Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Good Cop Bad Cop

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" James 1:17.

Recently a friend described a commonly held church view concerning Jesus, God the Father and their dealings with humanity as "Good Cop, Bad Cop."

Jesus is the "Good Cop". He runs interference between us and the mercurial Father ("Bad Cop") Who loves us... but is prone to angry outbursts of rage and wrath. Without Jesus as the buffer we'd all be toast. Is that how it really is?

Jesus made some theologically shaking statements while He was here. First, He called God his Father. No Jew ever made that claim before. Next, while teaching His disciples how to pray, He instructed them to address God as "Abba" (our equivalent of Dada). So much for rigid formality.

Jesus unashamedly confessed the truth that "I and the father are one" John 14:9. He claimed to be the exact representation of the Father (John 14:9) so, where is "Bad Cop Jesus"?

One might quickly point to Christ's encounter with the money-changers in the temple.

"Of all the places in the world that should have stood witness to grace and truth, the temple was that place; but the world had infected it, and there is nothing to be done with such a ship of fools but to pronounce upon it the judgment it deserves."[1]

It was after all His Father's house, and they had camped out there turning in to a commercial venue. At the most He interrupted business for part of a day. Jesus didn't call down fire from Heaven or have the earth swallow the vendors and bankers up. That would have really sent a clear message. He probably no sooner left the area that the crew righted their tables, rearranged their stock, conducted business as usual while grumbling about the audacity of that young man. If that's the extent of God's wrath, it's pretty tame.

To define God as a fickle, capricious figure with a short fuse invalidates James 1:17 and as the Lord's half-brother, James knew Jesus better than most. For his assessment of the character and nature of God, and Jesus' pronouncement of being the Father's mirror image to be true (and it is) there can only be: "Good Cop, Good Cop," or "Bad Cop, Bad Cop" but never "Good Cop, Bad Cop." They have to be identical.

The model of "Good Cop, Bad Cop" when applied to Jesus and God the Father is flat out wrong. God is good all the time. I do believe that God and Jesus do get angry at the things that destroy our lives or that distort our image of Who He really is. Those I believe He goes after with a vengeance, and I welcome His wrath in that respect. He looks to eliminate anything that's incongruent with His destiny for us as mature sons of God.

How about you? How would you describe God? Is He more Mr. Hyde than Dr. Jekyll or some combination of the two? Is He so unstable and unpredictable that you never know Whom you'll encounter, so staying away is safer? If the Father doesn't look just like Jesus to you, where did you get your image of Him? Can you live with a Father who is always in a good mood?

[1] Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus, pg.436

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