Friday, May 07, 2010

Leadership and God II

This post is in reply to a comment on a previous post. It's too long to fit a comment box, so I have made it it's own post.

There are a couple observations that I would make concerning Psalm 51 and Dale's writing. The first is that Dale is correct when he emphasizes that God is faithful. If Jesus promised that He and the Father would abide with and in the believer, then we believe they do - but it isn't two people, it is God through His Spirit that lives in you. Dale is also correct that we might take having the Spirit for granted. True, but this simply makes our point that we have the Spirit.

We do have examples of God seemingly abandoning various peoples. Revelation warns of congregations' lamp posts being removed, and Israel was apparently without God on a number of occasions. These eventualities though are the result of peoples' actions first - not God's. Israel lost focus of who she was made to be, and lost her character. So too with the congregations in Revelation.

When God "leaves" a people, He does not leave them....but waits for them. God may have "left" Israel, but He went with them into exile. In fact, it was He returning to them that resulted in Jesus arriving in Bethlehem. Paul says that God still waits - not just for Israel but for the world. The Temple Cleansing story uses a snippet of text from the Old Testament about God's house being a house of prayer. That snippet is actually a return-from-exile passage that applies not just to Israel but to the whole world. Even when oppressed by Rome, Israel was not without God at least she was not outside the (potential) grace of God.

Can we lose God? I think that is possible, but it requires a complete abandonment of Him by us. God does not, as Dale said, "get up on the wrong side of the bed" and decide to play with us. He has promised to be with us, and He will remain with us for a very long time - through thick and then unless we reject Him. And it takes a lot to reject Him apparently.

The possibility that we can reject God though does not mean that in our failings to live to our potential in any given moment, God withdraws from us as though He does not know that we are human; that He made us imperfect. The expectation of growth and our inconsistent movement in that direction are part and parcel of our maturing. I am convinced that if we got everything right the first time, we would not know what it is to suffer, to fail, to hurt. In short, we could not learn love - the giving of ourselves to others in as adequate a way as we can when we are humbled by our own failures. If this is how we grow, God does not abandon us as we do so.

An observation about basing theology on poetry: it's a risky thing to do. Let me illustrate by using another of David's sayings. David says he was born in sin, and many folks take that to mean that he was (and therefore we are) sinful from the moment of conception, but the language only indicates that David was born "in the midst of sin," deposited as it were in an environment of sin. Since he was born human, that is a logical conclusion, but there isn't anything in the text itself on which we can build a universal original sin argument. Similarly, Psalm 51 should be taken as a pleading to God, not necessarily a statement of likely potential. David is repenting and asking for grace here. While there is a potential that God would withdraw from him, this text says more about David's remorse and understanding of his plight before God than it does God's intent or leaning.

This psalm actually reinforces the point that God does not willy nilly leave us. The fact that David prays this prayer and lives to tell the tale is direct evidence that God did not leave him. God remained with David in this instance because of David's humility and desire to be with God. If we want to be with God; if that is the desire of our hearts, God remains with us even in our imperfections and failures to follow Him in every moment.

Does God turn His back on groups of people - nations or churches? The potential of course, is that He can and will if the people have abandoned Him. However, the implication in Scripture is that He may well remove His blessing from a nation or people, but He does not leave them. Clearly in Revelation God says He might take some lamp stands away and Israel suffered mightily under the Roman army around AD 70. But He caused Revelation to be written to those churches, wanting them to return to Him, and Paul indicates that God's delay in consummating the world is due to His grace in part, for Israel.

If God removes the "hedge of protection" from a group of people, the individuals suffer but this does not mean that God does not see them, does not hear their cries, ignores their pleas. Rather He sees and hears all their suffering and moves to refresh them when they return to Him. When God might do this with a congregation might well be when they as a group have forgotten their first love or have turned too inward rather than living as the blessing they are to be.

God then remains faithful even if we aren't, especially in the daily grind of trying to follow Him. The key is our heart's direction; the tenor of our lives. If we are moving in the right direction over all, the minor bumps do not cause God to flee from us but rather improve our chances of growing into Him.

Welcome and legal mumbojumbo

Welcome to my corner of cyberspace! Make yourself at home and enjoy a few minutes of reading. Everything here (text and pictures), unless otherwise indicated, is original and enjoys copyright protection. For re-use information, please contact me directly.

Information provided here is simply the creation of the author and is not intended as life advice, counseling, or therapy for anyone else. The use of any information found on this site is entirely at the discretion of the reader as they see fit for themselves. The author makes no claims to any particular expertise, experience, or training appropriate to justify basing any life, career, or any other type of decision on any of it.