RESPONDblog: Why God Isn’t a Harsh or Critical Task Master

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Why does God seem to demand so much from his followers?

 

The Bible suggests that God demands us to love him – and to love him with all our hearts, minds…and our  very souls. That’s deep! Why? Is he insecure? Does he have such a fragile ego – that he needs people to prop it up by singing songs to him each Sunday and promising to devote their lives to him? Does all this worship make God feel better?

 

But it goes beyond loving him – he also challenges us to prioritize him over and above ourselves. Jesus talks in the New Testament about the importance of taking up one’s cross to follow him. If you’ve ever watched Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” – you’ll know that bearing a cross in 1st century Palestine was a messy and brutalizing business for the one doing it. And Jesus seems to suggest that there will be an element of agony for all who follow him.  Doesn’t sound much fun, does it? Elsewhere Jesus said – broad is the road that leads to destruction – but narrow is the gate and difficult is the road that leads to eternal life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13)  So – why does the gate need to be so narrow? Why does our road need to be so hard?

 

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In light of these difficult divine expectations, it is bizarre to note that some skeptics also criticize Christianity for just “making up” the God that they worship. The argument goes, life is so challenging to these insecure people that they need to make up some artificial divine comfort blanket to cling to. Jesus, meek and mild. Jesus, who will be their cosmic man in the sky promising to make everything ok for them.

 

Are followers of Jesus so weak willed and insecure that we need to cling to “a made up God” to get us thru our meaningless existence? I would suggest the general answer is probably not. Because the truth is that this God we are clinging to is making some very BIG demands of us – as I pointed out at the start of this blog. He’s challenging us to lay down our lives for him. Surely that’s enough to make any weak or insecure person run the other way. For myself – the call to take up my cross has meant that my life decisions have been made – to the best of my ability – with Jesus’ guidance and his wisdom. For other people in our world right now – in Sudan and Iraq for example – it has meant submitting themselves to persecution and sometimes murder. There are Christians today who are literally laying down their lives on planet earth. This doesn’t sound like a nice easy road made up to make us feel better. It sounds hard and sometimes brutal.

 

What is this all about?

 

Well – first it’s about asking the question – who is my God anyway? If I only love and worship my God when things are going well for me – it probably means I’m not actually worshipping the real God at all. I’m simply indulging myself with a projection of my own greed, need and selfishness. If the God revealed in the Bible is real – then it means that I am not him. If God is all wise – all powerful – then my little self-interested hopes and aspirations will sometimes get passed over or crushed because they are not in anyone’s best interests. Probably not even mine. And this is hard to take.

 

Second it’s about realizing what can truly satisfy me and what cannot.  I think God demands us to look up to him because we are so easily satisfied with the lesser stuff we find down here. Friends, careers and possessions are great – but they will disappoint us if we look to them to ultimately fulfil us. He calls us to place our affections squarely on him – because only he will truly and completely fulfil those affections. He calls us to devote our lives to him – not because it makes him feel better about himself. It’s because he knows that loving him will fulfill US.

 

Author Krish Kandiah puts it this way. He and his wife are foster parents. They love to bring hurting children into their lives; to put a roof over their heads, to give healthy and regular mealtimes, etc. Yet more important than all of these good things – they give themselves personally to that little needy life. It’s not the material things that will ultimately make the difference. It is Krish and his wife pouring themselves into that little life. That’s what brings hope and healing.

 

Krish also uses the analogy of the surgeon and the psychopath. Both of these people can inflict pain with a knife. We would rightly run away from a psychopath! But we would also rightly submit ourselves to the knife of the surgeon. Why? Both people will cause pain! The reason we submit to the surgeon is because we trust his wisdom, his experience and his motives. Sometimes to save a life – pain must be inflicted for a short time – so that true hope and fulfillment may come soon.

 

The God of the Bible longs to be like our foster parent, and our personal surgeon. He knows that as he pours his love into a life that is submitting itself to him – he will nourish and enrich that life like nothing else can. And even tho he may play the role of cosmic surgeon sometimes – he knows what he is doing. Healing is on the other side of this painful procedure. We can trust him.

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stuartgrayuk

I live in the UK, I'm married to Janet and I'm passionate about proposing a case for the historic Christian faith. You can find me on Twitter at @stuhgray.

4 thoughts on “RESPONDblog: Why God Isn’t a Harsh or Critical Task Master”

  1. Thank you for this article.. I personally struggle with these issues a lot and it brings much discouragement and hopelesness into my christian life. Sometimes I doubt whether I want to be a christian at all because I’m afraid of God and His commandments and the way I see Jesus and the Apostles lived seems so devoid of freedom, wonder of relationships and enjoying the good gifts of this life, etc etc. Everything must serve the glory of God, even when I’m eating or drinking. I hear I must give my whole body to the Lord so I guess I cannot joke and say what I want etc etc. I see christianity as praying all the time, reading the Bible, praising God all the time in your spirit (even when occupied with earthly tasks such as work), you never do anything for yourself. It’s difficult to explain…but the picture I get is scary and mystical. I’m confused about what God really requires, on one hand I don’t want to live for self, choose the easy way but when I think that I must surrender all, give the Holy Spirit total control and do literally ALL (in thought, word, deed) for God’s glory and in the name of Jesus I just find it burdensome and heavy. I’d like to delight in it but I don’t. And also, I don’t see Jesus as laughing or talking about normal life affairs etc with people, or ever joking etc. But He only spoke what God the Father had commanded Him, never pleased Himself, but His every breath was utterly for the glory of God. All His words were 100% for the glory of God.
    I’ve been struggling with it for years and in the meantime I’m so miserable, afraid of God and at the same time unfulfilled and don’t see any purpose in life, barely find joy in anything of this Earth 😦 Is there anything you recommend I could do, to change my situation and life?

    1. Ann – as I read this, I’m reminded of one of the repeated phrases in the Bible. You hear it in both the Old and the New Testaments. God’s heart desire is that “we will be his people, and he will be our God.” Above all – he longs for relationship with us. Because he knows – that’s what ultimately will fulfill us. Not what we do.

      My advice for you Ann in 2018 is…perhaps start there. Ask him for his help. Begin to draw close to the God who is there and loves you, Ann.

      Stuart

      1. Thank you, Stuart! That’s what I am trying to do and will definetely continue to do, though I haven’t seen any difference as yet. Still, there’s no other purpose in life and I want to be close to God, though I’m also afraid of it on the other hand.
        All the best for you in 2018 and thanks again for replying!

      2. You too Ann – I’m praying that 2018 is a really significant year for you in your own personal spiritual journey. Psalm 56:8 – he knows our struggles – and he cares for us.

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