People – good, well-meaning, faithful people, people of all colors and stripes and flavors – cannot go through the course of their lives and NOT have experiences that lead them to ask the hard questions of God. Questions that get birthed in moments of trial and tragedy, or in the midst of fear and trauma that call God into question and even demand an answer are all part and parcel to one thing that all people have in common: We’re human. Being human means that we will all at times in the course of our lives want to grab God by the lapels of God’s robes and shake out answers that will enable us to get past whatever we are dealing with at the moment. Can anyone say, “Job”?
But as much as that is true, it is equally true that often we are stopped short in the middle of the journey before the questions that God asks us. Again, Can you say, “Job”? Ultimately that is part of what it means to be human, too, isn’t it? If God is God, to stand in the stillness of mis-understanding and confusion, and listen. “Where…were…you…when…I, God…made…everything?” Frankly, I can’t stand it when God pulls that card, God’s ace in the hole.
One of those questions I’ve been pondering this week that came from the lips of the Lord himself is this: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). Who does Jesus think he is? Relationships in a post-modern world aren’t built for such bold assertions, such brazen claims and judgments about right living. We are far too…what? Maybe you can say it to yourself better than I can write it.
The question Jesus asks is really messing me over. I know it is getting at something that will interrupt my established and comfortable patterns of behavior. Maybe if I just let it pass, don’t try to answer it, or look too closely at what it may be tinkering with in my soul, I can skirt around it without enduring the wounds dealing with it will inevitably open up. And I know that wounds will open up, some old and some new. I know this because of what Jesus taught, in this case, just before he asks this blasted question.
How does this grab you, tiger? (I hear that in my dad’s voice, BTW) “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray…” Okay, that’s enough! Son of a…gun!
Try this: “Don’t judge, and you will not be judged. Don’t condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive…Give…” Cerrraap!
More reality, that I deny to be real: “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit.” If you only knew! Man! If you only knew.
You know, I stand before this question, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” and blatantly say in response, “Look, I like my life fine, Lord, thank you very much!” But I am really trying not to be fooled. I like my secure life and secure way of being in the world, but facing up to Jesus’ word reminds me that it isn’t secure at all. It’s just that I don’t want to take the risks involved in doing it differently, by which I mean, doing it the way Jesus says. It requires too much. What’s that really outdated and outmoded word? It requires too much…Submission. Yep. That’s it.
I take some measure of comfort, though. This question, which has a very clear and obvious response even though we deny it for ourselves, comes with a promise; a promise from someone who knows what he’s talking about and who has the authority to fulfill it, having died on a cross and conquored the grave: That if we respond appropriately to the question, we’ll find the solid ground we seek. O me of little faith.