As a young person growing up in my faith tradition, I heard* that Jesus was here for the downtrodden, for the drug dealer, for the murderer and the adulterer. That’s what all the awesome testimonies were at our youth conferences and shared from the pulpit… and I learned a double-God.
One God who would save the sinner from whatever he had done… This was the God I carried with me in my back pocket, next to the 4 Spiritual Laws tract, when we would go out and do street evangelism, seeking to save these evil men and bring them to God-who-would-forgive-all.
And another God. One who expected the Christians to live up to all the expectations given by Scripture, church and authority figures, and was pissed when they didn’t. One who you didn’t want to make angry, lest he bring a national disaster on your city, make you pregnant your first time having sex with a boy, or heap guilt upon your head and make it impossible for you to live with the weight of your imperfections.
The first God, I loved. He was kind and forgiving and saw the heart… but he was for the others.
The second God I feared. He was demanding and loved to guilt-trip, and he was mine. And I had to perform for him constantly, or else risk his wrath and guilt and wonder if mine was the sin for which there is no forgiveness.
It took me years to learn there was just one God… and he was not waiting for me to fall so he could sentence me to some awful fate as He shakes his head in disappointment at me; He was (is) every bit as present and on my side, as He is those things for the ones whose sins take them to prison.
… Thinking about grace today… and the baggage I’m still unpacking as I learn to accept it. Be encouraged, and know you are loved (not hated… loved).
*”heard”… perhaps it was not spoken (there is much i don’t remember), but it was heard nonetheless in how I saw people treated.