He’s No Gentleman


Have you ever heard this?  “God is a gentleman.  He would never . . . [insert something a courtly deity would never do, usually related to busting in where he’s not wanted].”  I don’t know where this idea came from, but it’s supremely silly.

It might be seen as gentlemanly to sweep back the waters of the Red Sea for his people to cross (“After you, my dears”).  But then he slammed the sea on the pursuing Egyptian army, drowning every last horse and man.  It was nice of him to gently wake the boy Samuel for a midnight chat—to tell him that his mentor’s priestly family was toast.  He spoke reassuringly to Elijah in a still small voice, after scaring the pants off him by hurling fire, wind and storm in his direction.

And wasn’t it God who sent Jesus to tell us about his Father’s universal love and grace?  But Christ was also known to drop a word about universal judgment and punishment for those who rejected him, making himself the standard for determining who gets in and who stays out.

Jesus actually doesn’t seem like much of a gentleman either.  But why would we want him to be?

Gentlemen are reserved and polite and exercise self-control.  They condescend to make their inferiors feel at ease.  They hold the door for ladies and step aside for baby carriages.  They don’t point out your faults unless you ask them to.  They listen patiently, consider carefully, and make up their own minds.  They know their place and are comfortable in it.

But God is the place.  He does not offer us heaven; he is heaven.  Life is not a smorgasbord of options, though it may seem that way.  There’s really only one option: Those who fail to find me harm themselves; those who hate me love death (Prov. 8:36).  There’s him, or there’s death.  A gentleman might try to arrange another choice or two in order to accommodate those who just can’t comply.  In the process, he would be courteously opening a door to doom: After you, my dear.

The burly track worker who shoves you out of the path of a speeding train is no gentleman.  The lifeguard who knocks you out while you’re struggling is no gentleman.  The Son of Man who makes himself a bloody sacrifice for you is probably the least gentlemanly of all: volunteering to be a spectacle, hanging between heaven and earth, commanding you to look if you want to live (Num. 21:8, John 3:14).  Gentlemen do not offend or plant themselves as stumbling blocks.  They don’t cause any more trouble than they have to.

Better to stumble in this life than the next.  Better be troubled now than later.  If God is embarrassing or bothering you—which, granted, no gentleman would ever do—embarrass yourself in return.  Fall on your knees and give him thanks.


  1. // Reply

    “‘Course, he isn’t safe. But he is good.”

    I once heard a dear pastor friend of mine in a sermon once say that people prefer the god they can hold in their hands rather than allow the Almighty God hold them in His hands.

    Ray Comfort put it very well when answering a person who said that “My God would never send people to Hell because he’s a good God and a good God would never hurt anyone.”

    Ray Comfort replied, “You are correct that your god would never do these things because your god does not exist. He’s a figment of your imagination.”

    A final thought: I think we humans are notorious for repeating soundbites we picked up somewhere than actually thinking through what we are saying.

    He is a good God and He is great and terrible and aweful and He still loves us very much! Amazing!

    1. // Reply

      That “safe-but-good line was actually going through my head when I was writing this post!

  2. // Reply

    Janie, this was excellent food for thought! I’ve heard that before that God is a Gentleman, but your article sheds new light on that idea. It reminds me of the line in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, “He’s not a tame lion, but he is good.” Thank you.

  3. // Reply

    Such clear commentary! Your illustrations of the Red Sea incident, Samuel, and Elijah are spot on, with our Savior’s sacrifice on the cross as most revealing of the fact that God requires justice. And Jesus did it for us! This is truly “grace, grace, grace that brought me to life…”

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