It just occurred to me this morning how simple it is to identify God and “God things” (an expression my Evangelical friends use, as in, “it’s a God thing.”)
We get to identify God for ourselves, not others. That requires us to–guess what–trust others to identify God for themselves. What a novel idea! 😉
(FYI, I posted this on our Facebook Group Awakening Together: an experiment in trust-based community just this morning. Please stop by and check it out. We’re a lively crew!)
I can say that God “spoke” to me, but that doesn’t mean that I heard what God wants to tell you. If it sounds like God to you, it’s because God is “speaking” the same thing to you. If it doesn’t sound like God to you, either God isn’t “speaking” that to you, or I’m listening to a different God, or I made a mistake and misunderstood what God did say to me. Is it your responsibility to tell me which is the case? No. That’s God’s responsibility, and as far as I’m concerned, God does a great job and doesn’t need our help, LOL!
So what does this say about people who claim that they can tell us who God is for us? To me, it says:
- They don’t know God because they obviously can’t handle the idea of God speaking one thing to them and something different–or not at all–to others. That’s somehow beyond God’s capability? Afraid that God might lose track eventually and make a mistake if we don’t all get the same information? Haha! Not the God I know.
- They don’t know God because they think that God can’t get through to others unassisted. If God can’t do that, then why worship such a wimp?
- They don’t know God because they disrespect and violate the integrity and sanctity of others’ relationships to the divine, something that God never, ever does. Doing that is exactly like an adulterer trying to weasel into a relationship and interfere with a couple who might otherwise be doing just fine.
Of course, weasels don’t pick difficult targets, but easy ones–people who don’t feel like they are doing fine with God. People who feel alienated from the divine don’t need to be told what to do or told what the divine is, they need to be encouraged to reconcile to the divine that they already know. Instead, almost all evangelism starts with: You don’t know God, but I do, and I’m going to tell you all about it. Silly Christians. Tricks are for kids. Please don’t be surprised and confuse our indignation at your condescension and transgression for incomprehension or revulsion towards the truth on our parts. It’s not persecution for the sake of Christ, because Christ doesn’t act like you do.
After so much abuse all our lives, having it beaten into our heads that God is, for all intents and purposes, a petty, narcissistic, unpredictable, juvenile egotist, i.e., a psychopath, people estranged from their own very cores, from God who is “over all and through all and in all,” need to hear that we experience God as something/someone very different than that. They don’t need to be told. They just need to hear our “testimony,” our “witness” which, translated into normal speech, is our points of view. And we need to remember that they are just our points of view.
The church sorely needs that kind of humility. There is truth to be had, and maybe it’s absolute, but when people dictate truth to someone else in the name of God, they cross a line that even God doesn’t violate. In doing that, they take God’s name in vain. But wait! Wouldn’t that kind of humility mean that the church would fall apart, because that kind of humility undermines the church’s brand of “authority,” without which total chaos would ensue? (As if, with thousands and thousands of sects, denominations, and the spiritual and sometimes physical violence responsible for so many schisms, total chaos has yet to come?!!) Hmm… I thought that “God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”
To expect chaos in the absence of creeds and codes and theologies and laws and punitive processes and governance structures that control and dominate–just like those in the secular world–says something about the “spirit” that actually rules in churches today–one so dumb and puny that it can’t keep peace without imposing its “authority” in violation of individual dignity and conscience, thus preserving a bogus “greater good.” It’s as if Christians never read Romans, Galatians, or Hebrews. Theirs is a sad kind of authority, if you ask me, and it has nothing to do with the love and the power of God. What, is God unable to keep order by working with each of us individually? Does God need power-hungry “leaders” to keep us all in line? Not the God that I know. And I’ve known such “leaders.” They won’t lead you anywhere you really want to go. You’d see it yourself if only you knew the truth of their hidden agendas.
We’ve been so conditioned to believe that others–especially authorities and experts–have the right to tell us who and what God is for us, that whenever someone claims to have real–not theoretical–contact with the divine, we automatically assume either that it’s bogus or that it’s binding on us. Where did we learn that kind of false dichotomizing from? Not from love, that’s for sure. Nope.
God can tell you that it’s white, and I can look at it and say, “Well, to me it looks black,” and you can respond, “Well, it looks black to me, too, but God says it’s white, so that’s how I’ll see it now,” or, “Actually, I agree with God that it’s white.” Any problem so far? There doesn’t need to be, because then we can both say, “This is cool! I wonder why God told one of us it’s white and let the other think it’s black?” No one need be “wrong” or start distrusting each other, let alone distrust God, and no one need force the other to change his or her mind. We stay together with each other and with God, both of us, in open-minded, open-hearted attitudes, expecting to learn something together.
Doesn’t that sound like a better idea than arguing, fighting, and violating each other’s dignity? 😀