The painting Living Water by Simon Dewey.
“The Lord moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.” So wrote the poet William Cowper, though it seems each time He moves in a mysterious way there is a rushed disclaimer that it was not the Lord after all.
Yesterday, I posted a short note and a video by a young Canadian man, Chris Tse, entitled, “I’m sorry I’m a Christian.” There was some discussion on this site and I participated in a lively discussion on the Facebook page of a friend, Michael Ray Kear. Saying anyway what goes without saying, opinions were sharply divided.
This writing is neither to explore, examine or defend Chris’ poem. It speaks for itself. The deeper question for followers of Jesus seems to be, “How do we respond when God breaks through in a way that we are not expecting?” We can even take this question farther as ask, “What happens when God breaks through in a way that I’ve always believed was not something God would do?”
In opening this particular Pandora’s box, there are two specific biblical examples that will suffice. The first comes from the life of Isaiah; the other from the life of Jesus.
Imagine if you will walking down the street to the loud call of, “REPENT!! JUDGMENT IS COMING!” Ambling over to a gathered crowd you see a naked, adult male (not covered with sandwich boards) preaching that the Lord is angry with some country and is about to send judgment to it. Upon further questioning, you find that the nude dude has been about this for two and a half years and thinks he probably has about six months to go on his assignment. Tactfully keeping your eyes averted you ask, “Uhm. And why is it necessary to be preaching without benefit of your clothes? Do you think God really is pleased by this?”
He replies, “Who do you think told me to preach naked? The devil? God’s point is that He is going to shame [insert sinful country] like one who walks around with his/her backside exposed should be shamed!”
Now consider Isaiah 20, verses 2-4 (HCSB):
During that time the Lord has spoken through Isaiah son of Amoz saying, ‘Go, take off your sackcloth and remove the sandals from your feet,’ and he did so, going naked and barefoot-the Lord said, ‘As my servant Isaiah has gone naked and barefoot three years as a sign and omen against Egypt and the exiles of Cush, young and old alike, naked and barefoot, with bared buttocks, to Egypt’s shame.
At this point, I’m sure someone will hurry to say, “WAIT! He wasn’t really naked! He had his underwear on.”
That will not fly and here’s why. The Hebrew word translated naked is used more than 40 times in the Old Testament. Each time it means unclothed. Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:25). Moses saw the children of Israel were naked to their shame (Exodus 32:25). Saul stripped off his clothes and lay down naked (1 Samuel 19:24). Job came naked from his mother’s womb and supposed his naked return (Job 2:21). Are we to assume that Eve was strolling around in her best Victoria’s Secret ensemble or that Job was born with his boxers on?
God even clarified it by noting their “bared buttocks.” He’s talking nekkid.
The fact is that God commanded Isaiah to do something so far out of the box, so far against what most modern Christians cannot conceive is holy is significant. Many conservatives would say, “God would never command someone to preach naked; it’s against His character.” Well, He did it. Talk to Him about the character issue.
No life has been more appreciated by unbelievers than the life of Jesus Christ and no life has been more glamorized by believers than the life of Jesus Christ. When you get right down to how some conservative Christians view Christ it is little more than the ethereal goofiness of Deepak Chopra.
One of the most celebrated passages in all of the gospels is Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4. We trumpet that as the love of God to a prostitute, talk about “divine appointments,” wonder at worship not attached to a place, rejoice that everyone everywhere can know God and, being 2,000 years and thousands of miles removed from the context, miss the scandalous, disreputable things that Jesus did in this story.
It is necessary to remember that Jesus was a rabbi. Rabbis were not supposed to speak to women. They were not supposed to speak to women alone. They certainly were not supposed to speak to sinful women. Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. In at least four ways, Jesus did what was unthinkable.
In fact, if a pastor today did exactly what Jesus did, he’d probably lose his job. John wrote (John 4:4), “[Jesus] had to go through Samaria.” Why? To have an isolated meeting with a prostitute-not for sex, but for salvation.
This woman’s eternal destiny was more important that His own reputation so Jesus was willing to face the wonderment of the returning disciples who knew He was violating protocol (4:27). Jesus made Himself no reputation, which is more than a philosophical, theological pondering. It was a practical reality. Virtually everything He did shattered the preconceptions of “what God would and would not do.” What would God do? EXACTLY what Jesus did in every situation.
The very incarnation of Jesus Christ was God pulling a Chris Tse on the entire world. Jesus arrest and trial was based on a charge of blasphemy–“that he being a man claimed to be God.” Is it so hard to see that God saved the world through appearing to violate the tenets of His own law? It was a sin, punishable by death, for a man to claim to be God. So what does God do? He appears as a man and claims to be God.
There is your all-eternity, all-universe stumbling block.
I’m not saying or even implying that God sins. I am saying that God has regularly done things throughout history that religious people-even His people-did not believe could come from God.
If we are not careful, in our quest to be right in all things we may inadvertently miss righteousness in the process.
So I cannot say whether Chris Tse was being obedient to God; no one can. But I can say that it’s just like something God might do.