Getting Even With God
I just read some things this morning that have opened my understanding just a little more about the true nature of the work of Jesus and the ministry of mediation He came to accomplish. For a long time I have known that this idea of mediation is not intended to appease an angry God from punishing sinners. But I need to know much more clearly just what it is designed to do.
The reason that Jesus took on human form was so that sinners, both human and angelic, could have access within their sphere of existence to treat God the way they really wanted to treat Him. Humans ever since sin have felt in their rebellious spirit that God is unfair but there is nothing they can do about it. Because He seems so distant and out of touch, His dealings with us tend to be viewed as arbitrary and sometimes even harsh.
Sin at its core is really the lies about God that we have be thoroughly infected with and that have been passed down from generation to generation through our lineage from Adam. I am not talking here just about false doctrines or mistakes in Biblical interpretation. These lies primarily reside deep in the heart of each one of us with most of them below our conscious awareness many times.
There is no way one can be born naturally in this world without being infected by these lies because they are passed down through the fathers. The Bible calls this 'the iniquities of the fathers'. Interestingly, the reason that Jesus did not pick up this inheritance of iniquities, the propensities to sin, was because He did not have a literal, biological earthly father. His humanity was totally received through His mother which did not include the propensities to sin that the rest of us inherited through our fathers.
I don't know exactly how all of that works, but it is what the Bible teaches and we will someday see it much more clearly. But that is a little beside the point anyway right now. The real issue that I want to explore this morning has to do with the inner resentment and anger that all of us feel toward a God who seems to be out of reach of our frustrations with the unfairness of life.
Sin has built into us many triggers that cause us to fall into traps of offense. Each time we become irritated by something or someone we have fallen into another trap of offense. This whole scenario and the resulting anger and deceptions that we experience is laid out very well in the book The Bait of Satan by John Bevere which I highly recommend. This book has opened up a whole new area of awareness of something that I now see is one of the main topics we should be educated on in Christianity if we want to truly be disciples of Jesus.
This morning my mind was directed back the the experience of Job. This is a very fascinating but mostly misunderstood book in the Bible. Again, I don't want to digress too far here except to say that generally Job has been misused and misquoted more than almost any other book of the Bible in my opinion. Anytime I hear someone trying to prove a point by using something from Job I become highly suspicious. Most of what is in Job are ideas of his friends that are patently false but that still largely reflect popular beliefs about God today.
Further, even the chapters where Job is speaking cannot be assumed to be necessarily reliable as far as a good picture of God is concerned. One of the reasons that this book was written in the first place was to flush into the open the many confused and deceptive concepts of God that are so popular in the world including Job's beliefs as well. God may have said that through all of his trials Job did not sin, but that should not be used as a blanket endorsement that Job had a healthy picture of God in his heart and his thinking.
What I now see is that Job was actually reflecting the frustration of all humanity in many of his statements and God allowed that to come out into the open from deep in his heart by letting him go through experiences that challenged his previous assumptions about God and how He relates to sinners as well as those who trust Him. I do not question that Job clung to his trust in God at some level that God commended him for in the end, but that does not mean that Job was very mature in his understanding of God. Unfortunately too many of us today are even more immature in our beliefs about God and we often reflect more of the distorted views of Job's friends rather than Job's, which were even worse than Job's own skewed perceptions about God.
I went back this morning and reviewed some of the margin notes in my Bible in this book and saw once again how much Job longed to get his hands on God and really vent his frustrations with Him. In short, what become clear in Job's own words is that in his heart he really felt that God was mistreating him. Job felt that he really didn't deserve all the bad things that were happening to him and he certainly refused to accept all the accusations against him by his 'friends' who had even worse ideas about reality.
Job repeatedly insisted that the treatment he was receiving simply was way out of line with what he deserved. He went on and on about all the good things he had done and the good motives that he had sought to maintain all of his life. What was really frustrating him was the fact that from a point of view of justice that humans are used to using, Job was not getting the rewards that he had earned. As his friends continued to demand that Job must be hiding some secret sins that had induced these horrendous circumstances that were now betraying him, Job continued to deny any wrong-doing. But the deeper problem with all of them was that they were all basing their views of reality and God and justice on mistaken notions of reality and believed that God operated by their rules and assumptions.
If Job had really admitted what was in his heart (and that lie deep in the heart of everyone of us if we ever allow ourselves to admit it) is the feeling that God just doesn't really get it in our situation. When bad things happen to good people it seems to be a confirmation to everyone that God is really not totally fair with us. And I believe that if we were willing to be totally honest we would find that what our deepest hearts believe is that God is really a tyrant at times, that He is arbitrary and is not always fair in His dealings with people. Depending on how good or bad our own experience has been defines how much our heart resents God's seeming injustice.
It is difficult to go to this place in our hearts because it immediately starts to feel so intensely inappropriate religiously and our feelings of guilt shut us down. We feel frightened to admit to such feelings about God's unfairness and some of us believe that God may even get very upset if we allow ourselves to express such sentiments. But I believe that until we allow ourselves to see the real feelings and emotions that our hearts harbor in secret about how God treats us and feels about us, we will be unable to be healed of these lies about God or make much progress in coming closer to reflecting His character of love and true justice.
Every human being with the fallen nature of sin feels that they have been mistreated and misunderstood to some extent by God. This may not be evident on the surface, but it is the very essence of sin itself – distrust of God. Since all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory, then all of us have these feelings either hidden or openly. Its just that many of us are too frightened to allow ourselves to go there or allow our hearts to tell us what we really believe deep under the surface. But in times of pressure and crisis these gut-level feelings can suddenly erupt like a surprising volcanic explosion and we may be surprised as how intense our anger and emotions may become against a God that we feel is out of touch with reality as we know it or who doesn't treat us as fairly as we expect.
In his pain and anger, Job demanded an opportunity to get a fair hearing about his dispute with God. But as he discussed this idea he had to resign himself to the idea that even if he could there would be no higher authority to enforce his belief that Job could find God to be the one at fault in the matter. Since it was the surpreme Judge Himself that Job felt was unfair, there was no other way to get a fair hearing. That picture is not unlike much of what all justice systems on this earth are like right now in my opinion. When a person has to depend on judges who are corrupted with selfishness as all humans are, then there is always a high risk that a judge is going to look out for their own interests ahead of anyone whom they might need to judge that could potentially expose the judge's weaknesses or faults.
I believe that if Job had been even more explicit in his feelings he would have secretly wished he had power to punish God for the unfairness that God was allowing to take place in Job's life. What sin has done to our hearts is to implant such a distorted picture of reality and of God's feelings towards us that there are always going to be opportunities to doubt God's total goodness or fairness. And when we feel someone is not treating us fairly we naturally long to see some sort of punishment imposed on them. If a judge is not willing to be totally fair when it endangers his own security, we feel that that judge is corrupt to some extent. But when he is more powerful and strategically positioned than we are, we feel we are helpless to have any recourse.
But what if we could get our hands on those who are unfair and could do anything we wanted to do to them without any repercussions? Think about that for a little while. We see examples of this after episodes of genocide or violent outbreaks in society after the balance of power is reversed. The victims who finally come into power once again are faced with the opportunity to have their revenge on those who previously had abused them; then they are faced with the moral dilemma of how to use their newly gained power to get even with their tormentors.
Humanity has felt since Adam's day that God is not totally fair with us. This is reflected in many of our reactions when we hear about horrific events. Consider how many feel upon hearing of the rape and torture of innocent victims like young girls or all sorts of similar situations. When we suffer under abuse ourselves or to those we love and go through drawn-out periods of pain and injustice, eventually all of our complaints end up back in either in secret or open resentment against God. If we believe that God is supreme and has the power to prevent such horrors from taking place, then the fact that He did not prevent them in our minds makes Him responsible to some degree for allowing them to happen in the first place. And deep inside we believe that responsibility also implies to some degree complicity.
From our perspective, injustice naturally demands punishment. Our sense of fairness and justice includes some sort of scale where pain deserves pain in return. Inside we deeply believe the 'eye for an eye' principle and believe that this is the core basis of true justice. Anything that leaves out painful punishments that will balance 'justice' from our perspective is not true justice in our opinion and is essentially unfair. (This idea of balance is even visually illustrated by our portrayal of justice as a set of scales.) But since we cannot allow ourselves to admit that we often feel God is unfair with us, or if we admit it but can't figure out what to do about it, we are left with a growing reservoir of frustrations and anger at a God who cannot be held accountable for all the seeming unfairness that He allows to happen in this world.
Job longed to hold God accountable for the unfairness that Job believed God was allowing to take place in his life. But what does that really imply if taken to its logical conclusion? It means that we wish we could put God onto our scale of justice and cause His actions and dealings with us to be 'objectively' evaluated without His having recourse to exempting Himself from the consequences. We are sure the results would be different (and better) if we could just force Him to accept such terms.
But at the same time we often feel guilty for even thinking such thoughts because, again, our ideas about God cause us to believe He will be very offended at us even entertaining such notions about Him. Therefore, many of us tend to suppress any such thoughts and run back into our traditional teachings about a sovereign God who is outside of the reach of true justice and simply gets His way because He is bigger than we are.
But all of this kind of thinking seriously obscures the real truth about God and about the reality of the great battle going on in the universe. For in reality, God has done just the opposite of what we have assumed and is actually Himself the focal point of the whole trial taking place all around us. Our accusations against God are nothing new. God sees the secret allegations of our hearts that we are too afraid to admit. But instead of hiding behind His superior advantage of distance and power, He has actually chosen to place Himself in the most vulnerable position possible so that we could literally carry out all of the secret desires for revenge that have ever crossed our minds or hearts.
When Jesus came to this earth in human form as a baby, in reality it was God was positioning Himself into a place where we could get our hands on Him quite literally and treat Him any way that we wanted to. And the more that Jesus revealed the real truth about how God actually feels about us the more resentment built up in the hearts of sinners resisting God's ways of doing things. Finally at the crucifixion humanity and fallen angels joined in acting out all of the anger and frustration and vengeance that we collectively wished we could do to get even with God for all of the perceived unfairness and suffering we have received at His hands.
This only sounds bizarre to the extent that we have been brainwashed by religion and/or by sin to harbor skewed pictures of what God is like. But Jesus came not only to reveal the truth about the Father but also the truth about how sinners like us feel about God. By putting Himself into the most vulnerable position as a weak human being and submitting without resentment to all the abuse that we could heap upon Him, He literally put God Himself within reach of sinners so we could vent all of our anger and rage on Him effectively.
In coming to earth as a human, God really did respond to Job's complaints about God being too aloof to get at. God responded to Job in his time by showing up and talking with him directly. But more than just talk was needed. And though Jesus has not shown up in each generation as a human, His life and death was enough to demonstrate to all what we also would do to God if any of us were given the chance to vent the secret rage we feel deep inside over the injustices that happen to us or to our loved ones. This is how Jesus took upon Himself the sins of all humanity – by allowing humanity to vent on Him through their sense of justice. And as we begin to grasp this reality we also begin to experience what Isaiah talked about as the healing that comes from His stripes.