God According to Gungor: The Character, Race, and Gender of the Divine
Had a great time at Catalyst Conference. Have you heard of Gungor? I saw their video, “God Is Not a Man” there and I was wondering if you’d like to write an article on it?
I faceplanted into my keyboard. I had been introduced to the song months ago by a friend of mine, and I found the song to be toe tapping and refreshing. Yes, I did say toe tapping. After showing me the song, my friend laughed and asked if I found it as ridiculous as he did.
With Rob Bell’s ‘trial’ in full force and it being about as useful as a Salem witch trial, I harkened away from jumping anywhere near the subject of religious ambiguity, i.e. universalism. At this point, I would like to point out I’m not calling Rob Bell a universalist, and I’d like to follow that by saying that I am also not disagreeing with what Mr. Bell has said, because I haven’t finished his book. It would be a pretty uncouth move to start throwing names around without being fully informed, or even just throwing around names, and I don’t want to be that guy.
So why (a week later) decide to actually sit down and write this? Well, because God is love and God is good, and He is also not a man. Someone should say it during this time of uncertainty, other than Michael Gungor, who obviously did, so I guess that puts it on me.
God is not man. God is not a white man. God is not a man sitting on a cloud.
This concept is probably pretty straightforward, so why is it so important for Michael Gungor to say it? Why does he need to insult our intelligence by telling us something we, as believers, already know? Because he is reaching under our beds, taking out our secret shoebox gods, which we’ve hidden away, so he can show us what we’ve done with God. We’ve packed Him into a box. We’ve made a middle school collage of our expectations and stuffed them down under a flimsy cardboard top with “God” written across the top. In many ways we have made God less than human, less than a man. Humanity has made Him our political symbol, our call to war, and the guy to pray to before a Lakers game because it’ll end world hunger if they win; no wait, no it won’t. Many of us have made God our slot machine, our excuse for anger, and a sad little robot that we have punched attributes into that respond the same way every time we press the same button: heteronomous, not autonomous. He said it because we needed to hear it. As humans, we tie our human values and human emotions to things which are not human. It’s almost mechanical, and when we try to fathom something which is more than us which is, well, unfathomable, we construct what we can with what limited resources we have, our own understanding, and our end product is a shadow of its former self.
God is not owned by religion. God does not belong to Republicans. God is not a Flag.
I was driving to work the other day and I pulled up right behind God on his Vespa and it had a bumper sticker on it that read “Stop being a Jackass,” with a crossed out Democratic party symbol on it. That didn’t happen, but I feel that He probably would have a Vespa.
God is not a Republican, or a Democrat, or an evangelical, or Episcopalian.
So what is God then? What’s His deal all about?
Well, in Exodus 3:14 He says, “I Am, that I Am,” and that’s about the most He ever gives. He never tells us about His Vespa, or how He votes.
Well, God is just. It says in 1 Thes. 1:6 that He is, so we should align ourselves with the group that is most just!
And, as we’ve all seen, probably from our own experiences, that politicians, pastors, priests and even parents do not always live justly, no matter what side they fall on, and neither do you or I.
The Apostle Paul, in Romans 3:10-18, tells us that none are righteous, none are good, and generally, everybody has screwed up pretty badly, and cannot live up to God’s justice. So Republican or Democrat, Calvary Chapel or Methodist, you get an F for the day. It would seem Michael Gungor already knows this, but the good news is…
God is love. God is good. God loves everyone.
“Atheists, charlatans, communists, lesbians, presidents and even terrorists.” Everyone? Even my neighbor, who lets her buffalo of a dog poop on my lawn every morning? Yeah, even her, and her buffalo, too.
John 3:16: all right hold the eye roll, because though this is like Christianity 101, it seems to be something we forget sometimes, and that is probably the real issue here.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NRSV)
You see, in Kione Greek, the word for ‘world’ is kosmos, and it actually has a pretty wide definition. It goes from universe, to world, to humanity, and yes, according to my fourth edition Greek New Testament published by the United Bible Society, “mankind (especially of men hostile to God)” p.103
Agape, love; that is the noun form, but in John 3:16, the verb agapao is used. Actually it’s egapesen, but that’s because it’s past tense, though that doesn’t really matter. The point is, agapao also means quite a few things deeper than just ‘love’: “Show or prove one’s love; long for, desire, place first in one’s affection.” p. 2
In all reality, we could even write the verse to read “For God proved His love for the world, mankind, even those hostile to him, by sending His only begotten Son…”
God loves everyone.
Stop the hating now, because God is love.
Whoa, maybe God loves everyone, but God is God, and some days, people tick me off. I get that, I do, lady who owns the buffalo next door and all, but we are also called to love everyone.
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Matthew 5:44 (NRSV)
Oh yeah, He said it, and the verb that Jesus used for love is, you guessed it, the same verb used in John 3:16: agapao, except this time it’s in the imperative form. It’s a command.
God is not a man, He is love, He is good, and He requires we love as well. So is it that simple? What about God’s wrath? He has that, right?
I’m pretty sure everyone knows He has wrath, its not exactly hidden away in the Bible. Note the feeling a few hundred years after the Babylonian exile when Jesus was walking around Judea, I guarantee no had forgotten about God’s wrath, but I think that is the point; Jesus came as a symbol of God’s love.
Not many people walk away from the church, or close a door in a missionary’s face because they are tired of God’s love. Psycho-religious people aren’t depicted in movies holding signs that read “God loves you,” or “God loves hugs”. Usually the sign has something to do with the world ending or God’s judgement. Are those things Biblical? Yeah, but I also don’t tell a woman on the first date that I’m moody and yell at the TV when sports are on. I don’t watch sports, but I still wouldn’t bring that up even if I did. I realize this is a hard comparison, but nobody could smile at the idea of every fight they’ll get into with a potential life mate within the first five minutes of meeting them; however, we expect that of others with God.
Our walk isn’t easy; Jesus said that the way is hard and narrow. He said we will be persecuted and mocked. Knowing this probably doesn’t bring many into the fold, but knowing His love probably helps those in the fold to endure through it.
As Michael Gungor sees it, God is love, God is good, and God also loves everyone; He is not bound by what we are or by what we understand; rather, we are bound by Him, and I agree. God loves us and is the epitome of what Love is, and we are called to follow in that Love. So, knowing this and being bound to it, I’m going to lead by example and start the week off right. I’m going to go hug my neighbor’s buffalo.
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