By a show of hands, how many of you have ever used an on-line dating service?
I tried it a few times, and it really, really did not work for me. I would read a man’s profile, sift through his pictures, and check OSCN to make sure he wasn’t a serial killer released by the latest clerical error. I’d exchange a few emails with him, trying to get a sense of his personality. If he passed through that process, I would agree to meet.
Without exception, the men never even approached the image I would have begun to form of them in my head. In most cases, there had been no explicit lies or deceitfulness on their part. I just had formed a different image based 50% on how they had described themselves and 50% on what I wanted them to be like. The first fifteen minutes of any of those dates would involve me wrestling my ill-conceived expectations down to the floor and forcing myself to keep an open mind.
We have imaginations, and anything that is described to us, whether it be a person, place or thing, begins to be constructed in our minds. We get a mental sense of something based on what our brains have seen or experienced in our pasts. Invariably, when we finally do actually see what we have been imagining, we find we didn’t have a clear picture.
I have not met God in person. I use a book to try to form a sense of who He is, along with what I perceive are His fingerprints on my life. And because He is not a normal human being in the sense that the rest of us are, I have even less of a real idea of how He could be.
It is my belief that a lot of people assume that God is just like the rest of us, and it is in this we all run into some pretty big problems. God is not motivated to do things based on the same motivations we have. In fact, it is often hard to defend to unbelievers some of what He has done just in the Bible alone.
I am a loyal person to those I love, and at the beginning of my walk with God, I felt a need to explain away things that He did. I used to do this for my kids, my spouse, my parents, siblings, friends…It just was a natural instinct I had. Quickly, I learned that some of the world’s questions about God, though, could not be explained away using human logic. Humans base their assumptions of problems and solutions through a common acceptance that things are generally universal. Babies dying is universally bad. Cold-blooded murder is universally bad. Happiness is universally good.
Simply put, God is not a human being, and He is not motivated by the same things we are. This common assumption by most people is the very reason so many people stumble over so much of what He has done.
I found myself stumped when I would be presented with questions by people about God’s seemingly cold behaviors. I could not present acceptable human motivations to explain why He would let babies die, or instruct His armies to destroy entire races of people along with their innocent livestock, even to myself. I had to do the same thing for God that I had to do with those men I had met from on-line dating sites. I had to return back to the beginning and start all over again understanding who they were.
Square one for me was Who (or What) is God?
The answer solved all of my problems with His choices. God is not a human. He is not motivated by even the most basic things we humans are, and because we have no point of reference to understand what makes Him tick, we have no real idea why He does things that we think we’d never do. When He wipes out all the first-born children, we go to our Mind-Files and sift through all the possible motivations that a human being would have to cause this, pull the one out that seems right, and then judge Him accordingly.
The truth of our existence is that we only have vague shadowy ideas about a spiritual dimension we have not actually experienced yet. Some of us have faith that we have a grasp on the Being we serve, but it is foolishness to me to not allow for some mistakes in our interpretations. I can’t really imagine what this must look like:
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in[a] blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
I imagine I probably have it completely wrong. Does this make it inherently wrong then? Or is my limited human filter just ill-equipped to form a reasonably correct idea?
I stopped trying to defend God using human motivations a long time ago because I am ill-equipped. Like you, I too, have never seen God in the flesh, and my limited knowledge renders me unable to do so. Instead, I accept that God exists by a different, unknowable set of motivations and priorities. My faith is that even though I may not understand His reasons for doing something, He does, and they are good ones for Him. It simply does not matter if we agree or disagree with them…we are the pots, He is the potter.
“all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35 ESV)
I run into a lot of assumptions by people who seem to forget God is a god, not a human. The probability that God will ever feel inclined to feel ashamed in front of His accusers is non-existent. Often I get the feeling that there are people who seem to think that God owes them an explanation for Himself, especially among unbelievers.
That is never going to happen. God can not be put on trial and punished by any of us. The idea is patently absurd, and yet I find it a common theme among those who resist Him.
I found a real peace about God when I came to understand my own limitations concerning Him. My faith comes into play in that I can believe that He means only good for me, and not harm. Armed with that assurance, I often find myself looking towards the future for explanations or understandings.
It is okay to admit that we Christians do not know much more about God than the heathens do. We spend our entire lives learning, but I imagine, we will be surprised how much we got wrong. That’s okay too. We answer to God, and not anyone else. Remember, none of us come across intelligent when we try to be the defining authority on a subject we do not fully understand.
We humans seem to be inherently arrogant about our place in creation, but God is pretty clear about His place in all of this, and it isn’t about making us like Him. We aren’t a bunch of high schoolers hoping to eat at the cool kids’ table. This wasn’t all put in place because He couldn’t make friends.
He made some of us as vessels of wrath, and while that seems patently unfair in all of our books, it is not in His.
10. ….When he married Rebekah, she gave birth to twins.f 11But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; 12he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.) She was told, “Your older son will serve your younger son.”g 13In the words of the Scriptures, “I loved Jacob, but I rejected Esau.”h
“I will show mercy to anyone I choose,
and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.”i
16So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.
17For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.”j 18So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen.
19Well then, you might say, “Why does God blame people for not responding? Haven’t they simply done what he makes them do?”
20No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? 22In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. 23He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory. 24And we are among those whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles.
It is probably wise to take a look at the lens you are using for life in general, and God specifically. Expectations that He should act in a certain way based on human motivations is always going end up with you being disappointed and probably disillusioned.
You can trust that God has His reasons, and is best able to determine what should or should not be done. We do not have to give anyone our guesses at what His motivations were for things others find unacceptable. If they need Him to explain, best let Him do it.
God will never again be put on trial….. And even if He was, we probably wouldn’t be picked for that jury.
Have a great day!