I had two sad coffee dates this weekend. One was with Samuel in chapters 7 and 8 of the first book bearing his name and the other was with some gal who had written an article on the power of positive thinking. Funny thing is that the same story was being told by both people. Both were recounting our desire to trade our limitless God for a weak replica we constrain by the limits of our finite minds. The article on the power of positive thinking featured this quote from Unitarian, Beatrix Potter:
“Believe in a great power silently working all things for good . . . and never mind the rest.”
Now in the most general terms, Unitarians do not believe in the Trinity nor do they accept Jesus as the Son of God. They reject the inerrancy of the Bible as well as the doctrine of original sin. Essentially, when you put Beatrix Potter’s words together with her beliefs, there isn’t one thing “positive” about it. To me, she’s saying you pick and choose who and what you want god to be and then place your faith in the willy nilly nature you have decided he should have.
I can’t speak for you but I know that the god I constructed prior to accepting Christ had no desire to hold me accountable for anything and always assured me that its benevolent nature would overlook any indiscretion on my part. In fact, there could be no indiscretion because the standard for acceptable behavior was, to say the least, set up on a sliding scale. Oh yes, I might like to have believed that the small “g” god I conjured up was silently working behind the scenes to make my life everything I wanted it to be but in all honesty, trusting something that was subject to my every whim was hard work. I can say with certainty that any god who would be and do whoever and whatever I decided it would be and do, might be manageable but it definitely would not be trustworthy. And while I might decide that the god of my imagination would work all things out for my good, you know me well enough by now to know that I would never have imagined it to be silent.
Now, if you were to consider the details of the gods Beatrix Potter and I had created, they might seem quite different. She would’ve chosen what parts of the Biblical God she would contort to build her shadow ruler and I would have chosen mine. But, it is the differences in our creations that reveal the identical nature of their cores. Peel away the “my god would never this” and “my god is always that” and at the stripped down center you will find . . . .SELF. I want a god who behaves and fits into the box of the moment. I want a god I am comfortable with and can control. My god will serve the purposes I appoint when I appoint it to. But most importantly, my god will serve me. Perhaps I am wrong but I think that all of us have worshiped to some degree at that same self-constructed, self-centered altar.
I recently had a chance to chat on fb with a friend and we ended up messaging back and forth about this very thing. It isn’t what we started out chatting about, but eventually the conversation turned in that direction and once it did, it didn’t seem as if I could leave it just hanging there. I don’t usually talk about things that might be perceived as controversial through fb, texts, or even letters because you can’t hear the person’s tone of voice or see their body language so it’s too easy to misinterpret things. But since a face-to-face or even phone-to-phone chat was not likely to take place in the near future, I plunged ahead, typed the question and clicked the send button.
- “Do you believe Jesus when He says I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life or have you begun embracing the idea that there are many ways to God?”
- Message Seen 11:48 a.m. The answer:
- “I do believe in God (their use of a capital “g” not mine) but I do not believe in religion or Christianity. So to be honest I don’t really know how to answer your question.”
My heart was beating hard at this point. I love my friend. So I rephrased the question hoping that the response I received would assure me that they simply hadn’t understood and, beyond that, they would clearly tell me that of course they believed in Jesus. I tentatively typed and pressed send again.
- “Maybe you have answered my question in saying that you do not believe in Christianity—which means follower of Christ. Have you decided that you no longer believe that Jesus is the Son of God, willingly died for your sins on the cross, and was raised to life so that you could be reconciled to and live in the Presence of God the Father?”
I sat holding my breath and staring at the computer.
- Message Seen 11:57 a.m. And the response hit the screen like a hard right cross to the chin.
- “Correct. I do not believe that.”
I’m not sure how you indicate long, heart sinking, wish it hadn’t happened silence in this genre. I’m new at the whole blogging thing. But after a very definite pause I finally found my fingers, typed the question and hit the send button again.
- “Who is the god you believe in?”
The reply that came:
- “Idk. I just know that there is someone greater than me that created me. I believe God accepts everyone for who they are. And I believe if you are a good person you will be rewarded. The Christian God will let a rapist or a pedophile into heaven as long as they repent and believe in Jesus. That is not right in my eyes.”
That response makes my heart ache and my eyes sting with tears. And yet, the general description sounds all too familiar. If you think back to your bC (before Christ) days, wouldn’t you agree that we have all worshiped the “idk” god? The one we made up. That we were comfortable with. Perhaps we said, like my friend, that “my god” is accepting of everyone—implying that the One, True, Living God is not. And then, in our next breath, we accuse the same God we just implied was too judgmental, of being too soft on those we have decided do not deserve forgiveness. We say that “our god” will reward good people but we have reserved the right to define who is or who is not good. And if we’re honest, our definition of good used ourselves as the gold standard. We created a god who would not challenge us to be anything more than our sin nature desired to be. The god we constructed in our minds behaved himself. He loved who we wanted him to love, forgave who we wanted him to forgive, and threw lightning bolts at those we decided deserved them. The god we were serving was small. It fit inside our finite notions of who and what God should be. If we want a god that manageable, that limited, that controllable, we will never be able to accept the truth of the God who gave His One and Only Son to save us. Because He is none of those things. He is God, there is no other.
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged me,
so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
men may know there is none besides me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
GOD is enormous. He is limitless. He is LOVE and He knows no bounds. His beauty, His majesty, and His splendor are so fierce that they cannot be contained. His majesty erupts and the heavens spring into existence. His beauty explodes and the stars find their places. His splendor bursts forth and the seas are hemmed in. He is unending love and fearsome holiness. He is beyond what we can conceive or imagine and He has chosen to summon us by name and claim us as His own. In the words C.S. Lewis used in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to describe Aslan, “He’s good, but He’s not tame.” Sister, your God is anything but tame. From my perspective, He who called forth the Lion of Judah is absolutely WILD! We simply do not have the capacity to comprehend His limitless love, perfect passion, or uncompromising holiness. And still . . . and still . . . He says to you, “You are the apple of my eye!” Beloved, . . . you’re His favorite! The Wild One is wild about you!
And unlike Beatrix Potter’s god, He is not quiet about it. Her silent god who works behind the scenes disintegrates in the presence of the Holy One who announces for all to hear that He works for the good of all those who love Him. No, God is not silent concerning His love for you. He confirmed it from the manger and shouted it from the Cross. Girlfriend, do NOT limit God to what you can imagine. Give Him permission to show you more, to push you to be more, to call you nearer. Beloved, the Wild One is calling you to raise your eyes, open your heart and hear the roar!