I may get in trouble for admitting this, but I have some confessions to make. First, I still attend a local congregation with my wife and kids. Second, I teach 10th grade boys during 'Sunday School' (God help them). Third, I try my best not to listen to the sermon. Usually, I crack open my bible and begin reading in an effort to tune out whoever is speaking. I have to do this for the sake of my sanity, really. If you read my previous post, you can understand why I don't want to go back to that kind of thinking, and much of the time the god that many a preacher presents sound downright mean and nasty, like he keeps a flamethrower handy to toast anyone who steps out of line.
This past Wednesday, however, I heard a pastor say something that smacked me in the forehead and helped me to see that I can sometimes still read certain passages with my old religious lenses on and not even realize it. I'm talking about Romans chapter 1, where it talks about the 'wrath of God being revealed against all unrighteousness'. Now, I shouldn't be totally surprised that he said something this cool and amazing, because he is a good friend who is on a journey of his own with God -- away from the traditional religious view.
So Wednesday night, during the Q & A time someone asked him if AIDS was God's punishment for homosexuality, and I believe that they made a reference to Romans chapter 1; this is a typical fundamentalist take on AIDS. His answer was an unequivocal no. And then he said that if you pay attention to the passage it says 'God gave them over' not 'God punished them with or for' and that often sin is it's own punishment. That's when I heard the smack on my forehead. Sounds like something I read in 'The Shack' which I knew from life experience was true, but didn't realize there was a Scripture to back it up. I had to go read it for myself to be sure, which is funny because I am quite familiar with this passage but all those years had been reading it wrong. That is a very different kind of wrath indeed, not the god with the flamethrower, but the Father who lets the prodigal go hoping that he will learn that what he is wanting will destroy him. And, once he has learn that, turn back toward home.