Daily Devotion - Tuesday, December 8, 2015
This is the second week of the season of Advent. Throughout the season of Advent we'll be focusing on what it means to be full of expectation and anticipation during this blessed time of year. We'll also be lifting up the various weekly themes of Advent, corresponding to the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath. This week our theme is "Peace."
The more time I spend on this earth, the more I've come to understand just how muddled, strange, contradictory and blurry my definitions of God truly are. When you really stop and think about it, the idea of even placing definitions on that which is undefinable and beyond comprehension is kind of a fool's errand.
I grew up with the image of God as a stern, unwavering judge. The God of my youth had his rules, and you'd better follow them or else.
I used to say that I rather liked the God who was revealed in most of the New Testament--particularly the Gospels. The God Jesus talked about seemed fairly loving and kind. But the God of the Old Testament, on the other hand--that God was pretty scary and awful.
After years of studying the Bible, however, I've come to understand that the God of the Old Testament is indeed the same God revealed in the New Testament. The only difference is how that God is viewed, described and understood by ancient people whose definitions were often muddled, strange, contradictory and blurry.
Which brings me back to my youthful imaginations of God as stern, unwavering judge. Here's the truth of the matter: Despite the fact that this image of God needed some work (and some rehabilitation), there is something about it that I can't let go. You see, I do need God to be a judge right about now. In fact, I know that, after all is said and done, the judgement of God is the only thing that will truly bring the peace of God to this world.
I long for God to judge what is evil in this world. There is so much injustice and it's all around us. Do we really want to worship a God who is going to sit idly by forever and not pass judgement on indifference to the poor, hungry, lost and lonely? Who will turn a blind eye to those who exploit the innocent through slave labor, and worse? Who will continue to allow humankind to destroy the earth and one another? Who will give a free pass to those who twist religion into that which is evil, self-serving and destructive? Who will reward those who perpetrate fear, anxiety and dread.
Absolutely not! I want and need God to judge those things--we all do.
I believe so strongly that the things that grieve the heart of God should also grieve our hearts. I also hold on to the hope that the peace of God (shalom) will one day be realized when Jesus returns to set things to right, and all of the things that have grieve God's heart will be judged at last, and rightly so.
But until that day, those of us who call ourselves Jesus-followers have work to do. We are called to live and breathe and move as if that day has already come. We are called to look around in joy at what God is doing all around us to reconcile the world to himself through the power of the Holy Spirit.
And we are called to look forward in anticipation to the shalom that will one day permeate all of Creation because of God's final victory over sin and death through His Son, Jesus Christ.
May you go out into this world filled with grief over the things that grieve the heart of God. May you be filled with joy over the things that bring joy to the heart of God. May you have the wisdom to know the difference. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.