We have a maddening habit of popularizing, promoting, commodifying, and consumerizing EVERYTHING. We do this because we’re rampantly insecure, and we’re desperately compensating. We’re incessantly groping and clawing for ‘fulfillment,’ but we’re never full. We even attempted to popularize and commodify God in the flesh! …But He makes it impossible for us. Our popularity paradigm insists that God be bougie, but God is born in a backwater podunk, and He’s raised in NAZARETH! (John 1:46). The only place worse than Nazareth is perhaps Samaria! And, wouldn’t you know it, God makes it a point to frequent that contemptible ghetto as well! (John 4:4, 34). And still, our craving to commodify God is so strong, we persistently clamor to celebrityify Him (see Mark 1:37), and God’s consistent response is to move away from the crowds (Mark 1:38), make Himself contemptible (i.e. preach) (see John 6:66), and dwell in desolate places (Mark 1:45). It feels like God is intentionally making it hard for us to celebrate and admire Him, because even when He shows up in public, He makes it a point to hang around with the sicky, unrighteous, sinful people (Mark 2:17). Which brings me to the crux of this blog post…
There are two major questions we’re all intuitively asking:
- How do I qualify?
- What do I do with all my questions?
Despite all the ways we disagree with God, we can’t stop wondering how to qualify for His team. God is the Author of our existence afterall, so there’s simply no getting around our craving His approval. The pervasive (and pernicious) misconception is that we must impress God, and merit our spot on His team. But God says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17); “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13). The qualification for making the team is not our impressiveness and merit, but our neediness and honest confession of demerit(s) which lead us to depend solely upon His mercy! Essentially, you qualify for Team God the same way a sick person qualifies for a hospital bed …admittance is based on defect and neediness.
Another way of saying it is, “God is a shepherd, so in order to ‘qualify’ you must be a sheep.” There are few creatures less flattering to be compared with! Sheep are disease-prone, dense, dim-witted beasts; requiring round-the-clock supervision and constant intervening care! The wisest thing a sheep can do is remember, “I’m a sheep, I should not trust in myself, and I should not lean on my own understanding; in all my ways I ought to look to, and lean upon, the Good Shepherd!” We often reject the idea that we’re sheep, and we strut around like roosters. We boast of our own greatness, and we say, “Even if everyone else is sheepy, I will transcend sheepiness …I will be the exception!” But God loves us too much to let us persist in this foolishness; He breaks our enchantment with force (Matthew 16:23; Luke 22:34), and He mercifully reminds us that His manner of perfecting power is through our weakness (Luke 22:32; 2 Corinthians 12:9).
And that, to say the least, is a paradox! Which leads to the next big question…
What are we supposed to do with all our questions? The pervasive (and pernicious) misconception is that God doesn’t want us asking questions. We have the erroneous impression that God feels disrespected by our questions, and it would be irreverent of us to make inquiries of God. But the fact is, not only is God okay with our questions, He’s actually NOT OKAY with us suppressing our questions! Believe it or not, God actually insists on us asking questions, and He receives worship when we ask them! For example, God insists that you read, and personally appropriate, His Word (…you always hear Him saying, “Have you not read,” and “It is written,” and “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God“), and IF you ACTUALLY READ His Word then you will read stuff like, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1). Do these questions strike you as ‘irreverent’? Does it seem disrespectful and blasphemous to ask God, “How long will you forget me?” as if God is not omniscient and/or has amnesia? The Psalms, are not just personal diary entries… they are personal diary entries that were published and sung as songs of communal worship! God is not displeased with these heartfelt questions, He is refreshed and honored by them!
In Matthew chapter 9 the disciples of John the Baptist come to God, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” Notice what God does with this question… He doesn’t condemn them for asking, but rather He ushers them further into the paradox of His Kingdom, which will invariably involve them asking more and more questions! God says, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” If you read that and don’t have any follow-up questions, then you’re not reading it right (i.e. you’re being a lazy reader, or you’re lying about your ability to automatically understand the mysteries of God).
So let’s be really clear…
We qualify for God’s team via weakness, and we comprehensively depend upon His mercy.
God paradoxically perfects His power in our weakness, and bids us be stewards of His mysteries.