Wednesday, October 23, 2013

When God Looks at Our World, What Does God See?

 The conclusion to the parable of the widow and unjust judge is a question: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).

In this context, faith is not about believing certain things; rather, it is about being faithful to God’s cause in the world. Unfortunately, the major concern of many Christians relates to believing things about Jesus. Can you imagine why that would be important to God? Can you think of a good reason why believing things about Jesus would make much difference to God? Faith doesn’t depend on reason, but shouldn’t our faith be a reasonable faith?

Surely, God cares more about how we treat one another than the specifics of our beliefs. More important than believing things about Jesus or even having faith in Jesus is the need to have the faith of Jesus, to be faithful to the cause (kingdom) of God in the world.

To have the faith of Jesus means that we will love God and neighbor as ourselves, even if the neighbor is a Samaritan, even if the neighbor is someone we don’t particularly like, or even if the neighbor is someone who wants to do us harm. To have the faith of Jesus means that we will pray for him and do good by him.

To have the faith of Jesus means that we will trust God with our fears, insecurities, and anxieties, and seek first God’s just world. It means that we will join Christ in his work to liberate the oppressed and set the captives free—whether the captivity is to physical disease, mental illness, spiritual angst, or whether it is a captivity to political, social, economic, or religious powers that exclude, impoverish, and destroy life.

The question, “When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth?” can be translated into our time and context by asking: When the living Christ, when God, when the Divine (use whatever name you like) looks at our world (we are using human images and words to talk about God here because that is all we have), what does God see?

Does God see people who are being faithful to live in right relationship to each other, to God, and to the creation?

If you have not seen the movie, The Abyss (1989), I urge you to. A US ballistic missile submarine, the USS Montana, sinks near the edge of the Cayman Trough after some accidental encounter with an unidentified object. With a hurricane moving in and Soviet ships and submarines wanting to get to the sub, the Americans decide that the quickest way to mount a rescue is to insert a navy SEAL team onto a privately owned, experimental underwater oil drilling platform called the Deep Core. The designer of the platform, Dr. Lindsey Brigman, insists on accompanying the SEAL team, even though her estranged husband, Virgil “Bud” Brigman, is currently serving as the platform’s foreman.

As the SEALS and platform crew attempt to discover the cause of the Montana’s failure, they come into contact with strange creatures they cannot identify, which they later call “NTIs” (“non-terrestrial intelligence”). The story is largely about their interaction with the NTI’s and the renewal of the relationship between Bud and Lindsey, who had never stopped loving one another.

When one of the Navy SEALS goes crazy, they lose a live nuclear warhead timed to explode down the trough where the NTI’s live. Bud descends on a one way trip to disarm it. He communicates by means of a keypad on his arm. He says to Lindsey, “Knew this was a one-way ticket, but you knew I had to come.” The last thing he says is, “Love you, wife.”

After he disarms the warhead, he waits to die. Just as his air is about to run out and he is about to lose consciousness, an NTI comes to his side and takes him to a massive NTI spacecraft sitting in the trench. In the ship, they create an atmosphere for him to breathe.

The NTI’s have created enormous megasunami-level waves that threaten every coastline; they are stalled towering above the coasts. The NTI’s show Bud images of humanity’s destructive behavior on a view screen, destroying and killing one another. But then they show the messages of self-sacrifice and love he wrote with his keypad. The NTI’s conclude that there is hope for humanity and they cause the standing sunamis to recede harmlessly back into the sea.

In spite of all the ways we mar and malign, diminish and destroy one another and our planet, I believe that God sees the human potential for goodness, for justice, for love.

Jeremiah envisions a day when the hearts of God’s people are so changed that they don’t even need laws to tell them what to do, because they instinctively know what to do, they intuitively know how to act justly, live mercifully, and walk humbly (Jer. 31:31-34). Certainly Jeremiah’s vision of the new covenant was a God inspired vision.

Like the NTI’s watching humanity, God sees what we can become. I believe God has great hope for humanity. God obviously has great patience.

The early Christians asked, “When the Son of Man comes will he find us faithful, will he find us praying for and working for justice?” We should be asking, “When God takes an inventory of our lives and relationships right now, when God’s looks at us, what does God see?

Does God see us involved and engaged in God’s redemptive and restorative justice? Are we praying for and serving God’s dream for a world made right and whole? Are we becoming more or are we becoming less than what God hopes for and is calling us to be? 

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