I had to blow the dust off my copy of Timothy Keller’s, The Prodigal God this week, because I realized the lessons I thought I learned from this revolutionary book were getting lost in my personal rage as I read through the Book of Judges.
Judges is full of one story after another about women who had horrible things happen to them. One is offered as a burnt offering, one is burned to death in her house with her father, and one is cut into pieces and sent to each of the twelve tribes of Israel.
I could see how their lives and/or their deaths had great significance in the big picture of history, but I wanted their stories to be better. I wanted less tragedy and greater triumph. I wanted God to miraculously intervene and change the course of events. Didn’t they deserve that much?
So then, NOTHING is off-limits?
Then I realized I had fallen back into that assumption that I need to understand everything God does, and see everything as good from my perspective. The problem with that thinking is that it flies in the face of faith, and reduces God to someone who fits in my limited vision of life.
Chapter 4 of Keller’s book addresses that very attitude. He explains how we who say we are Christians are just as guilty as anyone living in wild, licentious, or illegal behavior if in our Christian-ness we insist God works within certain boundaries set by our desire for good things to happen, thereby obligating God to give us whatever we want, or to hold Him hostage if He does not. This week it occurred to me that a refusal to see how God could use blatant mistreatment, degradation, unfairness to bring glory to himself is indeed a dangerous thing.
No better than anyone else
What’s more, if this is true of us, we, the compliant, “i”-dotting, “t”-crossing professors of Christ are in a much more dangerous state than our counterparts, because we are likely blind to our condition, whereas they are not. As Keller says, if you know you’re sick, you know to get help, but if you don’t know you’re sick, you don’t do anything. Why is it so hard for the people of God to realize that we need no help doing what comes naturally—retaliating when we’ve been attacked or unfairly blamed, complaining when we have to pay what we do not owe, etc.? It is our “all right-ness” in the midst what is clearly not right, that calls people’s attention to God.
Instead of saddling up, we should probably try harder to jump off that high horse! It’s the best thing possible for a healthy heart.
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Tim Keller has a wonderful way of setting us all straight on this issue…and I appreciate how you’ve applied it to the book of Judges. The phrase that pops out for me is: “It is our ‘all right-ness’ in the midst of what is clearly not right, that calls people’s attention to God.” Sometimes I forget that it’s not my job to fix things or understand them, but to be faithful and “all right” with God’s sovereignty and the role He has given to me in it all. Thanks, Sherry, for your thought-provoking post – and class.
It never gets boring with a multi-faceted God!
Sherry, I love this statement, “Then I realized I had fallen back into that assumption that I need to understand everything God does, and see everything as good from my perspective. The problem with that thinking is that it flies in the face of faith, and reduces God to someone who fits in my limited vision of life.”
I have personally been thinking about this a lot during the last few months of contentious, public often mean-spirited debates on the topic of Gay marriage. I know and dearly love Christian brothers and sisters on completely opposite sides of this debate. I myself am often on a different “side” than many of my sister and brothers in the faith. On both “sides” stand real, living, breathing, “created-in-His-image” people. People who love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and who love their neighbors as themselves. People who read and study scripture but come to different conclusions and yet each fall into those same assumptions you have addressed in your quote.
God does not, will not and cannot fit into our “limited vision of life” or even our limited ability to understand selected passages of scripture. He is bigger, bolder, and sometimes more outlandish than our wildest imaginations.
We all need to come off our high horses and listen to His still small voice and learn to love in the way that He loves. Thanks for the reminder.
Amen and amen, Sue. I do wish the truth of us all being image-bearers would mean more than it seems to mean to most people!