Back in the 90s, when everything was like so cool, there was a commercial for a sponge. It said that the sponge was tough on stains, and then the sponge turned into a lion head, which roared. Then, the commercial said it was gentle on skin/dishes, and the sponge became a little lamb that said “Baah.”
That’s God. Revelation 5:5 calls him the Lion of Judah. The Bible also calls Jesus the Lamb of God. The lion and the lamb, as a modern church song says.
Why am I talking about how God is like a sponge commercial from the 90’s? Because Christians and non-Christians alike seem to have a hard time with this two-sided God. People either see him as one the lion God who burns everything to the ground, or the lamb God who’s soft and fluffy. They believe two-sided means two-faced, but the sponge shows us that’s just not true.
The rough side of the sponge gets the grime off the dishes. Without it, nothing gets clean. God can’t be expected to tolerate sin and eliminate it, too. God despises sin and treats it harshly, and when you think about it, you wouldn’t have it any other way, would you? Do you want evil just hanging around the world forever? The “rough” side of God, his ferocity, his boldness, his fury at sin, are all necessary characteristics.
The soft side is easy on the dishes so they aren’t scratched up. Without that, you destroy what you clean. God hates sin, but sin is attached to us, whom he loves. Thus God is patient with us, gentle even. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23), but instead of killing us, he sacrificed Jesus, who was innocent, to save all of us. God is love, and the Bible shows just how far he goes to save his people time and time again. His mercies are new every day (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Why do people have such a hard time reconciling these two sides of the sponge? How can they imagine a sponge without one of those sides? How can they imagine a God who says he loves us, but does nothing about evil? How can they see holiness and power without seeing the cross? Holiness and grace coincide in God. You can’t take one side without the other. If you want God, you must take both lion and lamb.
Ferocity and gentleness are not hypocritical in the same person. They are two tools that must be wisely used at appropriate times. The pacifist is killed in war. The warmonger is slain by peace. God is not defined by one thing; he is love, power, grace, firmness, fire, water, near, far, and a host of other traits. He is God.