Thursday, July 20, 2006

Resisting God

It’s like the joke about a man who gives to God every month. Every month the man goes out back and throws all of his wages up in the air. Whatever God wants, He can keep.

There are so many places to go from things I wrote on Tuesday. I’m going to follow one of the things that impressed me, that suddenly I was so aware of how much I had been resisting God, even though my whole life is about following God, with God being very active in providing me with direction for that. A big part of what was so impressive was that it was clear not only how much I was resisting in the present, but that it’s been this way for years, that I’ve been telling God to only push me so hard for as long as I’ve known that He pushed me at all.

And why I was resisting is just as clear as the fact that I was resisting. To say Matthew 25: 46 is accurate is to say huge sections of the church, both conservative and liberal are to be written off, and not in any nice way. I don’t want to be party to that. I want to fix things. I’ve never held back from being critical when I saw reason to be critical, but that was to fix things, not punish anyone or even to clean out all the riff raff for a better future in a better place. God can do that if He wants, but I don’t see what I have to add to that.

Then there’s the problem of my public image. After all, how many people are there who think even one word of what I wrote Tuesday came from someone other than me? Not many, and I’d guess most of those who believe anything I said has a spiritual origin would say that origin is demonic, not from God. What else could explain my saying that God doesn’t know their beloved Joyce Meyer? Well, I wrote what God directed me to write, from the information jointly available to us in my mind. If He told me to contact Joyce Meyer directly, I’d do that, but that didn’t seem to be the point. The context for what I wrote speaks for itself, or people aren’t going to get anything from that anyway.

Abraham Lincoln turned aside a woman who said she had a word from God for him, saying that he was sure God could tell him without an intermediary. That’s a problem, isn’t it? How can any of us limit the possibilities for God in a way that’s wise? Who knows God well enough to do that? Those who say the Bible tells them anything they need to know are heavily invested in being right on that point, putting all of their eggs in one basket, as are those who are just as dependent on another holy book or other religion.

To say Jesus Christ is my Lord and my Savior, as I do, is also narrowing oneself, but in a different way. I look at the Jesus of the gospels, the Jesus Paul describes, the Jesus I know must have lived somewhat like those descriptions, the things I learned from each, and I know there is something worth following there, as I knew helping people was valuable before I knew how strongly the Bible endorses that. That doesn’t close me off to learning more.

Of course, who and what is God anyway? Is there some contradiction in His telling me He doesn’t know Joyce Meyer? There is if you have decided God must be omniscient or allowed someone else to decide for you. There is if you think God must be too distant to say anything to someone in words. I’ve written before about how to decide who and what God is (June 16) and undoubtedly will again. It’s not a formal way of doing this that matters here, though. It’s the prejudices we carry around in our minds.

As a liberal, I don’t know God is punishing anyone for anything anyway. That’s one of my prejudices. Everyone asks early on why God has to send people to hell. Conservatives hear that God’s law requires it and accept that, as they like strong rules. Freedom-loving liberals hear that and say, “What? Oh come on. You mean all those superstitions about clean or unclean and what to do if a woman has a menstrual period? That requires sending people to hell?” Liberals need a better reason than that, and there isn’t one, so many see hell as a myth. Then conservatives don’t fear hell because they like strong rules about faith as well as strong rules about sin. So they embrace a reading of the Bible that makes faith and imputed righteousness so strong that nothing will send them to hell if they stick to their understanding of faith requiring very little of them. So no one is afraid of Matthew 25: 46. It must be about someone else.

Few people follow Matthew 25 out of love either. It is still strange to me that people who profess a strong love for Jesus and the Bible don’t find a reason there to send more than a $20 check to some charity each month or trust that their church does enough for charity, which none do. I’m sure a lot of it is out of sight, out of mind. Donations do pick up when there are disasters that make the news. But there certainly is resistance to doing more.

If God is as powerful as most people think, doesn’t this make sense? God could push them harder if He wanted to, right? Isn’t God in control? Isn’t it all good?

It’s like the joke about a man who gives to God every month. Every month the man goes out back and throws all of his wages up in the air. Whatever God wants, He can keep.

That’s a joke because everyone knows God is not going to snatch that man’s money out of the air. Someone could try to say that’s God’s choice. He could if He wanted to, someone might say. What a sour grapes excuse that is. It’s not that God doesn’t want to do anything good with that man’s money. It’s that He can’t snatch money out of the air, or He would. If you don’t believe that, ask Him yourself.

So how many of you just asked God if He can snatch money out of the air? How many of you did it seriously, pausing long enough to ask the question in prayer, as if you truly wanted to know? How many are willing to wait long enough to get an answer, whether in words, in things that happen around you or in something in your mind. Prayers can be answered in many ways. Why be limited in seeing the possibilities here as well?

I’m sure I can sniff out resistance to God in others as well as in myself, resistance to communicating with God and resistance to following His will. Years ago, the gospel accounts of Jesus praying in the garden, “not my will, but Yours” were some of the verses that almost lit up for me to tell that this is especially important. It is important. Following Jesus to me has meant frequently praying that God let me follow His will, not mine, as I trust His will over mine. I think that’s been answered many times. It would be nice if a light went on each time His will was overriding mine, but I pretty much recognize that anyway, and God tells me if I’m ever curious enough to ask, I mean seriously ask.

I don’t know how many people do that. It was Jesus by example in the gospels that taught me to do it, and God everyday saying, “Yes, I will help you follow My will,” in His actions more than His words, but in words when I needed them. I don’t care that much about the underlying theology of that. I’ve witnessed this time and time again, within me, where I can see what’s happening over time. Whoever says this isn’t God is using a bad definition for God.

Yet I see I still resist. I say, “You want me to do what, to say what?” God has different ways to help get His will across. I get it eventually.

Then I see people who aren’t trying at all, for whom universal health care is some government boondoggle. That would be fair enough if such people did anything so private charity could fix the problem, but no one is doing that. So many people have other priorities. And I’ve been resisting saying just how bad that is, and how I know, because no one will believe me.

It’s more than that. What if God tells me to deliver an ultimatum? Oh, that would be hard. He’d have to get me drunk first, not with alcohol, of course. And it wouldn’t be delivered to the few people who I know read this. Only at this point nothing God says to me comes out of the blue. Everything He or She says connects to things They’ve said before. It is a patient, cooperative effort, even if we both get excited sometimes. So my resistance based on uncertainty has gone down and down.

It’s that first resistance that I realize is not so little, to say that anyone is hopeless, to suddenly be a Calvinist about everyone’s relationship with God, even though I have a lot of sympathy with that view, that God is irresistible and such. Yet look at all who resist so much more than I have, almost everyone. That’s why I’ve thought of this as a communication problem. If people could just hear what God says in the right way, not with the off-putting God-says-sos, it’s not hard to understand.

That’s not the problem. People are lost in their pride and idolatries, whether secular idolatries or religious idolatries. They’re not open. They’re not willing to listen with an ear to understand, but rather to refute, to make excuses. I see it. It’s not really my business, but I can’t read Matthew 25: 46 like some other liberals do, as if it’s just the author of Matthew ranting or as conservatives do, who are sure God is talking about someone else there.

I talk with God sometimes about the afterlife, about physical death, about spiritual death. It may not be as bad as some think, but it’s bad. For anyone without a spirit, there’s only physical death, but with a spirit that has known nothing but idols that contradict God, it’s bad. If a spirit has no sense of who the real God is, it’s bad. There is mercy, but there is a problem, the extent of which I can’t follow. I wonder why God tells me about it when I can’t picture the context of what He says. So He tells me why. It’s so I can know to trust Him when He says it’s important, that there is a good reason, even if I can’t understand exactly why it’s important. I’ve learned to trust God on issues that are all in the present. He gives me direction, strength, comfort. It’s wonderful. So I trust Him for the future.

I know that many people don’t, including many who claim to be devoted to Him. They trust the Bible, though not those verses that their church has interpreted to mean something other than what they say, like Matthew 25: 46. They just trust the theology of their church, which everyone they know closely agrees on.

But it only matters what God says, and God says that to help the needy is the same as helping Jesus at the same time. Neglecting the needy forces Jesus to endure the equivalent of crucifixion over and over and over again. This is because God has considerable empathy for His followers, even one body, and His true followers are everywhere, often to be seen before they have gotten very far with God. If God weren’t with me, I’d feel the need to write out arguments to justify that. I have a rough idea what they are. But God is with me and anyone who wants can ask Him directly, anyone. Jesus died for everyone. God says, right here, right now, that it’s more important to say that again, one more time, than to write out arguments for people who don’t believe in Him anyway, no matter what lip service they give to Jesus Christ. Jesus died for everyone. Yet for many, it was a waste. Human nature and idolatries will keep them from ever following God. It’s the other ones who have a chance, no matter where they are today, no matter how much they resist God today. Resistance fades when people are treated well, not with abuse. With abuse, people just build higher walls behind their forced obedience.

So God says, help the needy and walls will come down, inside of you and outside of you.

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