Tuesday, November 27, 2007

God's Secret Service

During the sermon this past Sunday, our preacher used an illustration that I have heard numerous times. Oh, not word for word, but ones like it. It goes something like this:

“There was this Midwest preacher and his family who went to Washington D.C. and while there, they met a family friend. This friend it turns out was a member of the Secret Service detachment assigned to the President. The friend offered to give the family a tour of the Oval Office and the family readily accepted. The family was somewhat surprised, after expecting searches, and metal detectors galore, to be ushered around all the security because they were with the Secret Service officer.” The point of the illustration is that we gain entry past all the checks and defenses into God’s presence as people who know – or better yet, are known by the Son.

As part of the sermon, it made plenty of sense, following a discussion of Jesus’ promise to the one on the cross who asked to be remembered, and to whom Jesus said “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” The image of Jesus escorting the thief into Paradise is mostly appropriate. So far, so good.

The problem arises when we let the illustration say more than it does. If we aren’t astute, we may let the illustration give us, or support an already current notion, that God is in Heaven surrounded by traps, detectors, walls, gates, alarms, and guards through or around which we must negotiate our way to God at our peril. It is as though getting to God is a deliberate challenge designed to keep us out. Man apparently is so corrupted that God tries to keep us at arm’s length unless we can find the secret to get past the guards.

I guess it preaches, and many of us seem to have this idea of God and our challenge in finding Him. I don’t know though, that it is all that accurate. It seems to me that the path to God has been – and to a great degree always has been – wide open. Hasn’t God repeatedly called to us saying “return to Me, and I will be your God?” Or, if we prefer a New Testament version, “If we walk in the Light as He is in the Light, the blood of Jesus continuously cleanses us.” Man’s problem has not been that God has established obstacles to our return, but rather that we had lost sight of God and had little desire above our own enrichment, to return to Him.

We do not need an escort to protect us from God’s defenses but rather One who would remind us of God, of who He is, of what He is like, and our calling to live in concord with Him. When we recognize our creation and calling to be that of living with and in God, there are no obstacles around which we need a path.

The challenge is ours, not God’s. The obstacles we face are those we erect, not defenses that God has put up to keep us away. If we do not desire to live in concert with God, it is because we are blind and self-seeking. The obstacle is us, and no amount of escorting will change that basic fact.

God has open arms, not blocked hallways.

God is waiting. And calling.

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