Friday, November 14, 2014
Ask Yourself: God's Glory, or Whose?
Here it is, folks:
When it comes to spiritual questions, cultural disputes, and how we intend to interpret any passage of the Bible, this is how we should do it: Interpret everything in the Bible and life itself in deference to God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Everything.
Interpret everything in a way that gives glory to the Holy Trinity.
Straight-up, no-holes-barred, every time. No cultural exceptions, no circumstantial qualifications. Ask yourself, "who gets the glory? God, or me, or humankind in general?
It's as simple - and profound - as that. Isn't it? Do we each need to be an expert in Hebrew, Greek, or seminary-speak? Do we need to get some evangelical celebrity or political guru to weigh in with an opinion? When we read God's Word, and when we consider how to apply it to our daily lives, no matter the subject at hand, won't the right way to act be the way that best glorifies God?
If we're living for God, instead of ourselves, these won't sound like trick questions.
Nevertheless, as I wander around our evangelical subculture and listen to different people say different things about their interpretation of faith, it never ceases to amaze me how we all - every one of us - approach God's Word from some degree of our own, unilateral, personal perspective. We view the Bible, faith, God, His Son, and how we're to live our lives through a prism of our own preferences, experiences, assumptions, education, and hopes.
Yes, that's part of being human, and of our sin nature, but it's also part of the sanctification process, through which we're supposed to be progressing, not languishing, or regressing.
Unfortunately, we tend to forget that our cultures - even in religion - can work against our sanctification. We're taught that since God loves us, and created us each as individual people, we have a right to think however we want to think. We're taught that God expects us to think for ourselves. The more liberal we are, the more we're taught to value other people, and how they think, and what they think. The more conservative we are, the more we're taught that other people should think like us. Which, if you think about it, is as inaccurate an ambition as letting everybody believe whatever works for themselves. As long as the humanity for which we advocate has a decidedly lateral and horizontal focus, instead of a vertical one, we're probably not honoring God.
At least, we're probably not honoring God as much as we'd like to think we are.
We're in trouble when we consider our opinions to have at least as much weight as God's do. We forget that we're always interpreting, because humans cannot create truth. We can only respond to it. On the other hand, God interprets nothing, since He is the Source of all things. He is omniscient, omnipresent, and sovereign. We're not, so we interpret how God's Word applies to various situations in our lives, whether that interpretation is fairly direct, or vague, or apparently not supported by much of anything.
What should matter more should be our desire to honor God in all that we do, endorse, and believe.
Sure, some of us are more accurate than others when it comes to how we believe God is glorified. As our society has devolved into an "all roads lead to Rome" sort of universalism, however, and narcissism has ossified our ability to critique our own motives, it's easier to fall into a reverse pattern: evaluating what faith can do for us, rather than acknowledging what God has already done, is doing, and will do.
Both inside and outside the church, for example, we treat issues like gay marriage as if we're entitled to craft a viewpoint based on variables that are relevant to our experiences. Instead, shouldn't we be viewing everything in light of how each thing - person, experience, fact, ideology, motivation, emotion, reflex, fear - exists as a manifestation of God's revealed word and will?
In other words, we can argue 'till the cows come home about love, relationships, fidelity, marriage, selflessness, covenants, commitment, lifestyles, wants, needs, feelings, romance, and how we think or believe God would want us to act when it comes to gay marriage.
But what do you think honors God about gay marriage? And what does God say honors Him regarding heterosexual marriage? God has given us some pretty specific facts regarding marriage, sexuality, covenants, and purity that, in and of themselves, aren't open to as much interpretation as we often like to presume. We like to believe that we are autonomous actors in His presence. We've seen how our ideas about things can change over time, as we experience new people, and participate in new relationships. So surely, God changes, too! Right?
Well, He doesn't. He tells us He's unchanging, and that what He said when each book of the Bible was first transcribed is as relevant and factual today as it was then.
Besides, we haven't yet answered the question: what is it about gay marriage that brings glory to God? The ability of people to marry each other regardless of gender - how does that bring glory to God? Is love bigger than God? Is commitment bigger than God? Is human sexuality and gender assignment bigger than God? Is what we want to do bigger than what God wants us to do?
What right do we have to decide whether or not marriage honors God in the first place? That right comes from God Himself, correct? What right do we have to decide whether or not gender matters when it comes to marriage? For that matter, what right do we have to decide that even heterosexual marriages can be terminated simply because one or more spouse has tired of it?
People get divorced because they want to get divorced. Meanwhile, where does God ever say that divorce honors Him?
Don't we make these conversations much more complicated than God intended them to be? Of course, conversations about gay marriage aren't complicated to people who don't want to honor God with their view of it. And they're not complicated to people who deeply desire to honor God with their view of it. To be frank, the only people for whom conversations like gay marriage are complicated are people who struggle with imposing their own personal sense of superiority upon God, Who will not share His holy superiority with anybody or anything.
Actually, it's probably a good struggle to have, as long as you're willing to realize that, ultimately, you're not in control of your life. You're not able to change God's view of sexual perversion. A society can vote to allow gay marriage, but such a vote doesn't change God's will. But that reality doesn't mean much when we concentrate more on what we want, than on what honors God.
No, living lives that honor God isn't necessarily easy for us, but being purposeful about honoring God shouldn't be a difficult desire for us. To the degree that it is, that's the degree to which we haven't given Him the Lordship over our lives that He desires - and deserves - to have.
Every child of God's has been bought with a Price. And that Price is His holy Son, Jesus. Therefore, we are to honor God with our lives. We are to live in deference to Him, out of thankfulness for Christ's sacrificial death on our behalf.
If any of us aren't living this way, then perhaps He's not yet our Lord.
And if you find that last sentence particularly offensive, then it's probably because you know He's not.
Meanwhile, we can never err on the side of God's honor. But we can certainly err on the side of ours.