Sometimes it's hard to blame people for rejecting God, because many Christians present a God that is ugly, cruel, unfair, and utterly horrific. Thus, when people avoid Christianity, they're actually shunning their ugly perception of it.
When you hear people talk about God, what type of God are you imagining? When you speak of God, what type of God are you communicating?
Unfortunately, society's obsession with success, politics, business, security, wealth, and comfort has hijacked the way we see and interpret God — even Christians are guilty of this.
It's easy to manipulate God to fit our own agendas, to use religion to rationalize our actions, to wield spirituality as a weapon, and manipulate theology to rationalize our sins.
We constantly receive mixed messages about who God is and isn’t. But my opinion of God is often very different than “Christian” cultural opinions of God. For example:
I don’t believe in a God who would torture people for the sake of national security.
I believe in a God who would heal others for the sake of eternal security.
I don’t believe in a God who would cause pain in order to obtain information.
I believe in a God who heals and brings supernatural comfort.
I don’t believe in a God who would defend the death penalty.
I believe in a God who gives, sustains, and promotes life.
I don’t believe in a God who would destroy the environment for the sake of a profit.
I believe in a God who passionately preserves all of God’s creation.
I don’t believe in a God who would treat animals poorly.
I believe in a God who loves all living things, keeping his eye constantly on the sparrows.
I don’t believe in a God who would arrest the homeless.
I believe in a God who empowers and protects the poor, who blesses the downtrodden.
I don’t believe in a God who forcibly deports refugees and immigrants.
I believe in a God who hospitably welcomes travelers, generously cares for refugees, openly accepts the lost, and provides sanctuary for the displaced.
I don’t believe in a God who would support political corruption.
I believe in a God who promotes justice, honesty, and truth.
I don't believe in a God who uses legislation to gain power, control, and influence.
I believe in a God who abandons laws in order to free people from guilt, shame, and legalism.
I don’t believe in a God who values obscene wealth.
I believe in a God who esteems moral and spiritual character over economic worth — who blesses the poor.
I don’t believe in a God who is quick to violence, destruction, and war.
I believe in a God who values peace — who refers to God’s self as the Prince of Peace.
I don't believe in a God who selfishly hoards.
I believe in a God who sacrificially gives.
I don't believe in a God who hates.
I believe in a God who loves.
What type of God do you believe in; do your friends believe in; do your coworkers believe in; does your family believe in; does your church believe in; does your school believe in; does your community believe in; does your government believe in; does your society believe in; does your country believe in?
They’re probably very different, and yet each claims to hold the moral high ground — supported by scripture, prayer, and the blessings of religious authorities.
So how do we proceed through the entanglement of conflicting views and doctrines about God? Ultimately, we must do our best to follow Christ’s example, selflessly loving our neighbors as ourselves — believing in the hope that God’s grace covers our inadequacies.
Stephen Mattson has contributed for Relevant Magazine and the Burnside Writer's Collective,and studied Youth Ministry at the Moody Bible Institute. He is now on staff at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minn. Follow him on Twitter @mikta.
Image: Young man doubting, Asier Romero / Shutterstock.com