Yesterday, I said that we need to cut Job's friends a little bit of slack - they're just speaking from what they know about God. They're not trying to have a limited theology. They're not trying to get it "wrong." They simply know what they know. They've experienced what they've experienced. They've been taught what they've been taught.
And if you read the way that Job handles this, it's a good lesson for all of us.
Job never really tells his friends how wrong they are. He doesn't tell them that what they're saying is not true. In fact, Job even says some things that seem very close to what his friends are saying - all of the men present understand the contractual, covenantal nature of God and the way that human faithfulness is correlated with His pleasure. That much is not up for debate.
But what we see in Job's dialogue is an attempt to introduce to his friends a grander idea of God. He doesn't say they are wrong, but he certainly calls out their theology as limited. Every time he gets the chance, he claims that God is greater than what they can even imagine. In other words, You're not wrong, friends, but there is so much more to God.
He does this in a bit of an interesting way, by referring to his own character to show God's, to get his friends out of their contractual mindset. To them, there is only one very limited way to be faithful, and it is to act out the law according to their own interpretation of it. But Job shows how the law is more encompassing than even they know, how his life is a testimony to keeping God's commands in ways that they never could imagine in their narrow definitions.
And if Job's nature is broader, yet still firmly rooted in the law, then God's nature must also be greater than they could ever imagine.
God, Job testifies, is not one-for-one; He is One-for-all.
I love this theological debate that takes place between these friends. In our modern minds, we see that they are all just trying to be "right," but what's really going on is that these guys are sitting around trying to figure out their theologies. What do I believe about God? What do I know about Him? What have I experienced? What can I say about Him that is true and that resonates with my experience?
The thing we have to keep in mind is that this is not a scenario in which one of them is right and the rest are wrong; they're all right! It's just that they've all had their own experiences of God, and that's all they've got to draw on. And I think what we read as frustration in Job's voice as the dialogue continues is right on - it's frustration. But it's also grief. Is this all that his friends really know about God?
We're so tempted to judge each other. We're so tempted to say that the other person is wrong, that they've got God wrong, that they just don't understand. Maybe they don't. Maybe they don't understand who God really is, but if that's true, it's because they haven't had the experience of Him that we've had. It's not our place to judge. It's not our place to condemn.
What we have to do - what we have to get better at as Christians in a broken world - is saying, "Yes, but...." Yes, that is true about God, but there's so much more. Yes, you're right, but you're not exhaustive. Yes, that's part of Him, but that's not all of Him. Yes, I see what you're saying, but let me tell you what I also know. Job does this pretty well, if we're paying attention.
We...need to get better at it.
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