God Is Not An Equation

Like 1.5 billion other people, I am on Facebook. I currently have, uhm … { checking } … 791 friends there. And many of them are Christian.

I love my Christian friends, just like all my friends, but sometimes they post things that drive me crazy. (As does everyone on Facebook, of course, including me.) One of my biggest gripes is when they post Christian memes: you know, the sayings inside a picture. People used to put them up as posters around the church, but now we put them up on Facebook. Here are some actual examples:

  • If you feel distant from God, guess who moved.
  • Let God’s promises shine on your problems.
  • Everyday God drops showers of blessing and graces and only those with pure hearts catch them.
  • Keep Calm Because God Answers Prayer

The problem with these sayings, and others, is not that they are false. The problem is that they are not always true. Why? Because God is not an equation.

Let’s face it – life would be simpler if God was just a set of rules, and if you followed the rules then you would know the outcome. And if you broke the rules, then you would know the outcome there as well. Our relationship to God would look like an equation, or a problem in logic: “If this, then that.”

But if that’s your approach, then today’s lections just blow it right up. Look at these passages and the common wisdom around them:

Job — righteous man suffers horribly. His prayers don’t make it past the top of his head. He not only feels distant from God, he feels completely abandoned by God. Friends say that obviously his sin has caused him to suffer (common wisdom, then and now). Turns out they are wrong, but Job’s righteousness did not keep him from suffering.

Amos — if you don’t stop trampling on the poor and turn from your evil ways, God is going to take the kingdom from you. In this case, your unrighteousness will bring God’s wrath, even though you have called on his name. The common wisdom would be that asking God’s blessing means that God will bless, but in this case the prayers will be overturned by the heart of the people praying.

Hebrews — approach the throne of grace with boldness, because even though you are sinful, you have a high priest who intercedes for you. In this case, your sin does not keep your prayers from reaching God.

Mark — the common wisdom of the day was that if you were rich, you were righteous, and if you were poor, it was your sin that caused it. (Sound familiar?) Yet Jesus told the wealthy man that to enter the Kingdom he needed to sell what he had, and then commented to the disciples that being rich actually made it harder to enter the Kingdom. This completely flummoxed the disciples, who thought material blessings were ipso facto evidence of God’s blessings.

Psalm 22 — and of course, the ultimate blow-up of God-as-equation: the man who lived as close to God as any human, crying out in abandonment and agony on the cross. Does it all turn out good in the end? Yes it does; but the ultimate triumph of the economy of God is not, I fear, the point of the Christian memes we looked at earlier.

So, let’s recap. Your righteousness may save you and your nation, or you may be left to suffering that you didn’t deserve. Your prayers may be answered, or they may be overturned by your sins. God may bless you materially, or your material blessings may actually stand between you and God. God may save you and your nation, or not, depending.

If this makes God sound capricious, that is not my intent. God is not capricious, but neither is God an automaton. God is not an equation; God is a being who knows each of us intimately, loves each of us deeply. You cannot reduce this God to a set of rules, or constructs … or memes.

What you can do is trust: trust the nature of God, trust the love of God, trust the justice of God, trust the mercy of God. This God whom we worship is worthy of our trust, even when all the rules we thought we knew seem to fail before our eyes.

And this is trust — “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is followed by “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” As he died, Jesus trusted … and so must we.

This entry was posted in Lection Reflections and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to God Is Not An Equation

  1. Ken Wolf says:

    Good words. Excellent ending. Just live one day at a time with both the forsakenness and the spirit of trust.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.