We talk and think a lot about what we want from God.. and how upsetting it is when he doesn’t make the world how we want it. I do anyway.
But what about God? What does God want?
For the typical Christian this answer comes too easily, but is also varied depending on what flavor of Christian you are talking to.
“God wants us to love Jesus”
“God wants us to be holy”
“God wants us to live with him forever”
“God wants us to love him and others”
But let’s start at the beginning.
Why create anything in the first place?
If God is anything like us, and he said he is as he made man in his likeness or image, then he’s got a strong creative bent to him. People make stuff, it’s what we do.
(FYI: I’m going with the traditional “him” pronoun for simplicity sake)
So, God, like us, likes to make stuff. Great. Does that mean we are just an intergalactic painting, sculpture, or some sort video game to test theories? Maybe?
If the story of Job is to be believed one of God’s heavenly beings seems to make a sort of wager with God about the nature of man. They basically said to God that the only reason humans like God is because he gives them nice things. Which I believe is a fair wager. Had Job lived with nothing but suffering he could rightly question God’s goodness or even his existence.
I joke about stubbing my toe and crying out that there is no God. I’m only half joking. What was the point of that? What about the child born with painful terminal illness? How does fit the “God likes to make stuff” theory? And who are we to judge anyone that comes to a different conclusion about the nature of God? If your life is suffering it seems fair to believe God either enjoys watching suffering or is incapable of doing anything about. Or.. that somehow it’s worthwhile because it’s producing something that couldn’t be created any other possible way.
The Bible contains many references to processes of changing people. They are not great.
They include “threshing”.. a violent process for separating wheat from its chaff.. the chaff is then burned and the wheat gathered.
Am I chaff?
Or refining gold. A process that requires a lot of heat as the gold melts and “dross” is left behind and thrown away.
Am I dross?
Or “vine dressing”. If you’ve ever pruned a plant this is a sort of violence done to the plant. You need to cut back all the branches that won’t produce fruit. Typically you can take about a third of a fruit tree off without killing it. It’s a tough process.. picking and choosing what stays and what goes. The tree can look pretty sad afterwards.. but what you are left with will be much healthier and more productive. The dead branches are burned.
Am I dead branches?
Or there is the process of making pots from clay. Sometimes you need to toss the failures, smashing them up.. and make new ones with the remains.
Am I a broken pot?
So, is that it? Is the planet a farm or gold mine? What is the fruit here? What is the end product? Are we pots to sit on some intergalactic shelf God can show all his cool friends?
Or, maybe he truly wants children.
I didn’t understand God very well until I had children of my own. They came from nothing (or next to it really).. they gave me nothing of any real value (still haven’t). And yet.. I want to be with them. I would fight for them. I would die for them. Anyone that did them harm would feel my wrath.
So, how does the work in world full of suffering? Are some of his “children” not his? How does this work? How does this not create a horrible “us vs. them” where is his children vs. .. well, anyone not “his”?
It’s probably for the best that I can’t answer this. It would be like knowing an asteroid is going to hit and destroy the Earth and there is nothing you can do about it. It would create chaos. It’s better to assume he wants all to be his children.. but for some reason that’s not an option.. <insert dozens of arguments here>
I know the pat Christian answers.. but they don’t hold up to any sort of real critical thinking.
What to do with the billions who were raised and died well outside the reach of Christendom. Or even those in the Bible who died before Jesus? For some Paul gave them the “faith in God” free pass. But what about those who grew up apart from YHWH. What about the children of Ra? The kids of Thor? The daughters of Zeus? Will their faith be accredited as righteousness?
If you believe they were created to suffer eternally, you are probably the real monster in this story. If you plan on spending an eternity in bliss due God’s love for you while other burn forever… you might want to make sure you are on the right path here.
So, what does God want? He wants the gold, the good fruit, and the great vases this world can produce. The chaff, dross, and waste gets burned and swept away.. I suppose eternally.
And what does this look like? What does good fruit look like: Peace, happiness, love, joy, patience, kindness, understanding, gentleness. It means stepping out of your comfort zone to help your enemy when they’ve been beat down. It means a love for people who are unlovable. It means giving them your coat when it’s cold out.. even if it makes you cold.
I worked at a grocery store and watched people all day. A teaming mass of people. I could tell my heart had grown cold and tired of humanity. I asked God to show me people through his eyes. I immediately started crying. I had to go in the back so no one saw me. Why would God want to cry? Why not wrap this mess up?
Sometimes this planet makes me think God was depressed and he needed something worse to cheer him up.. like sad music or even cutting.. just so he could feel something.
Maybe that’s what God wants. Maybe he wants to feel. Maybe he wants to love and be loved.. and maybe that means losing and being lost as well.
I do know that maybe if we thought more about what God wants and less about what we want perhaps we could learn to see the world differently.