Wednesday, December 10, 2008

That They May Be One-- Part 3

So why bother? If you are right about being one in the Lord, why do you go on and on about all of this stuff? Why bother to tell others that Jesus is God? Why go to such lengths to promote a certain view of the Bible, a view that some might say undermines faith? Why, contrary to many of the other believers in a larger hope, do you make waves by arguing so forcefully for humanity's free will? Why indeed?

Congratulations! You have just found the MOST IMPORTANT Part of this little confession. Maybe you are a believer in a larger hope. You can't pin down where this is all going. Some of it you like, but sometimes it seems to you like I'm talking just like Christians have always talked-- "Babylon Stuff!" Maybe you are an "orthodox evangelical." First, some stuff seems pretty straight to you. But now, after reading a bit, you find yourself saying, "Man! This guy is way too liberal for me!"

But if you have read all of this stuff, here you are. And I think you deserve an answer. So here it is. I think the WHOLE DEAL (you know, LIFE, the UNIVERSE, EVERYTHING) is all about the character of God. That's it. That's all of it.

It seems like the Jews grew in their understanding of God. Early on, they looked at the gods of their neighbors and saw Yahweh as the BIG GUY. "Who is like you, Lord among the gods?" As time went on, they came to see Yahweh as the only God. "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One." It is this one God that we are interested in knowing.

God gave us the Bible, I fully believe that. He gave it just as it is. This is why I talk about the Bible as casebook or codebook. If it is a casebook, a case history of God dealing with his friends-- friends that sometimes misunderstood him-- we can begin to see why Jesus' view of things was so radically different than Joshua's. Joshua thought God told him to take the Promised Land and mercilessly kill all of its inhabitants, men, women, boys and girls, babies. But Jesus said that he did not come to destroy people's lives but to save them.

God is radically honest. He wants us to see exactly how his friends have acted and how they have struggled to find the way. He wants us to see how, step-by-step, we are lead to a view of Yahweh as the kind Abba (Daddy) that Jesus knew and proclaimed. You see, it all boils down to God's character. It is a very important question, whether Jesus is God or not. If Jesus is God, that means God hangs around with sinners, touches lepers, washes dirty feet, cries, laughs, gets angry, and dies even as he forgives his executioners.

It is supremely important if God casts folks into an eternal hell. If one lie means eternal damnation, then we have God as the ancient oriental despot. But if God reconciles his enemies and never forecloses but always respects OUR freedom, the situation is radically different. That means that God, who knows all things, would never create someone with the intent of destruction them. It means that no one is beyond his love.

What he wants is a love relationship. So free will is of the utmost importance. You might say that God prizes nothing more than our free will. Love, if the Apostle Paul is right, does not force or coerce. It woos and wins the object it seeks. God cannot do other than allow us the freedom to say "NO." Yet he never forecloses. He relentlessly loves that all might be won to him.

It matters if a Christian bears arms and fights and wars. This says something about the God s/he represents. How can s/he represent the Guy who gave the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and fight for country or king? We have only one True King, and he calls us to a battle where our weapons are not "carnal" but spiritual.

We all pray for many things. But how often do we just shut-up, sit down and love God from the heart for just twenty minutes?

So this is it. This is why it matters. Who is God? What is God like? "The whole universe waits for the revelation of the children of God." All creation waits for a knowledge of who God is, God's character. That's why it matters.

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