God: Just Plain Intolerant

Is God arrogant? Is he a bit self-absorbed? Is he intolerant and rigid … kinda mean? Maybe he’s just insecure … like the schoolyard bully picking on the smaller kid just minding his own business trudging through recess. All through the Bible, God’s repeatedly reminding us that he is, in fact … God … almost to the point of annoyance. Here are a few examples: “the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand …” (Ex. 7:5). “By this you will know that I am the Lord” (Ex. 7:17). There are at least 86 additional instances in just the Old Testament where God declares that such and such will occur so that “you will know that I am the Lord” or some such.

When Moses asked God who he was, he declined to name himself, other than to express that he simply … is: “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14). In other words, I am so ubiquitous, so all encompassing as to be self-evident … I am my own proof. These two little words, “I am,” are a pretty big deal to Hebrews. So big, in fact, that I believe it’s precisely these two little words that got Jesus crucified. He, being as far from a coward as a man could be, used them frequently in relation to himself. In doing so, he unequivocally identified himself as none other than God. So scandalous were these two little words that they rendered his detractors apoplectic … to the point that they conspired to kill him … however possible … as fast as possible. Here are a few of Jesus’ “I am” statements (all from John’s gospel): “I am the living bread …” (Jn. 6:51); “I am the light of the world …” (Jn. 8:12); “I am from above … I am not of this world.” (Jn. 8:23); “… before Abraham was born, I am.” (Jn. 8:58) (This one nearly got him stoned on the spot); “I am the door.” (Jn. 10:9); “I am the good shepherd.” (Jn. 10:11); “… I am the Son of God” (Jn. 10:36); “I am the resurrection and the life …” (Jn. 11:25); “I am the true vine …” (Jn. 15:1); and last but not least, “I am the way, the truth, & the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn. 14:6). Even today, this statement remains one of his most scandalous … and to many, downright offensive. Many view it as a statement of exclusion and disqualification from God’s kingdom of anyone but a Bible toting, “born again” Christian. And as such, they view Jesus, (and any Christian who advocates the same), with bitter contempt. As if the “living bread,” “light of the world,” “resurrection and the life,” etc. “I-ams” were not grandiose and arrogant enough, now he breaks out the “way-truth-life / no-one-comes-to-the-Father-except-through-me” business! Where’s the tolerance, Jesus? Where’s the open-mindedness, Jesus? Just who do you think you are, Jesus?

I’ll get to that in a minute, but first let’s look back at the original topic. God repeatedly insisted throughout the Old Testament that such-n-such would occur so that “you will know that I am God.” In the case of the Egyptians (and various other cultures of the time), they were deeply given to a multitude of polytheistic pagan gods (including Heqet, goddess of fertility; Geb, god of the earth; Hapi, who brought the flooding of the Nile for agricultural nourishment; and Isis, goddess of motherhood and magic, to name a few). God sent a whole slew of grievous plagues specifically designed to expose these gods for exactly what they were … imaginary, mythical … and therefore, impotent. And in doing so, he demonstrated exactly what he intended … the he actually is in fact … God … true, alive, and very … very potent.

Here’s the point. If there truly is only one actual living God, then does it not logically follow that he would be the singular source of life? And if he is good and gracious (as he claims throughout scripture), does it not logically follow that he would be the ultimate source of true eternal goodness and grace? And if the hallmarks of his character really are “love, joy, peace, forbearance (i.e. patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” as the Bible asserts (Gal. 5:22-23); then does it not logically follow that he is the ultimate source of these commodities as well? And unless Jesus (who claimed to be God) was a liar or a delusional lunatic, then does it not also follow that he is ultimately the one and only inventor and source of life itself?

If these things are true, then what would be the most loving thing he could do to those of us who are not yet aware? Would it not be to simply … tell us? Conversely, what would be the most cruel thing he could do? Would it not be to aloofly stand back and leave us alone … to revel in self-destructive ignorance? Jesus says he’s “the way, the truth, and the life;” and that “no man comes to the Father except through him.” That, to me just sounds like more of God being his same old arrogant, self-absorbed, conceited self. And isn’t that a very rigid, closed minded, intolerant thing for him to say? Well, yes … yes it is. That is … unless it’s true.

(Much credit & thanks to Pastor Jim Burgen for much of the background info & inspiration for today’s piece).

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2 Responses to God: Just Plain Intolerant

  1. Doug Tennant says:

    Reading God’s words is like reading email. It helps a lot to infer the correct intent if you know the personality of the author. Out of context it may sound pompous, but if you KNOW him, then those are the words of the ultimate parent. “Nobody comes to the Father except through me” sounds just like “If you play with fire you’re going to get burned!” And parents repeat it again and again, because it’s true and they love us. And they don’t want us to burn.

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