Thursday, March 03, 2005

A Bit Lost Watching the Action

When I was in college my roommates and I just had to invest in cable TV for the house. We did this for a number of reasons which can be summed up in ten letters: HBO, MTV, ESPN. It was the early 80s when the face of television no longer looked like Walter Cronkhite or Ed Sullivan, and more resembled Bill Murray and Duran Duran. I'm not sure that was an even trade. But regardless, we had to have it. Uncut movies all day. Music videos all day. And (Oh, thank you dear Lord) sports all day! For four mostly-free-from-parental-influence college guys, this was the life -- rental house with a pool in the backyard, plenty of room for up to 80 or 90 guests, neighbors who didn't complain about the noise, and CABLE TV!

It was a heady time for yours truly and my cohorts. But after being spoiled by the television choices these days, it's strange to realize that when we turned on ESPN in 1983, it didn't look much like it does now. There were no major league baseball games; the networks had the broadcast rights to those. Ditto with NBA, NFL, and countless other "important" sports that we actually wanted to watch. So we had to watch whatever incredible sporting events ESPN could find to air. One of those gems was Australian Rules Football.

We watched in amazement, trying to figure out what the rules were. The officials behind the goals looked like they were overdressed, even for a royal wedding. The players would run for a while, then bounce the ball off the ground once only to run some more. They kicked the ball and passed it to each other by holding the ball with one hand and hitting it with their other fist. We were mesmerized and mystified. What in the world was going on? And how could the score be 95-71? We learned a scant few of the rules and a little of the scoring system after about a month of watching the broadcasts. Mostly we liked mimicking the Aussie accents of the announcers. After all, we still were a little bit lost watching the action.

Somewhere in the midst of that stadium, there was a game being played complete with specific rules, a detailed scoring system and even a crowd of fans who knew infinitely more about the game than me. There are times when I feel that way about life in general. Things happen. Stimuli cause responses. Yet some people make evil decisions which don't seem to hold any consequences while another person does the right thing only to be hurt. And I sit on the sidelines trying to figure out what is going on and where I can find out more about the game being played out in front of me.

Job was another one of us who looked upon the conditions of the world (and of his life) and couldn't figure out why a good and loving God would let things happen as they do. Job knew he was a pretty decent guy, yet in a 24-hour span he had lost his riches, his family, and was stuck with three friends who only accused him of being responsible for all of it. Philip Yancey writes in Rumors of Another World,
"Sometimes I rail against the mysteries and sometimes I accept them. As a starting point, I take for granted that a creature's proper response to God is humility. Accepting creatureliness may require that I, like Job, bow before a master plan that makes no apparent sense.

It seems almost that God isn't there at all, instead treating the world as the deists claim -- winding up creation like a clock, then setting it down to watch it wind down. Yet the Bible tells us this isn't the case. The existance of Jesus Christ Himself proves that this isn't true. So why isn't God active in everyone's life every day? Well for starters, sometimes we don't ask. And the non-Christians in fact tell Him to get lost. And for some reason God honors our choice to reject Him. Yancey puts it like this:
Ashtonishly, the Creator seldom imposes himself on his creatures. It requires attention and effort on our part to "remember your Creator," because the Creator slips quietly backstage. God does not force his presence on us. When lesser gods attract, God withdraws, honoring our fatal freedom to ignore him.

How strange that God listens to the free-will choice of rejection from those He has created. Unfortunately those who send God packing never seem to realize what a loving God they are giving up. God is not a God who controls us beyond our will. He does not compel us to be with Him, to listen to Him or even to acknowledge Him. And the consequences are not always visible in this world. If I were God, I would be tempted to shoot a lightning bolt near the kid who mouths off to his parents. I might shake the earth a bit under the feet of the pervert planning to abduct some child. And an Osama bin Laden wouldn't be causing anyone any troubles right about now. But God does things differently. In our pride, our instinct is to say that we are right and God is wrong. Stupid pride. Stupid us.

Although I don't always understand and I can't always explain the rules to another person seated beside me, I trust the One who created the "game" of life as well as the stadium we "play" it in. When I feel like Job waiting for an explanation from God or like a viewer trying to make sense out of a foreign game, I have to stop and remember that my understanding is not necessary. But my faith is.


Not Crunchy said...

I had a Canadian co-worker who called this form of Aussie football "footie". I've always been particularly mystified by cricket myself (how could a score be 213-6?).

Rev-ed, you provide many explanations that make it easy for an agnostic to accept God - this one in particular. You are the second Christian post this week that I have read that mentioned God giving us free will. Why would God give us the free will to reject him, if he is as you say He is? Doesn't that seem awfully give us the "option" of eternal damnation, simply because we cannot wrap our minds around Him, even while trying our best to understand?

rev-ed said...

Good question. Let's look at the alternative. Let's say that God creates humanity without free will. That way everyone will "choose" to follow Him and everyone will be in heaven.

But if I don't have any choice but to love God, is it really love? If I have no choice, am I really choosing? If I hold a gun to a woman's head and tell her to love me, I'm guessing she would tell me she loves me but she really wouldn't love me. If love is forced, then it is not love. It is simply running through the computer program of life, spitting out what was programmed in. That "choice" is meaningless.

God didn't set up cruelty, but He did take a risk. He gave us free will, knowing that some would reject Him and some would choose Him. Yet without free will no one would truly choose Him.

The incredible part is that God not only gave us the option to choose, He also gave us the way to come to Him when we've chosen the wrong path. That's only through Jesus. Had Christ not lived the perfect life and died to take our punishment, then we would have no way out. But God not only made the choice real, He also gave us a life line.

And you don't have to be able to wrap your mind entirely around God to accept Christ. We'll never wrap our minds completely around Him during our time on this earth. Frankly if I could understand God completely, He wouldn't be much of a God. :-)

MegLogan said...

Amen and Amen. I like your last line best. "I have to remember that my understanding is not required, but my faith is." Lately I have been searching scripture for some support regarding children and heaven. WE know that they are born in iniquity. That they are guilty from birth, and we know that guilty people go to hell without Christ. So I am looking for some exception for itty bitty babies, and children. I cant find one. It frustrates me. But at times like this I have learned that trust and faith are more important than my understanding, or even my knowing. Maybe there is provision for the young, maybe there isnt. I can only trust and have faith that God is a God of love and justice, and that His ways are always the Right ways.

Thanks for the reminder.

rev-ed said...

meg - I believe that God is a just judge, judging each person on the basis of his/her understanding and willingness to accept Him. Both Judaism and Christianity have long taught of an "age of accountability" before which time a child is not eternally responsible for their actions. I realize that much of this teaching is tradition, the idea is backed up by Scripture. In 2 Samuel 12:23, David spoke of his infant child who had died saying, "But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me." Apparently David believed that a baby dying would be in heaven.

MegLogan said...

Hey, call me crazy, but I am not sure how this [quote] In 2 Samuel 12:23, David spoke of his infant child who had died saying, "But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me." Apparently David believed that a baby dying would be in heaven.[/quote] is saying he believed the baby was in heaven. Could you spell it out for me?

rev-ed said...

The key is "I will go to him." David is referring to the baby, not to God. David knew he was headed for heaven, so it follows that he believed the baby was already there.