Looking right at God and misunderstanding Him - The Loving Father
The eight-year-old boy had been told not to eat in his bedroom and leave his dirty dishes there. His mother scolded him regularly, saying this habit could lead to ants or roaches. Still, sometimes he forgot and left his dirty dishes in his room. Sometimes he did not put his dirty clothes in the hamper or brush his teeth before bed; and sometimes he hit his little brother and lied about eating his vegetables.
One day his father had enough of hearing his wife lecture and nag their son about the things he did or did not do. The father decided to resolve the issue one way or another. He could physically remove his son from their home permanently separating him from the family, or he could get an animal and kill it so that he and his wife could forgive their son’s repeated mistakes and lies.
Does this story shock you? Do the solutions sound ridiculous? Is there any way this father could be considered loving, compassionate and perfect in his dealing with his son? Yet, this reasoning and these actions are seemingly what some or many Christians think about God, Our Father.
What we have been told
We have heard the story often: God the Father requires people to be perfect and sin-free. Any sin separates people from God permanently unless… their sin is atoned by the sacrificial death of animals. Finally, God’s own perfect Son, Jesus had to die to atone for the sins of mankind.
Is this what the Bible really says? Search the scriptures; you can’t find a definitive scripture that says God requires people to be perfect, or they will be permanently separated from Him without the substitutionary sacrificial death of another.
Does the Bible say God requires perfection from people?
Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:48 comes closest to the idea that God requires perfection. In Matthew 5 Jesus taught His disciples they should consistently be gentle, forgiving, merciful, trustworthy, showing self-control with others and summed up His teaching with this verse that says, “Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The word “perfect” here in Greek means complete; in Hebrew it means to be whole, sound, complete, to be consistently upright, and act with integrity. Therefore, God is not requiring His people to be free of faults or defects (the English definition of perfect). Rather by God’s instructions, God calls His people or children to be people of integrity, merciful, upright, compassionate, helpful, forgiving and trustworthy.
What about sacrificial death atonement?
During the time the Bible was written, many of the people in the ancient Middle Eastern region of the world held beliefs in a variety of gods and goddess. In order to receive desired outcomes, the people appeased their gods with sacrificial offerings of animals and even human sacrifices (including their children and babies – see Leviticus 18:21, 20:4, II Kings 17:31, II Chronicles 28:3, and Ezekiel 16:21). Do you really think these ancient regional customs of worshiping idols with sacrifices were required by the God of the Bible to forgive sin?
The sins that separate people from God
It is generally taught in Christianity that any sin will separate us from God. However, there is no verse to support that idea. Isaiah 59:2 NASB says, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Isaiah 57-59 should be reviewed to understand the context of this statement. The verse spoke of God’s people who were supposed to know Him and the requirements for their interactions with others, yet the people of Israel had worshiped idols, knowingly done evil, then offered sacrifices, fasts and prayers for forgiveness without repentance. It is the deliberate sins and duplicitous attitude toward God by His people who claimed to know Him that separated them from God.
So, what does God require to forgive sin?
Repentance. Repentance is the recognition and acknowledgment that one’s actions were wrong and caused damage and hurt to others. This realization is quickly followed by a commitment to turn from wrongdoing, and to turn toward God to follow His commands for correct interactions with God and others.
King David probably said it best. After committing adultery, then having the loyal soldier killed to cover up the subsequent pregnancy, David was confronted by the Lord in II Samuel 11-12. Psalm 51 is a testament to David’s repentance of his sins. Verses 16-17 says the Lord requires repentance, not sacrificial atonement.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
God is not an exacting Father watching to judge and waiting to punish His children for each infraction. No, He is the loving Father who wants everyone to know Him, to know and do what is right because we love our Father and want to please Him and be like our Father.
Who are the lost ones?
Although God is merciful, compassionate, long suffering and forgives sins, iniquities and transgressions, we should not fool ourselves believing everyone remains a child of God. Who are the lost children separated from God? Answer: The ones who say, “You are not my Father.” “I don’t know you.” “I will do as I please in spite of what You say.” Does God the Father reject this child from the family? From His love? No. It is the individual who rejects the Father, who walks away, who refuses to come home. The choice of a relationship with the Creator, the Father, resides with us. God has stated His position clearly: He is not willing that any be lost or perish.
This article contains excerpts from the new book, “Behold! The Jesus We Never Knew: God from the Beginning” by Anna A. Goodman with Jeffrey Goodman, Ph.D. The book that causes us to examine what we believe is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple books. For other articles by the author, visit Facebook at Intrigue & Engage books by Anna.
Photograph by Liane Metzler available by unsplash.com