For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
1 Corinthians 1:25
Such humble words, especially coming from the man who wrote the bulk of the New Testament. A man whose writings – at least the ones which the Holy Spirit allowed to transcend time and decay – carry the full authority of God Himself. For the first time in my life, I know exactly what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote that.
One my pet peeves regarding modern religion is its need to reduce the Word of God down to a series of trite practices, a list of ‘things to do’ that are cut-and-dry, easily understood. This began in the first century, but it didn’t end there. Christianity has fragmented into countless denominations, and has spawned a host of quasi-pagan groups who only use Jesus’ name to sucker in ex-Christians.
The Church has split, fallen away and scattered for no other reason than man’s inability to shrug his shoulders and say ‘I don’t know’. To admit that he doesn’t grasp all of Scripture, and that he can’t wrap his mind around the concept of the Omnipotent, Triune God. We make up doctrines to fill in the gaps in the Gospel, and create practices to satisfy our small-minded inability to grasp His awesome nature.
What we’ve all missed is that those apparent ‘gaps’ are there for a purpose. The Bible was not written as a clear-cut, A, B, and C series of directives for a reason. Because to have done so would have taken all the mystery, the majesty and wonder out of the nature of God. We were meant to always seek, to ask and ponder. We were meant to always stand before God with that big question mark floating over our frazzled little heads.
I’m not saying that the Bible doesn’t have the answers to all the questions that really matter. The monumentally important commandments regarding everything from baptism to stealing to murder are crystal-clear, and unmistakable.
Yet the finer points of doctrine are often fuzzy, and difficult to figure out. Equally as difficult to grasp from the Scriptures is the nature of God Himself, even though the important facets of His nature cannot be misunderstood. We know that He loves us. We know that if we reject His love, His just nature leaves him no other option than to judge us – and doing such a thing grieves Him immeasurably, precisely because He loves us so.
But is it okay for a woman twice married, who just became a Christian, to go back and marry her first husband even though he’s divorced and belongs to a different denomination? Should baptisms be performed immediately upon request by the sinner – or does the Church have a responsibility to make sure that the sinner has repented first, and understands what he’s doing? What if the sinner gets hit by a bus while the Church is sorting these things out; does the Church then have blood on its hands? On the other hand, was Mr. Drop-of-a-Hat-Baptisee’s conversion really honored by God if he didn’t repent first?
Am I bad Christian with a poor understanding of Scripture, for not knowing any of these answers?
I don’t know that answers to any of these questions. To further complicate things, I can make up arguments (using the Scriptures) for all sorts of opposing viewpoints regarding them.
And that’s okay.
Because what matters is that I tried to understand them, to have a clean conscience before God regarding His commandments. After all, what need is there for faith, trust and hope when one is handed a legalistic set of picayunish rules, such as one finds in the Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches?
When I stand before the Great White Throne of Judgment, what will count is not that I understood the entire word of God. It will not matter that I was unable to fully grasp the majesty of the Lord. It will be inconsequential that I couldn’t make heads nor tails of a great deal of the Bible.
Absolutely none of this will be important to God; I am entirely convinced of this.
What will matter is that, by the grace of God, I believed in the absence of understanding. What will matter is that I worshipped wholeheartedly, that I trusted completely. What will matter is that I let God to be God, and didn’t try to force Him to fit within the confines of my own mind. (As if I could really do such a thing, anyway… but trying is the ultimate arrogance!)
What will matter is that I didn’t try to make up a bunch of hokey explanations, that I simply looked upon the wonder of my Creator and said ‘I don’t understand’ – but believed anyway.
If only all of Christendom could do the same. It might then all be saved, instead of being half damned.
It’s important for me to understand God, of course. But what is more important is what I don’t understand. Because in my ‘not knowing’ – in those ambiguous spaces between the clear-cut truths – there lies unlimited room for faith, love, hope, humility and trust.
Praise be to God for all that He has revealed to His church, His people – those whom He has snatched from the jaws of Hell.
But more importantly, praise be to God for the realities hidden from us, for those hard to understand truths…
Praise be to Him for all that He didn’t reveal!