Thursday, June 7, 2018

A Strange God Indeed

Perhaps one of the reasons that it's so easy for us to sit around and talk about what Jesus might have meant is because God, for much of the Old Testament, did, in fact, often speak in mysteries and codes. He often hid some of what He was doing behind words or signs that were not easily interpreted by all men. For proof of that, look no further than Ezekiel, who was one of the strangest prophets ever to walk the earth.

It is because of stories like these, because of guys like the prophets, that it doesn't seem far-fetched to us at all that God would speak in code or in mysteries, that He would say things that would not mean what they appear to mean or that are difficult to decipher. It makes perfect sense that we would sit around discussing things and trying to figure out what God means. After all, what does God mean?

But that was the God of the Old Testament, not the Christ of the New, and there is a very fundamental difference between the two. 

At the point that God Himself comes to live among the people, to walk in the same flesh in which they walk, to speak in their voice, to wear their tunics, to travel their shores, to eat their fish, to curse their figs, to challenge their traditions, to heal their infirmities, to call them by the point that God dwells among us as Jesus, it is at that point that we can no longer say that God is doing mysterious things that He doesn't expect us to understand.

Fair enough, you might say, but even Jesus said that not everyone would understand what He was doing or saying. Even Jesus said that some of what He said was a mystery. Even Jesus said that some things were still hidden from us, so doesn't that suggest that what God says still requires interpretation? Doesn't that mean we are still charged with figuring out what He means?

Yes and no.

The mysteries of God that remain in the time of Christ are mysteries of a work yet to come. They are wonders of the heavens, signs of the times. They are the things that reveal, though still cloaked, what God is going to do as time marches on into eternity. Not everyone can understand these things, nor are they meant to. 

What you don't see in the Gospels, what you never see in the story of Jesus, is a single cryptic word about what a man should do right now. What you never see is Jesus speaking in code or in mystery about what He expects from someone. What you never see is Jesus trying to tell someone, without actually telling him, what He expects them to do. Jesus's words for man's life are extremely clear - come, go, do, be. 

These aren't mysterious words. Not once in all the Gospels do they mean anything other than what they plainly appear to mean. Not once does "Go, make disciples" mean anything other than go and make disciples. Not once does "turn the other cheek" mean anything but turn the other cheek. When Jesus tells a man how to live, there's no question about what He is saying. Not one. 

Yet, it is precisely that kind of stuff that we're sitting around discussing rather than doing. We're a people who hear Christ say to go and talk to someone, but we don't go because we don't think He really means go and talk. What does He mean by that? And then the moment passes and we've missed it. We hear Christ say to bring someone into our home, but we're not sure what that means, so we don't and they spend another night on the streets. We hear Him call us to pray, and we sit around wondering what it is He wants us to pray about rather than actually praying because, you know, the call to prayer was not entirely clear about.... 

We're ridiculous. We are. We are ridiculous as a people of faith. Our God, the very same God who has revealed Himself in our own flesh and spoken to us with our own voice and walked on our own seashores and healed our infirmities and chosen us out of all of creation to be His own, speaks, and we aren't even filled with awe any more; we just pretend to be confused by it all. 

It's not confusing at all that the God who loves us so much that He came to dwell among us would also speak, and it's not confusing at all what He asks of us. 

The only thing confusing here is us, who claim to be a people of God but are scared to death to move on His account. To live on His account. To love on His account. 

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