The polar views of God as a demanding judge and an all-compassionate parent live in tension

The polar views of God as a demanding judge (on the one hand) and an all-compassionate parent (on the other) live in tension. We ought to act as if God does indeed demand that we rise to the occasion of deserving deliverance. At the same time, God knows, as we do, that perfection is beyond us, and when we are about to give up hope, we should remember that God really does offer unconditional love in the end.

All of this matters — not because of God but because theological models are templates for the way we humans, made in God’s image, are supposed to behave…. The expectations that govern God’s relationship with us should exemplify the ground rules of our relationships with others.

In practice, we are held to the highest standards when it comes to people who depend upon us or who otherwise come into our orbit: we must apologize especially to those we love, and strive to do whatever we can to correct the behavior that hurts them. But if we are on the receiving end of these relationships — if friends and family ask pardon of us, that is — we ought not to be unreasonably demanding of them. Rather, like God, we can welcome them back with the good grace of love that asks nothing beyond their sincere overture across the divide that separates us.

Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, “A Song of God’s Grace”, The Jewish Week (6 September 2013), 56.

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