Many share my love for Jesus. We accepted him as Lord. We were baptized in his name. We became his disciples. We worshiped and adored him. Yet we’ve often divorced the words and actions of Jesus from the God he worshiped and adored. We’ve forgotten the very one Jesus came to reveal.
Those of us raised in the Church have a good excuse for this confusion. It’s what we were taught. The church of my childhood often glorified Jesus at God’s expense. Jesus was Savior. God was judge and executioner. Jesus was closer than a brother. God was distant—remote at best and hostile at worst. Many churches fail to emphasize that the love we experience in Jesus is the persistent grace of God.
Gulley, Philip; Mulholland, James (2009-03-17). If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person (Plus) (pp. 13-14). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
I was raised for the first fourteen years in the Catholic church. Like most I was baptized in the first weeks of my life so by that act I guess I was accepted as a child of God. I was confirmed in the first grade and received my first communion. I later kneeled at the foot of the altar and spoke the latin words that was expected of an altar boy. I went to the first seven grades in a Catholic school. In school I was taught that only Catholic would be in heaven. So , I was raised in the church so to speak.
I can’t say that I really remember much about what I was taught during those years. I knew that God and Jesus were two different things. God sat on a throne and passed judgements on everything I did and I was told he knew my every thought. That was kind of scary because I had some rather unusual thoughts. So, to make sure I stayed a faithful member of his church I was to say my prayers every night before bed and confess all the “sins” I had committed during the week on Saturday morning. I didn’t really have a good idea of what “sin” was so I usually used the same ones I had been taught over and over again. It didn’t seem to matter to that mysterious person behind the screen. He forgave me every week and told me to say so many “Our Fathers” and “Hail Marys” as punishment. That was just the way life was; I really didn’t question it much.
As I then understood it, when I grew up that all of this stuff such as prayer and confession would no longer apply. My parents seldom went to church on Sundays; they just dropped us off and went home for some additional sleep; or so I imagined. They did invite the priests over for dinner on occasion so I assumed that was the grown-up version of confession and punishment. It would be several years later that I really came to see Jesus as something more than the guy that hung on the cross above the altar. It would actually take me abandoning church entirely for almost fifteen years before I came to actually even begin to understand what being a follower of Jesus was really supposed to be like.
When I went back to the church it was to a Protestant version and that is where I was primarily introduced to God the judge and executioner. But even then I was told that even though God was very vengeful, Jesus appeased his wrath by dying on the cross so I was covered. It would be several years after that before I took up the Bible myself instead of just being fed very selected verses by the cleric leader. But more on that the next time.