Tuesday, September 7, 2021

If only God knew. . .

In the face of commandments carved in stone and a new morality espoused to walk in Christ in newness of life, the Church finds itself in a usual place -- out of step with people and relegated to the sidelines by those who do not like what they hear from God.  Indeed, it is not new but it has moved beyond the ordinary realms of personal desire into heretofore uncharted waters of desire and gender identity that no one would have dreamed a century ago.  But that is where we are.  To those whose desires or identities are not countenanced by God, the Lord of heaven and earth is neither benevolent or compassionate.  He is, instead, insensitive, inhospitable, hurtful, coldly abstract.  

The Lord is insensitive because if He only knew how deeply we desire what He has forbidden or reject the criteria by which we have rendered male or female, He would surely have changed what He said.  But that is the point.  He DID know.  He knew from the beginning of that first sin the depths of our hearts and the desires therein waiting to bubble over and cast its death over all that He had made.  He knew from the beginning the consequences and, oddly enough, so did Adam and Eve when they could no longer look upon each other without the pangs of guilt and shame to overwhelm them.

The Lord is inhospitable because He does not simply welcome us as we are but changes us.  Instead of acknowledging and supporting and encouraging the truth we claim for ourselves and the desires unbound, the Lord has the nerve to ask us to take off our shoes in repentance, to allow Him to wash our feet and make us clean in baptism, and to give us a new heart in which is written His Law and in which the Spirit creates new love and desire for Him and for His will.  We do not want a God who asks us to change or who would have the nerve to change us.  We want affirmation and not reformation and so the welcome of God is to us a hollow word.  If He really wanted us, He would take us as we are and that is that.

The Lord is hurtful because He has the nerve to deem certain behaviors and desires as wrong and then to enshrine those wrongs in a code of law.  When the Lord calls the desire of our hearts wrong, it hurts.  And more than we desire redemption, we desire to avoid hurt.  Like the medical community which has deemed pain a greater ill than disease, so do we cry out in our pain for relief more than healing.  On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is your pain?  That is what we want from God.  We want Him to know how bad we are hurting and to take the hurt away.  We do not want the medicine of immortality unless it will provide immediate relief to our suffering.  If Christ's sufferings do not take away ours, then we are not sure we want any of it.  

The Lord is coldly abstract in our personal and individual world because He does not adapt His Word and truth to the dictates of the individual conscience (which is less conscience than it is preference).  We all want a God who is like us, who approves of what we approve and who disregards the things we do not like.  We all want a God who shares our prejudice, our point of view, our presuppositions, and our personality.  In this, we have not changed much from Israel which was hobbling together a god of their own manufacture and who mirrored their own desires while Moses was up on the holy ground of the mountain of God's presence receiving truth that transcends time and people.

I have heard it said so often.  If only God knew what I was going through. . . what I wanted. . . what I have suffered. . . what I had hoped for. . .   But that is the point.  God does know.  But God does not place His stamp of approval on all of these.  Rather, the Lord looks beyond the moment.  He is the God of providence who works all things for our eternal good.  That is why faith is not formed by reason or by understanding but by the Spirit who teaches us to believe what is alien to our sinful consciences and hearts.  Thanks be to God.  God knows us but God knows a higher good to which He aspires for us -- and for which He has withheld nothing -- not even His only Son.  Thanks be to God!

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