Thursday, February 03, 2005

Oh, Just Grow Up

You remember when Bill Bixby was on the 70s TV version of The Hulk -- at some point in every episode he would utter those words: "Please don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." That low tone -- the pleading in his voice -- you just knew that before the end of the show he'd be throwing that guy through a plate glass window.

It's one thing for a fictional character who's been permanently damaged by radiation to say something like that. It's another thing to hear a real live grown-up say it.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard people repeating some variation of this. Grown men and women -- people who claim to be disciples of Jesus -- leaders in their church and community -- saying ridiculous things like, "If you make me mad, I'll let you know" or "I may not throw the first punch, but I guarantee you I'll throw the last one" or "I'm a nice person, until you rub me the wrong way -- then, the gloves come off."

I especially hear stuff like this from men...although there are a few women....

Are we still in Junior High? Grow up, folks.

What if God was like that? What if he gave full vent to his anger the way we often feel completely justified in doing?

In Exodus, God calls to Moses from the midst of a burning bush. Moses turns aside and has a conversation with God wherein he is called to return to Egypt and liberate his people from slavery. But Moses doesn't want to go. So, he offers God a list of excuses, and God patiently responds to each one. Did I mention that Moses is having this conversation with a burning bush?

God turns Moses' staff into a snake. God makes Moses' hand leprous. God reassures Moses at every opportunity that he will not be alone -- God will be with him, securing his success. But Moses still doesn't want to go.

Finally, out of flimsy excuses, Moses confesses: "I just don't want to go. Can't you send someone else?"

This -- understandably -- hacks God off. But notice how he responds. He tempers his anger with his mercy and offers yet another solution for Moses. "You don't have to do alone. Your brother Aaron is headed this way. He'll help you."

God's anger should never be considered outside of the context of his mercy and willingness to provide. It is his amazing patience -- not his awful wrath -- that we are called to imitate. God calls us to follow his example and relentlessly pursue community with others.