A few weeks ago I lost energy for posting here. The hours I used for composition (work I used and re-used and then used again) were suddenly taken up for the most harrowing kinds of pastoral ministry. Death and dying, grief with the wounded, fear with abandoned persons. Whenever the phone rang, it seemed, a friend had died, or fallen victim to some dreadful hurt.
In the grief times as well as other times of hurt, one listens to people who believe in God but who seem not to know God, not really. I wonder if a person can know God and yet believe God to be a murderer, as the griever who says, “I know I should not feel this way. I know my daughter died for a reason. It all fits God’s plan.”
Or, more common, is the person who, feeling the most raw, common emotions in a circumstance in which he has been grievously wronged, will say, “I know I must not feel this way. I have to get over (this feeling( by means of denial. God will punish me if I dislike this person who has stolen my money or taken my wife or scarred my children.”
Can one know Goid, actually have a relationship with God and believer him a person-punishing, blithely rampant murderer? Is this God at all?
Put aside the Old Testament stories for a moment, though we will want to come back to them at some point. Consider the feelings of grief, loss, abandonment, et al, and then ask, “What part of this whole circumstance of life is that God cannot handle?”
If we take the story of Jesus seriously (and I do) we see how He (all the power of the God-head dwelling bodily in a man), we discover how well He copes with hunger, thirst, homelessness (Jesus was a homeless man), sickness and death. He has immense grace, though not necessarily theatrical grace, to cope (and to help others cope with all the pangs and pains of life.
Jesus, the embodiment of the divine presence could not (or would not) abide dishonesty, particularly not among the religious. The one “thing” He would not countenance, nor offer grace, was practical mendacity.
“Bad news for you Scribes and Pharisees,” Jesus reportedly said. “Hypocrites! You are like a painted grave-site, white-washed on the outside to look pretty but full of death on the inside.”
Their sin? Dishonesty. They purported to be one thing but the one thing they purported to be was the one thing they were not.
Some folks in His day looked at the Jerusalem Temple and decided, “There is gold in them thar halls!” They could see the chance for material gain if they could get the dove concession, for instance.
Jesus said, to them, “My Father’s house is to be a house of prayer. You have made it a den of thieves.” And with that he closed down shop for the day.
Their sin? Dishonesty. They took a place that was meant for one purpose and turned it for another.
The divine grace in these stories is about accountability. Jesus loves the violaters enough that He will not leave them in their state of corruption. He calls their sin by its common name, rather than by its given name.
Apparently, Jesus will not abide dishonesty. Instead, He will grace it till its gone.