I hate people

If I were God, I'd hate people.
I'm not God, incidentally -- and you aren't either, no matter what The Secret says.
Sometimes I hate people. Sorry. I know that's bad. I do.
God doesn't.
Oh, people talk like He does. Take the Virginia Tech tragedy. Whether it was a terrible and random act of violence or the vengence of an unmerciful God -- you take your pick. Chances are, you'll believe what you want anyway. But that wasn't God.
Want to see an angry God at work, read your Old Testament. I was reading through the book of Judges recently, which is full of wonderful stories -- like the tale of Samson; my personal favorite when I was a kid -- once you get past the hard-to-pronounce names. It's not like a lot of Old Testament books, which can be pretty boring unless you do some serious praying beforehand. Then, all kinds of things open up. You should always pray before reading the Bible, because God will show up, show you all sorts of things you would otherwise have missed. This will make you feel wonderfully important because God Himself has taken the time to show you what He meant. That's just another way He shows He loves you. Then you won't think the Bible is so boring, and you just might start realizing He loves you more than He hates you. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Like I was saying, I hate people sometimes. The guy in the Mercedes that cuts me off in traffic -- what, you have more money than me, so that three seconds you saved is more valuable than the three I lost? -- the lazy guy that at work that won't pull his weight while I'm in the office at 4:30 a.m. every day, the woman who leaves the shopping cart out in the middle of the parking lot because she can't be bothered to put it away ... it's sad, really, but I could go on and on. It seems there are a lot of people I hate.
But it's all trivial, when you come right down to it. There's no real reason for me to hate those people, but the same thing that makes me say things I don't mean or gossip or drive too fast or say mean things about people or do things to hurt my body is the same thing that makes me hate people for no good reason. It just happens because on a very basic level I'm a bad person, redeemed though I am.
While reading Judges, I came across an interesting albeit all-too-common moment between God and His chosen people. Exasperated, God seems to throw His cosmic arms up in the air and say, "You know what? I'm doggone fed up. I brought you out of Egypt. I fed you every day. I told you where to go and where not to go, the better to keep you safe. I fought -- and won -- battles for you. And, most imoprtantly, I provided a means by which you can be redeemed of your sins and reconciled to Me so that, when this charmed life you are living in a land I specifically designated for you and in which I destroyed all your enemies is over, you can come to the Kingdom of Heaven and live in eternity with Me. Despite all of that, you still, just like hundreds of times in the past, turned away from Me and worshipped some sculpture whose only intrinsic value lies in the metal in which it was crafted -- which, incidentally, you should have saved for swords because the next time some random army comes rolling through Canaan, you folks are on your own. I'm OUT!"
Obviously, I pulled a Eugene Peterson and paraphrased my way through a passage of scripture. Here's what God actually said in Judges 10:7, 11-14 (and I'm going to use the King James version here, because it, well, is funnier:)
"And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon ... And the LORD said unto the children of Israel, 'Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines? The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand? Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.'"
Man, that is so great ... I love that line "Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation." My paraphrase? "Look, if that half-man/half-fish thing statue was so great, give it a call ... I'm sure it will be happy to bail you out the next time Tom the Amalekite and 40 of his spear-wielding buddies come strolling through your camp with a little pillaging on their minds."
I probably don't need to tell you how this story worked itself out: "And the children of Israel said unto the LORD, We have sinned: do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee; deliver us only, we pray thee, this day. And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel (emphasis mine.)"
Yep. You guessed it. He bailed them out. Again.
The temptation is to say, "Man, that God ... what a sucker." But if you read through the Old Testament from the Exodus from Egypt all through the minor prophets -- and pray while you do so, remember -- you'll see one great love story unfolding. That's what the Old Testament is. God did not hate the Israelites. God does not hate you.
Now, non-believers like to point out God's flooding of the earth, His slaughter of Egypt's first born, etc., as evidence of a cruel, hateful deity. To forgo the discussion of the duality of God's nature -- that is, that He is both merciful and just; people like to embrace the former and discard the latter -- the fact remains that God's treatment of His people were actions of love. Their behavior broke communion with Him. It had to. They were imperfect, He was perfect. (For that matter, we are imperfect, too.)
So what did He do? He constantly reminded them who He was, and bailed them out EVERY TIME they screwed up. That the way He dealt with them -- yes, often harshly -- didn't work to permanently change their hearts wasn't His fault. It was theirs. See, they failed to realize that each step in His relationship with them was a different God-directed paradigm building to the moment that He would enter human history and lay down His life in His final act of saving grace, the benefits of which you and I now can freely accept.
That means how He deals with people like me and you is quite different than the way He did to people back then. In an ironic twist, when I hate people I have no right to hate, that gives Him a reason to, in turn, hate me. Which, of course, He doesn't do, no more than He hated the Israelites every time they kicked Him to the curb in favor of the latest fashion trend in god worship.
That is such beautiful truth it brings a smile to my heart.
(copyright 2007, andrew j. beckner. all rights under copyright reserved.)