When Evan Almighty hit theaters last summer, some evangelicals worried that elements of the movie were sacrilegious. One of their particular objections got me thinking.
In the film, God (played by Morgan Freeman) claims that people miss the point of the story of Noah's Ark because they think it's about God's anger, when really it's a "love story." Some Christians saw that statement as an offensive distortion of the Genesis account of God's wrath. Their protest left me pondering what I suspect is a fundamentally important question: Is there any story about God that isn't a love story?
Growing up, I had two images of God. The first was a painting on my bedroom wall, Bernhard Plockhorst's Jesus Blessing the Children. After bedtime prayers, I would drift off imagining I was one of those children in Jesus' embrace. Everything about that picture reinforced the first thing I was taught in Sunday school: God Is Love.
My other image was a mental one I'll call "the Vengeful God," a peeved Father Time crossed with an accusing Uncle Sam. That picture helped me remember that God hates sin, and reinforced the second thing I learned in Sunday school: God Is Holy.
We sang about grace at my church, and we meant it. But we suspected that an exclusive emphasis on God's love would lessen our desire to live holy lives. So periodically, our preacher would thunder about God's wrath and judgment, ensuring we were never "soft on sin."
God is love, BUT God hates sin. How does one hold those two realities in tension? I unconsciously developed a theology that intermittently had God the Son and God the Father in a good cop, bad cop routine, with the Holy Spirit stepping in as a sympathetic parole officer.
I professed that God was love all the way through, ...1