Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Will You Follow Me? Part II

Who are you God?  Where are you?

Have you ever felt like asking these questions?  I think I ask them all the time.  Is God about us?  Or is God about Himself?  If He’s about us, is He worth putting our trust in?

How would you ever know if you were supposed to put your trust in God?  How would you know with absolute certainty?  Would you look for evidence in the world?

“Well God seems to be working things out in this area.  He must want it to happen.”

Is that faith?  What is real faith?  What does it look like?  Because I would like to give an exasperated EFF in saying I wish I knew with certainty what the will of the Lord is. 

I mean, should we even desire to know the will of the Lord?  How does that play out?  I think people desire to know the will of the Lord, not necessarily out of their desire to know Him, but so they might mold that vision into something they can get behind. 

“Oh yeah God?  Cool plan and all, but imma do this over here and say I did it for you.  Sound good?  Awesome.”

I’ve never pursued something as passionately as I have God, so what do I have to show for it?  (That was a rhetorical question.)

Could you ever prove that God exists?  I mean empirically, could you ever bring evidence into a court room that would prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God was real?  “You see your honor?  A cow that makes chocolate milk and a baby with wings that swears God is legit.”

Who is God?  I’m under the impression that if you say in your heart there is no god, you will never believe he exists, no matter how outlandish or incredible the evidence.

But what about people that swear God is real already?  Maybe they don’t need proof, you say.  But ask one why they believe in God, and nine times out of ten you will get an answer that is this in some form or another “God has done [this] for me.”  Why is God real?  Because he gave me a new heart.  Because he gave me what I asked Him for.  Because he did this in my life.

Is that really belief?  People always tell me that faith is believing in what you can’t see.  But couldn’t I “see” your new heart?  Couldn't I see peace?  Couldn't I look into someone’s mind and find the brain waves that represent tranquility as the psychologist defines it?  Is your God experience unique?  How do you know?

What if you simply believe a lie?  What if you are your own thoughts… and nothing else?  Do you rely on what other people say about God?  Do you rely on your own experiences?  What happens when those people leave, when your experiences run out?  Will you still believe?

I think I was at that point when I stayed in this motel called the BUDGET INN (second word at an angle, likely because they ran out of room on the sign.)

There’s this voice in my head telling me to do things, telling me there is a greater reality than the one I am accustomed to.  But this greater reality doesn’t exist in its fullness here on earth, because the planet is broken, and its people are dying, metaphorically and physically.  Every moment they ignore the One who placed them on this rock called Earth, they pass on life.  Man is cursed, it says.  They will run after all these things which will die, and then they will die. 

But God is life, this voice says, and it’s worth giving up everything for.  Even sanity.

If you start listening to voices in your head, aren’t you essentially schizophrenic?  It’s okay, you can nod your head in agreement.  To be honest, I’ve never once spoken with someone who’s said they’ve spoken with God, and not come away thinking they were a little bit off.  “Voices, huh?  You may want to get that checked out.”  If you want to live a normal life, you never admit to hearing voices of any kind.  That shit gets you a quick trip to the hospital, and not the kind with stethoscopes.  The kind with crayons and daytime TV.

So when I say I hear things from God, I do it knowing it could get me in trouble.  I wonder how Paul or Barnabas felt before they met each other after the road to Damascus.  Do you think they questioned whether they actually heard a voice?  Nobody else heard it.  Paul’s group only saw a bright light, and suddenly their friend was blind.  Most of Barnabas’ friends didn’t even believe he actually heard correctly.  “So let me get this straight…God told you that the dude murdering all our friends is actually a good guy?  Just give me a few hours head start before you invite him over for lunch.  I’ve got some stuff to pack.”

So again.  How do you know God is real?  If you say you know God…why?  Could you strip away everything that earth offers for believing in something and still come away with belief?  If you can’t, do you really have any belief to begin with?  What if some tragedy hits and your answer is simply “welp…God has a plan for everything.”  Really?  No offense, but this just sounds like a kind of denial to me.  If you’re going through a trial or a tragedy, this is close to the last thing you want to hear, and I’m going to assume it’s because this is an incomplete answer.

I think a better answer is “God saved me.  I believe because, in His grace, he gave me belief.”  My faith comes from the only one capable of providing true faith.  Any other kind is a false belief, a false gospel.  Any other kind allows for boasting.  You can’t save yourself.  In fact, I think the more we pry away the reasons for this, you realize that you never wanted to save yourself to begin with.

This brings me to a story in the bible that has traditionally given me some trouble.  It’s the parable of the workers in the field, Matthew 20.  In this story an owner of a field hires groups of workers at different times of the day, and at the end, although the men hired last only worked a couple of hours, he pays them all the same amount.  Imagine if you were the guy hired at the beginning.  You woke up at six in the morning to get a job and worked through the afternoon sun, and on into the evening, and when you go to get paid, the guy who showed up two hours prior gets the same paycheck.  Are you going to show up at 7am tomorrow?  Hell no!  I don’t care how you spin this story, it sure sounds like God is encouraging laziness. 

Some people say that the workers’ jealousy is wrong, and I would agree, but why?  Some people say we don’t want God to be fair and again I agree, but we already know how long they all worked.  It doesn’t say that the ones who worked through the afternoon sun were actually playing sand volleyball.  They all worked.  It’s just that some worked less.  And at the end?  Jesus tells us “the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.”

Do you really want to follow a God like this?  Someone who lets you work extremely hard for Him and then gives his stuff out equally anyway?  Does that inspire perseverance?  Or loyalty?  Or joy?

Do you think God is actually talking about work in this passage?  Is this about our salvation?  Or something else?

It’s true that I don’t want God to be completely fair, because I want mercy, but if you know anything about working with kids, you know that if grace is defined as rewarding placid behavior the same as selfish behavior, you’re going to end up with one entitled little punk.  One that will eventually make you redefine grace as “punch in face.”

What if this story is actually about the source of our value?  In the next few verses, we hear about how one mother desires for her two sons to be at the right and left sides of Jesus, and He asks the sons if they will be able to drink from the same cup He will, to which they of course answer “yes.”  To which His answer is “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”  Yeah okay, you will get what you said you could handle, but not what you asked for.  Welcome to my kingdom suckers.  You get the crap without the throne to sit on.

What was Matthew trying to illustrate here?  Because it sounds like, in God’s kingdom, you want to be last.  Welcome to insanity, friends. 

Enter intrinsic value. 

What gives something innate value?  Do I prize my horse more than my daughter, because the horse actually makes me money?  If one was about to get hit by a bus, which one would I save?  Unless I was a sociopath, the answer would always be my daughter.

God, a master of irony, turns insanity into common sense.  My world is flipped as he uses my own logic against me.  I want the worker who worked longer to receive more, but only a truly depraved individual would say that a horse is worth more than their child.

You see, I believe this parable is actually about the worth of the workers, and where they are able to derive their value.  They want to believe that through their work—their ability to act humble, their natural talent, their genius, their perseverance through hardship, or simply their knowledge of some truth—they have saved themselves and can bring this before God as evidence of their devotion.  They want the cup, so that they might sit at the right hand of God in some future kingdom.

I struggled with this reality, and still struggle, as I realize the source of my value.  Ironically, the BUDGET INN was expensive.  Ironically, my worth could not be measured by my weight.

My worth could only be found in the one who called Himself “Savior.”  It is external and immeasurable on Earth, which according to definition means it is also crazy.  Strip away everything I have on earth.  My voice, my patience, my pure heart, my wisdom.  Pull back the layers of self worth I’ve placed on myself, and unless I have the infinite weight of the Messiah weighing on me, I am worthless.  I am only heavy if God chose to make me so. 

You can’t DO anything FOR God, just like you can’t prove God loves you any more than you can bring evidence of His existence into a court.  You can’t prove you love God.  But your inability to provide evidence is freedom.  Freedom from the burden of proof. 

You don’t need to convert X number of people before you die.  You don’t need to preach X number of sermons.  God isn’t an equation waiting to be balanced.  He simply is.  And that’s all you need to be.

God, proof or no, is worth racing after.  I pray that all the earth opens their sail in that direction.