Wednesday, November 9, 2022

For the Unbelievers

It bothers some persons to think that God could have any standards at all for those who do not believe in Him, for those who are "not His people." If God chose Israel, they say, then He has no "right" to speak about Moab. Or Tyre. Or Edom. Or the Ammonites. 

Of course, the very heart of this argument is that if I have not chosen God - if I do not go to church, if I do not believe in the Bible, if I do not pray, if I do not "buy in" to this whole "Christ thing" - then God has no right to speak about my life. 

This has been the tension between believers and non-believers since the beginning of time, I suppose, and not just about the Christian God. Even back in the times when peoples believed in more natural gods, like the gods of fertility or the harvest, for example, there were very likely these tensions. It's unrealistic to believe that every single person who ever lived in a culture believed in that culture's gods. So you had Joe, who was a farmer whose harvest wasn't going well, and next door was Bill, who kept telling Joe that the reason his harvest wasn't going well was because he wasn't performing the right sacrifices to the harvest god of the day. Then, Joe gets all upset because he doesn't believe in the harvest god and doesn't care about the sacrifices, so to Joe, what possible right could the harvest god have to his harvest if he hasn't bought into the so-called power of that god to begin with? To Bill, of course, it's obvious - the god of the harvest is the god of your harvest whether you "believe" it is or not. 

It's a little different when we're talking about a God of grace, but the basic idea is the same - those who keep their hands off God expect God to keep His hands off them. It's nearly impossible to teach them anything differently, no matter how much sovereignty or absolute authority you believe God has in the world. 

So to see God speaking about nations that aren't His, about peoples who aren't Israel, is tough. 

Where, then, does this leave us?

It leaves us talking about the same thing we talk about when we wonder how God is going to judge the whole world one day. Our first question always seems to be, "But what about those who have never heard of Him?" What about those who weren't given the chance? What about those to whom the Gospel never came? 

God says pretty clearly that it doesn't take the official message of God to see His fingerprints all over the world. It doesn't take an understanding of the Gospel to understand doing good to others. You don't have to recognize the image of God in humanity to see something meaningful and valuable in humanity itself and to treat it accordingly. You don't have to know the word that spoke the mountains into being to understand their beauty. 

That's why the standard for peoples who are not God's peoples is how they treat one another. It's judging them on how they relate to humanity, of which they themselves are a very real part. It's about how they deal with the things that they see in the mirror because, even in peoples who are not God's peoples, the human heart reveals much about the kind of peoples that we are. 

And God has always been about the heart. 

And isn't that what we want of Him, whether we believe in Him or not? Even the nonbelievers look at our idea of a God and say things like, "If God can't understand who I am, if God can't judge me by my heart, if God can't know what kind of person I am...." That's heart. That's what we want. We want a God who knows us, even if we're not sure what we think about Him. 

So cool, then, that that's precisely who He is.  

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