Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Divine allowance

In my most recent sermon, I played off the theme of 1 Timothy 1:15 as a first century Christian commercial: "This saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."  I had this line in my sermon: "God paid the ultimate advertising fee by allowing Christ Jesus to die on a cross."

It has come to my attention that this put a lump in some throats.  The divine "allowance," of God letting Christ die on a cross affected some folks.  So, briefly, I am going to flesh out a little bit more of what I meant by this.

But before I begin, I have to make one thing clear: what I am going to lay down here is a school of thought, not an article of faith.

Simply put, I believe that Jesus was, in the fullest respect, God incarnate.  Therefore, God (Jesus) allowed himself to die on the cross by refusing the temptation to flee (as Jesus had done in other parts of the gospels, especially John).  This shows the boundless freedom of God, that same freedom that is given to us.  God allows us to die, and God allows us to live.

My guess is that many people would object to it like this, or in some similar fashion: "But how could God allow such a thing to happen.  That clearly wasn't a 'good' thing, and we know that God only does 'good' things."

Here's my response.  That statement has just made God into a human.  In other words, we have taken our own ideas of "good" and "bad," "right" and "wrong," and forced them upon God.  Put severely, this is mighty close to blasphemy.  On the other hand, I believe that God's ideas of right and wrong are wholly different than ours: "my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, says the Lord" (Isaiah 55:8).

One last comment: this whole quest is an attempt to justify God.  However, I think the more important question, the one that causes a lump to stick in my throat is this: how is it that God justifies us, and that while we visit evil upon our neighbors, God continues to love us to the end?

3 comments:

  1. I like it. I like it very much.

    I also preached last Sunday, and focused in my second sermon on the universality implied by the comforting image of God seeking us out unrelentingly and beyond all price and scale. I was pretty explicit that this applies to our enemies and those who wish us harm, including those who visit incredible evil upon us and are intent on doing so again.

    If your last sentence--and its lump-in-the-throat reality--is true--and I know it is--then it is also true that God continues to love--all the way to the end and just as much as he loves us--all the very worst doers of the worst evil we've seen.

    That was a thing which causes such a lump in some throats, it choked the Pharisees, who knew what was at stake in objecting to Jesus' hobnobbing with sinful folk, and it chokes many Americans today who don't think that God could really expect us to love Osama bin Laden as much as we love ourselves.

    It stuck in throats so much when Jesus said it, that some of them killed him for saying it.

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  3. Thanks for the explanation. And it makes more sense when I understand where you are coming from.

    However, in my opinion, to say that Jesus died because He allowed it to happen minimizes the significance and passion that Jesus portrayed in his ministry and the relevance to us today.

    Jesus was unwilling to compromise and so very passionate about mission and ministry that he was willing to die even on a cross. This is the example of Jesus that gives me goose bumps and provides inspiration and an example to follow.

    When you say that God somehow allowed Jesus to die with references to the Trinity, things start getting kind of blended together in my brain with other Christian cliché like “Jesus dies for our sins”, and it is hard to separate those sacrificial undertones (which is where I really get a lump in my throat). Perhaps I do try to justify God from my own understanding of the world. I definitely justify God from my own understanding of the Gospel and the Bible in general from the perspective of my everyday experiences. But I also see the Bible as an evolution of ideas and understandings of God that are perhaps still evolving.

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