Think of the myriads of problems we face in our culture because of our insistence that the way we see things is the correct evaluation of reality. My cause, my values, my definition of “good” overrule yours. I might not say it to your face, but I will snicker about it and berate you behind your back to my friends (who, of course agree with my views). Polarization is the rule of the day. We cannot listen or discuss our differences, perhaps because we have been conditioned to feel outrage instead of weighing the alternatives. Perhaps our opinions are too fragile to withstand scrutiny and challenge, or maybe we refuse to seriously consider alternatives because they threaten our world view. The filters that breed this mindset have been subtly inserted into our lifestyles by the entertainment industry, media, and education. So here we stand with our technology and its instant access to facts and information, confident in our superiority to both our predecessors and dissenters. We flagrantly judge and condemn them for their narrowness and bigotry, condemning their world view and defining them by their mistakes. We do this from a position of “progress” and certainty. We react with hate (to one degree or another) as a response to failure. We have developed a “tunnel vision” which excludes all but our own evaluation and opinion. I wonder how this kind of social dialogue – or rather, lack thereof- is going to work out for us!
Is it a coincidence that this has happened alongside the marginalization of God and morality in our day? We seem to look at God along the lines of preferences rather than from a comprehensive perspective. He is either all grace and goodness and unwilling to punish sin or He is cruel and demanding and not worthy to be served. Verses can be quoted to support either viewpoint, along with myriads of personalized outlooks in between. Tunnel vision is not just a societal symptom. It is a spiritual condition that needs treatment. Healing here would profoundly change the attitude landscape of our generation. Sounds like we need some salt!
Having been burned by the failures of religion we are skeptical! We can’t know what is true, can we? This is not a new phenomenon. Israel had the same problem so God sent Hosea to speak for Him. He starts out by telling them they have replaced relationship with Him by human ideas of worship, and are therefore dying because of a lack of knowledge. (Hos 3:6) He talks at length about punishment, judgment, and destruction. It would be easy to stop there and think we have the whole picture of God – a demanding despot intolerant of disobedience. Where’s the love, you might ask? Perhaps our concept of love is part of the misunderstanding of God’s heart. We think love overlooks and dismisses “mistakes” (more often willful missteps), but the depth of God’s loving care for us and His infinite wisdom towards His beloved creation cannot settle for superficiality – He desires intimacy and wants us to be capable of it. So His threatened rejection and judgment on His people is intended to induce the felt need for returning to Him. Ignorance about His character is certainly not bliss! He tells us that “people without understanding are ruined.” (Hosea 4:14) We end up blaming God for our failures, and we mischaracterize Him for problems of our own making. Our tunnel vision gives us a false picture of the Lover of our Souls, and we resist Him. In truth, God “does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men”. (Lam 3:33) He says He has wounded but He will heal (Hos 6:1) – if we allow it!! No one feels like it is the doctor’s kindness when he re-breaks the arm to set it properly. We hate the painful shots that inoculate us from devastating disease. God’s love is more than warm and fuzzy – it is redemptive. But He dignifies us with choice! Unfortunately, clinging to our false ideas of who God is, defining Him by only a portion of what we see of Him often prevents us from embracing Him in love. Rather we hold ourselves aloof in destructive self defense. Our willful opinions and habits block our way to God (Hos 5:4). And yet His heart towards us is revealed! “I would redeem them but they speak lies against Me and do not cry to Me from their hearts.” (Hos 7:13) “…they did not know that I healed them…they refused to return to Me … My people are bent on turning from Me.” (Hos 11) In this context, despite the adamant disrespectful dishonoring of their Lover, God yet longs for His people to return to Him so that He can do good to them. I think this wraps up God’s story in a nutshell.
God has gone to such lengths to reveal Himself that He inspired poets, songsters and prophets to record His thoughts, historians to account His methods, and then, because of His commitment to broadcast His intentions He comes down Himself, ingratiating Himself as a human. As such He reveals the blending of justice with mercy, love with truth, and wins life from death. Not for Himself, mind you, does He inflict all this aggravation on Jesus! He stops at nothing to woo and win a people who will appreciate Him and advertise His true character with their devotion to Him and passion for others. He does not demand – He invites. Will we be like those who were too busy with houses, wives, farms or whatever to accept the King’s invitation? The response is to “Take words (not sacrifice or penance) with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him, ‘Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously …’” (Hos 14:2) If we do this, our return in humility to the place of creature in a Kingdom not ruled by ourselves and our opinion, will truly enable us to be salt and light in a deteriorating culture – influencing the world with an infectious care for the thoughts and feelings of others.
For further consideration:
Those Divine demands which sound to our natural ears most like those of a despot and least like those of a lover, in fact marshal us where we should want to go if we knew what we wanted. He demands our worship, our obedience, our prostration. Do we suppose that they can do Him any good, or fear, like the chorus in Milton, that human irreverence can bring about ‘His glory’s diminution’? A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell. But God wills our good, and our good is to love Him (with that responsive love proper to creatures) and to love Him we must know Him: and if we know Him, we shall in fact fall on our faces. If we do not, that only shows that what we are trying to love is not yet God— though it may be the nearest approximation to God which our thought and fantasy can attain. Yet the call is not only to prostration and awe; it is to a reflection of the Divine life, a creaturely participation in the Divine attributes which is far beyond our present desires. We are bidden to ‘put on Christ’, to become like God. That is, whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want. Once more, we are embarrassed by the intolerable compliment, by too much love, not too little.
From The Problem of Pain
C S Lewis