My post on how we misinterpret God’s character when we evaluate his actions as if he were a sinful human rather than the morally perfect Creator reminded me of an interesting experience I had years ago while reading God Is the Gospel.
The book opens with the idea that “good news is for proclaiming—for heralding the way an old-fashioned town crier would do”:
Hear ye! Hear ye! All rebels, insurgents, dissidents, and protesters against the King! Hear the royal decree! A great day of reckoning is coming, a day of justice and vengeance. But now hear this, all inhabitants of the King’s realm! Amnesty is herewith published by the mercy of your Sovereign. A price has been paid. All debts may be forgiven. All rebellion absolved. All dishonor pardoned. None is excluded from this offer. Lay down the weapons of rebellion, kneel in submission, receive the royal amnesty as a gift of imperial love, swear fealty to your sovereign, and rise a free and happy subject of your king.
I have to admit, when I pictured this scene in terms of a medieval, earthly monarch, I immediately imagined myself in a classic movie scenario, hearing the words of an oppressive king who is trying to tempt the members of the heroic rebellion to surrender. I immediately felt, welling up in me, a passion to rally my fellow righteous dissidents and insurgents (in hiding from the nasty king and his condescending “mercy”) to try to fight against him with even more vigor. Who does he think he is? We won’t serve him! A pox on his unjust vengeance! Never give up—never surrender! Freedom! (Etc.)
The difference, of course, between a cynical interpretation of this story and the reality of the gospel is the difference between an untrustworthy human king and a perfectly trustworthy God. The problem is that since we’re born into rebellion against God, those who don’t yet know him tend to view him as the first rather than the second.
Reading the vignette and feeling that stirring of my own rebellious heart helped me appreciate just how repugnant the gospel can be to atheists who don’t know God and have no inclination to trust his character or motives. And my initial reaction to this fictional earthly king whom I did not know or trust showed me just where my own instincts lie. With that kind of a rebellious nature, how on earth did I ever bend the knee willingly, eagerly, and with great love, to God? It’s truly a miracle, my friends.