for himself, he saw things about God that revealed a different side of him altogether. The young man said that some of what he read about God was “kinda scary.”
It’s true. At times, God can be “kinda scary.” Too often all we hear of God are tales of his love. But we enjoy those verses and we certainly do need to hear them. They are true. God is love (1 John 4:8). But that is not all that God is.
If I was describing an elephant to someone who had never seen one and I simply said: “It’s a big grey animal with a trunk”, would I be telling the truth? Sure. Would they have a very good mental image of the animal? No, not at all. I haven’t told them how big it is. I haven’t explained what a trunk is (and that’s it’s not the same as an automobile’s trunk!). They know nothing of his floppy ears, his lumbering gait, his tree trunk legs or is disproportionate tail. My description as a big, grey animal was not inaccurate, only incomplete.
When we meditate upon God’s love, we do a great thing. We speak of God as a loving God, we speak truth. But if we have nothing left to offer in our description of our Creator, we may leave people with a half-painted picture of him. We run the risk of giving people the idea that he’s the kindly grandfather of Barney the purple dinosaur. But he’s so much more than that.
When we run across the God of Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19, 20:18-21), the God who punishes sin (see Numbers 16, Romans 6:23, Acts 5:1-11), or the God who leaves people quaking in the boots after being in his presence (Isaiah 6:1-6); we are left with a God who is far more than a God of love. He is a God of justice, judgment and wrath. He is a God whose holiness demands that he punish sin. And since we’re sinners, that means us.
But because he is so rich in mercy and his loving kindness is so great, he sent his Son Jesus to the earth so that Jesus could step in and receive that punishment for us. Not only did Jesus take our death sentence, but he destroyed death by rising from the dead. We told that all those who accept that gift by faith become part of God’s family.
Is God “kinda scary”? Yep. But does that same God want you to crawl upon his lap and call him “daddy” (Romans 8:15)? He sure does. That’s a pretty awesome God.