It all begins with God — what we think about God shapes what we think about ourselves and those around us and our world. It begins with God. What is our “narrative” of God?
James Bryan Smith, in The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love With the God Jesus Knows (The Apprentice Series) is asking us to think about our narratives and the need to reshape our narratives with the narrative of Jesus.
One of those narratives is “God is holy.”
Declaring God’s love can be overdone, Smith states. God’s love doesn’t mean God permits sin. God, he says, “is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29). Two dominant narratives are wrong:
God is wrathful and God does not care about sin. This angry-distant God narrative isn’t what Jesus teaches. H. Richard Niebuhr put the problem this way: “a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross” (116).What has helped you get over the God-loves-me and winks-at-sin narrative about God and reality? What helps you keep God’s love and holiness in balance?
The teddy-bear God won’t do. God’s wrath, Smith argues, “is a beautiful part of the majesty and love of God” (117).
Wrath, for Jesus, is God’s right action. John 5:28; Matt 12:36-37; 16:27; Luke 21:23; John 3:36.
People, like Thomas Jefferson, like to clip out the parts of the Bible they don’t like. Smith says many clip out the wrath stuff. God’s love does not wax and wane like our emotions; God’s love is to will the good of humans. Wrath is not rage. Wrath is not passion but pathos, a determined decision of God that is rational. Wrath expresses God’s commitment to love, peace and justice. It is God’s verdict on evil.
Holiness is God’s essence. Love loves unto purity is the idea of holiness. Nor do we want an unholy, unwrathful God. Moral indifference will not do. This means, Smith states, that hell is necessary.
He finishes this with a soul training exercise on the need for margin in life.