Saturday, August 7, 2010

Surprised By God

I have to admit that I get embarrassed rather easy over most things but one thing that embarrasses me the most is getting things wrong. Perhaps you have noticed, it is a lot easier to get things wrong than we think, especially as a Christian. Sometimes we have this notion that we have it all together, we understand God, the way he sees things and the way he operates. Some people write fantastic books on these hard and fast rules about God, almost like it is a formula. They put forward the idea that our God has a fixed methodology and we eat it up because that is so much easier for us to handle. However, something I am slowly learning after all these years serving Jesus is never underestimate God's love, forgiveness and his power to heal and restore. In fact, it may be safer to say that when it comes to God don't presume anything.

We know that God never changes; his character has always remained the same since the first days of Adam and Eve. However, people assume that they know how God is going to respond in any given situation. Ask the Christian protesters holding up the signs that read "God hates fags" how they think God reacts to homosexuals. Perhaps the sign that reads "When a fag dies God laughs" says it best. These people don't know the Father's heart at all if they think they can hold up such hateful language as a representation of God's thoughts on the matter. When the woman caught in adultery was dragged in front of Jesus, was his reaction "You made your bed, now sleep in it. Stone her boys"? Not at all. And when Jesus told them to let the person who is without sin cast the first stone do you think there were a few surprised people in that crowd? You better believe there were because God does not respond according to our sinful hearts with all its hatred but instead from a place of forgiveness because of his perfect love.

So often in my life I am mistaken when I think with the preconceived ideas of my own heart and mind. I work up certain expectations about situations and people. Too often I leave God out of the equation and forget that he works on the minds and hearts of people, influencing them to see things with his love and forgiveness. It is like the prodigal son returning home, picturing in his mind his father's angry reception, convincing himself that he will have to offer himself as a servant. The reality of the Father's reaction was far different as he received his son with honour because of his love for him.

We have to come to accept that God often does not meet our pre-conceptions and expectations because not even our imagination can rise to his level of love and compassion. Imagine the shock of John the Baptist, who was looking forward to being baptized by the Messiah, when Jesus said, "No John, you have to baptize me".

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"
Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented. (Matthew 3:13-15)

In hindsight it makes perfect sense that Jesus had to fulfill all the requirements of the law and prophecies but in the moment it would have come as a great and overwhelming shock to John. This is how I feel when I allow my own prejudices and thoughts to build certain expectations only to have God shock me by his actions and I realize I was wrong. I am wrong more often than I want to admit and much more often than people realize. God is often surprising me just as he surprised those men who wanted to stone the adulteress woman, just as he surprised the pharisees at Peter's house, just as he surprised the people at Lazarus' tomb, just as he surprised his disciples in the storm, just as he surprised James' and John's mother, just as he surprised the dinner guests at the pharisee's dinner party. If we are absolutely certain that we know how God is going to respond to situations we better be prepared to be surprised, unless you are able to see things with the Father's heart.

As we can see in the study of God's Word, our Father puts love and forgiveness above any sin. He isn't interested in the situation or the circumstances as much as he is interested and concerned about the person. When the woman was dragged before Jesus he did not see the sin first, he saw the woman and her need to be accepted and forgiven. Jesus did just that as he sent her on her way with the command not to sin any more. If we stand and see all the wrong things people are doing then we will never be able to respond to them in the manner of the Father. If we are able to look past their actions, whatever they may be, and see the person who God loves, then forgiveness should become easy as they become a real person to us. It really doesn't matter what sin a person is involved in because what they really need is to know God responds to them the same way the father responded to his prodigal son.

To be perfectly honest, I feel shame when God is able to surprise me even when it comes to his response to me. I have allowed this world and my fellow believers to jade my perspective of people. I have stopped expecting God to change hearts and to intervene in situations. I find myself expecting the worse from people instead of God's best. I expect failure. I look for people to sink to the lowest common denominator and I am constantly surprised by our Father when he lifts them higher that I could have imagined possible. I am embarrassed because such an attitude leads me to mess up in a lot of things but especially with relationships. I realize that God does not think like us and often our ways are not his ways but at the same time the Word tells us:

"For who has known the mind of the Lord
      that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.
(2 Corinthians 2:16)

Paul was most likely addressing a statement from the Corinthians as he taught them that wisdom comes from the Spirit. That's the thing, we who are in Christ have no excuse for being surprised by God because we have the mind of Christ. The Spirit is our guide and teacher. He allows us to see people and situations through the heart of our Father, if we allow him to and if we are allowing ourselves to be transformed. Our expectations should be that we will see God's greatness in everyone and in everything because we know that our Father is at work. We should also not be surprised by what he asks us to do in accordance with his heart for people because we know his heart and we have the mind of Christ. We cannot afford to allow ours or anyone else's prejudices and low expectations cloud the vision God has for us. Know your heart before God, insure that it is aligned with his and allow his love to reveal the beauty he sees in all of us.

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