Thursday, November 20, 2014

The God of Choice. . .

Of all the idols available to us, perhaps the most enticing is the idea of choice or preference.  We live in a world in which we make constant decisions about what we want or like -- at this particular moment.  Nothing of the choices we make is necessarily decisive for we retain the right to change our minds about anything and everything.

It has had the effect of making childhood, particularly adolescence, more confusing than ever before.  We do not make choices that endure but living in a constant state of making choices -- often from among the same options -- over and over again. 

As a child I grew up with barely a couple of channels on TV and never had a problem finding something to watch.  Today our children have hundreds of choices on their TV in addition to the myriad of choices available to them in video games, computers, internet, and other technological toys.  In fact, some of those choices require you to redefine the setting and rules of the game over and over again -- every time you play.

Henry Ford is said to have remarked that you could purchase one of his cars in any color you wanted so long as it was black.  Now we paint our wardrobes, rooms, and things with a myriad of choices that are limited only by our desire and imagination.  Color, style, design, and preference choices spill over from the walls of the homes in which we live to the displays of all those wonderful technological toys we love.

We view church and faith within the same consumer mindset.  We shop for the right church as if we were looking for a shirt.  It turns out that our loyalty to the church of our choice is not very deep.  We regularly change out churches like we do our shirts.  There is a growing segment of people who are not really members of any church but transient Christians who stop here and there on their way to the next thing that promises to satisfy their whims, at least for a moment.

Scripture and spirituality have also been surrendered to the idol of choice.  We no longer believe in God but we do affirm a spiritual desire.  We no longer believe the Bible but believe certain things in the Bible.  Either of these may change depending upon the choices available to us and our mood at the time.  We want to be spiritual but not if that means committing to something long term (other than self, of course).  We want to say we believe in the Bible but, really, not some of those strange things the Bible says that no modern person really believes anymore.

Even sexuality is not immune from the press of choice.  We are who we are but who we are may change with whim, desire, and availability.  Today the choice may be straight but tomorrow it may be bi and later gay.  Gender is bendable, flexible, and a choice more than a given defined by the sexual organs.  Today I use the boys bathroom but tomorrow I may self-identify differently.  The ultimate conclusion to the idea of "love the one you are with" is reflected in a gender identity which involves a range of choices which may be satisfying rather than one.

The problem in marriage is not just whether only male and female may marry but why limit yourself to marriage at all.  Culture has surrendered the idea "to death till us part" and left us with a commitment that lasts only as long as we find it pleasurable, satisfying, and easy.  It did not take very long to find out that gays divorce as quickly as straight people or that many gay people have come to the same conclusion as many straight people -- why marry at all?  So marriage has become a word defined more and more by personal preference and "what it means to me."  Children are a problem because they are permanent (at last until we can get them to the day care center).

The problem is that it sounds so awful to suggest that we change so we have labelled this change growth.  We grow as people, our opinions grow, our commitments grow.  We are ever growing (and changing) and it seems antithetical to growth to stick with one God, one Scripture, one gender, one spouse, etc...  Growing people need room to grow and the institutional structures of marriage and family may be too constrictive for a growing people -- unless, of course, we radically re-define them!

The Lord knows us.  He knows our fickle hearts, minds, and ways.  The slavery to preference or desire is nothing new nor is it new to Him.  But He has fashioned Himself as the God who is yesterday, today, and forever the same.  In contrast to our evolving ideas of who we are, what life is, and what we want out of it, He is the one constant.  Eventually we will tire of the constant need to set our general preferences for life.  Eventually we will find our desire to choose will itself become a choice we do not have to make.  This may happen when we are left high and dry by the choices, preferences, and options available to us.  Or it may happen when the Word of the Lord addresses our heart and the Spirit finally breaks through the clutter with a ray of light.  Either way, God is patient.  Yet we dare not confuse His patience with a lack of concern.  He is a jealous God -- not because He is consumed with Himself but because of His passion for us.  That passion was displayed most profoundly when Jesus surrendered Himself to death for His already dead people, paying the freight for our sins with His own blood, and suffering for all -- even those who put Him on that cross.  The Church that endures is the Church that is patient, that trusts in the promise of the Lord more than in what they see and hear and feel, and that expects the future God has prepared for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  There is great comfort to me in this enduring truth through which my own brief and inconsequential life (at least to the world) endures to life eternal!

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