God’s Forgiveness isn’t Enough

What does God want from us? An apology? How many apologies had Adam and Eve uttered when God stepped in to promise salvation? What were they being saved from, was it God Himself?

 As forbidden fruit churned in bellies covered by leafy aprons, God stood in the garden and inquired about Adam’s location. This question was not meant for God to ascertain Adam’s geographical position but to bring to Adam a realisation of his situation. Here stood God, longing for communion with His creation but away hid Adam, fearful and no longer innocent. 

The loss of innocence created a vacuum that cowardice rushed to fill and when offered a chance to take responsibility, the same voice that serenaded Eve pointed to her as the source of all trouble. The contrast could not be sharper, on one hand God created humanity for companionship and gave us responsibility yet the loss of innocence left them cowering behind leafy aprons, seeking to put distance between themselves and God all the while denying all responsibility.

God demanded no apology but set about putting emergency measures in place to reduce sin’s impact. Adam was made from Earth and having rejected dependence on God, he would look to the earth for sustenance and validation. Adam would ever face the temptation to worship the work of his hands and so God called forth thorns to impede Adam’s ability to work the earth. God certainly called Adam to subdue and work the earth but now that Adam was in rebellion against God, unlimited success in labour would cement in him the delusion that he didn’t need God. The thorns of life would remind him that he wasn’t invincible, that all was not right with him and as thorns tore his flesh and he screamed to the sky in pain, he would remember to depend on the God who was working to save him.

Eve was taken out of Adam and in her rebellion she would seek in relationship with him what she ought to find in God. Though gloriously made in His image, no Adam could ever be God, especially not a fallen Adam. Thus, unrealistic expectations from a sinful man would lead to cycles of manipulation and domination, turning marriage into an end instead of a means to an end; pointing to itself instead of pointing to God. Eve children, therefore, would give her pain. This pain, that would remind her that there was a limit to her dependence on her husband, that there were things that even he could never fix. Yes, Eve was to be the mother of the living but a mother obsessed with her husband would never raise healthy children. As new life touched her body with pain, she would scream her pain, not to the finite Adam, but to the God who was working to save her.

Yet all this was nothing without The Seed to crush the serpent’s head. All this was promised to the offending couple without even a whispered apology. Why then the modern obsession with God’s forgiveness? Forgiveness is undoubtedly necessary but it is not the objective. I say this because God forgave Adam and Eve before they even thought of apologising. There was no need for a mediator to convince God to love the sinful couple because He was the One who sought after them. It was they who ran away. Even on Sinai, God came to His people seeking to forge a nation out of them but they shrank away and demanded a mediator: 

All the people, experiencing the thunder and lightning, the trumpet blast and the smoking mountain, were afraid—they pulled back and stood at a distance. They said to Moses, “You speak to us and we’ll listen, but don’t have God speak to us or we’ll die.”

Moses spoke to the people: “Don’t be afraid. God has come to test you and instill a deep and reverent awe within you so that you won’t sin.”

The people kept their distance while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was. (Exodus 20:18-21, The Message emphasis supplied)

God has been greatly wronged by us yet that has never expunged His desire for communion with us. It is from this desire that His forgiveness springs and not from entreaty by any mediator. It is our fear of God that creates a need for a mediator. God needed to become flesh not to make Himself more sympathetic to our cause but to reassure us of His allegiance to us. His forgiveness was necessary but inadequate to save us from sin. What we so desperately need is restoration. The Bible is the story of Eden lost and regained. God longs not for rule keepers but loving creatures remade in His image.

photo credit: adam_moralee The end of summer via photopin (license)

Advertisements

God’s Whirlwind Romance

To be known and loved as you are is the essence of relationship. No relationship can last without the unrelenting pursuit of discovery, the desire to navigate the depths of a loved one and thus it is, that Adam and Eve were naked without shame. Theirs was an innocent love with transparency, not only between themselves, but between them and God. This was not to last, for the serpent’s whispers found a listening ear and with a bite of forbidden fruit, innocence was lost. No longer able to trust God to accept their no longer innocent selves, fig leaf aprons were no longer enough and so they hid. It was to show this, that God asked, “Where are you?” This question was not seeking the couple’s geographical location but was relational. It is a question born out of the Creator’s longing for His creation – it is the unchanging God detecting a change in the relationship.

In the book of Job, the tables are turned. God declares Job’s innocence, not in a forensic sense but a relational one. In a world of business transactions disguised as religion, Job stood out as a man in whose heart echoed the longing for open relationship with God. This longing percolated through the patriarchal culture that he lived in and expressed itself in the sacrifices he made on behalf of his children. Yet Satan brushed this piety off as mere payment for miracles rendered (an accusation more accurately aimed at Satan’s pagan religions). Thus, God allowed Satan to strip away all the goodies, confident that Job’s naked longing for communion with God would shine through all the more brighter.

It is an undeniable tragedy that Christianity has been reduced to a dispassionate assent to cold abstract doctrinal statements. In an attempt to counter the Enlightenment’s assertion that faith and reason could never reside in the same mind, Christians began to turn Christ’s life into a lifeless list of abstract logical arguments and many fell into the trap of believing that righteousness lies in assenting to abstract concepts. Independence from God is fatal (autonomy isn’t). It is the belief that one can ‘go it alone’ that is dangerous and it is all the more dangerous when it presents itself as intelligent independence of thought. To put it all in a nutshell, “think for yourself but don’t think by yourself.” Abstract theology is necessary but it is not all.

This is revealed in Job’s acceptance of God’s divine quiz. Job’s questions have troubled the faithful for generations. Trapped in the belief that God is an unrelenting dictator who cannot be questioned, it is difficult to understand how a blameless man can rail against God. At first, Satan said Job served God because he was on the receiving end of God’s blessings. This was evidently untrue. There is a danger that some would say Job served God because he would ‘understand it better, by and by’ but Job isn’t comforted by a revelation of the cause of his suffering and his inability to answer God’s questions shows that his trust in God is not dependent on his ability to understand reality. Job is comforted by God’s voice.

It wasn’t the loss of God’s goodies that troubled him as much as it was God’s silence. It was not knowledge of what caused his troubles that comforted him, it was God’s presence. Thus, God’s impossible quiz instead of intimidating Job, emboldened him to trust in the God who can tame the untameable leviathan. This was not to cut off Job’s and our curiosity but to remind him and us that at our very best, we are just sinners saved by grace. 

It isn’t wrong to stretch the mind and inquire but don’t take comfort in that. Take comfort in the knowledge that the same God who created all that gives us sustenance is working to save us all.
 
 

 

 

 

photo credit: Niccolò Ubalducci Photographer Niccolò Ubalducci Photographer via photopin (license)

Revenge or Justice

If Jesus suffered the death of the sinner, why did fire not consume him as described in Revelation 20? Why did He say nothing of the pain of the cross? Instead, He cried out in anguish of alienation, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?!” (Matthew 27:46)  Continue reading

Unpredictable World, Dependable Love

Life sucks. Babies die while their parents’ prayers are still warm and fresh, bad boys get the girl and nice guys finish last. So we gaze into the swirling winds and screaming tempests of life and are tempted to give up all hope of deciphering life’s formula. There is no formula, some would have us believe, and they are not without proselytes. Dare we blame them? Continue reading

When God Smiles At Your Anger

When asked to picture a holy person, what image do you paint in your mind? Is it a stern man in black clothes, holding a well-worn Bible in one hand and pointing to heaven with the other? Is it a rotund motherly figure with fiery disapproval aimed at young people daring to share a laugh in this sinful world? Perhaps your mind’s brush strokes, tired of our tendency to tie holiness to “long faces and black clothes”, reveal a sanguine lady oozing the joy of life or a smiling preacher serenading his enraptured listeners with the most encouraging words ever preached. Possibly, you have some knowledge of life’s up and downs, so you just might imagine a calm face in the middle of great tribulation, barely whispering Jeremiah 29:11. Few would imagine a diseased man sitting in ash, railing against God and yearning for death. Keep on reading!

What’s in it for me, God?

Let’s be honest, most books and discussions on prayer can be summarised in one line: How to get what you want from God, especially when He’s reluctant to give it to you. Our testimonies aren’t too different either, for they are thinly veiled boasting about our God-given goodies. The message is clearly that we know God loves us because of the benefits that He gives us. The underlying motivation is selfishness, we serve God because He serves us.

Many heartfelt expressions of love for God are really receipts to mark a transaction Keep on reading!