The Addict’s Half-God
Romans 11:22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God…
When we were first married, my wife and I had a radical disagreement in which we were both absolutely convinced of our own rightness. The conflict arose simply from painting the trim on our first house. I had taped all around the trim, painted, stripped off the tape and then thrown the tape away. A week or two later, we got into a disagreement over the color of the tape I had used. It was green but she said it was blue.
I cannot explain how vexing her disagreement was. I had, in fact, done the entire job myself, using green tape. I would have bet my life on it. She, meanwhile, was equally convinced of her rightness. We disagreed more than just a little. In our madness, we headed off to the hardware store to settle the conflict. Our confidence grew as we approached the paint department. We both knew our moment of vindication was at hand. You are about to see how right I am and how wrong you are!
We were shocked and a little embarrassed to find both blue and green tape. I had used blue on the front, run out, and then finished the back of the house with green. We had both possessed half a truth which led us to believe we knew the whole truth. Our half-truths led us to a whole lot of conflict.
This is a common error of mine, I think. I take a truth from a set of verses about God and then see everything through in that light. My theology becomes tainted by my own biases, defects and personality traits. I go to the Bible with a concept in mind, find all the verses that support it and then explain away all the verses that do not. Thus, I build half a truth, based on my preconceived ideas of God.
Many of us do this without realizing it. The addict, for example, prefers to focus on Bible verses which speak of God’s mercy and grace. The addict, with recurrent failures, prefers to look upon the kind face of God, ignoring the stern one. Thus, the addict knows a half-god, who will never say no and will never allow consequences for destructive behavior. This is of course disastrous to the addict. To deny consequences is to reject reality and to court death.
Paul, in today’s passage, insisted that we must recognize both the kindness and severity of God. God is loving and gracious, but one does not need to read far to find that God has a stern, angry side. The Lord is slow to anger… but he will by no means clear the guilty (Num. 14:18). God, being perfect, is a flawless balance of love and holiness.
Most of us prefer a gentle God of love and grace, but love without holiness is chaos. Others prefer a Holy God of truth and sternness. Truth without love though, is cold, brutal totalitarianism. Love without truth is as incomplete as truth without love. Both are half-truths which require their counterpart to be whole. God is the flawless definition of all that is loving and holy. He is perfectly complete in his kindness and his severity.
To know God then, we must embrace both half-truths to know the whole. Embracing only half a truth may be more destructive than a lie. Just as our tape was green and blue, God is both kind and severe. Paul says we would do well to know the whole God.