Thursday, November 29, 2007

My New Purpose

If I'm to believe the reports, voter turnout in Canada is very unhealthy. Especially among the younger generation. While this is quite sad in a political sense, I really appreciate the fact that many people who turn their backs to politics don't vote ignorantly--that is, based on their perception of parties or candidates. To use a fairly universal example, I know a tonne of people who hate President Bush but couldn't cite many of his poor decisions. What has happened is this: many of us have a reached a point of such diluted attention spans that we allow vignette news stories to decide opinions for us. I would have much more respect for someone who reads all the party platforms and votes against my principles than someone who votes with me ignorantly. Not only is it ludicrous to prostrate ourselves to public opinion; it's also very dangerous. I would even go as far as to cite it as the paramount flaw with democracy. Those who educate themselves have equal say as those who don't. This will never make sense to me, and it has nothing to do with political affiliations and everything to do with the culture of ignorance that has filtered into our countries. Would people even be concerned with the environment if it weren't trendy? Clearly not. If that were the case, we would have sought renewable energy solutions a long time ago.

What prompted to me write this? Why, my scriptural reading over the past week and a half. I've already noted that I still find it surreal when I stop and compare myself with my old life. It really shames me that a lot of my previous Biblical knowledge was a diluted account of the actual text. "Hey, did you know that it says this or that in the Bible? Isn't that ridiculous? God is such a vengeful miser. Yadda yadda." Quite honestly, if you only zoom in on certain passages, that's a pretty fair conclusion. But consider for a moment how fair the world would be if we tried criminal suspects that way. What if we chose to take a tunnel-visioned approach and just hear the testimony of one side? Would that enable us to sentence anyone fairly? No. But as soon as God is the one on trial--as if we could ever have a right to try the loving Being who created us and all that surrounds us--people seem willing to conclude things based on the testimony of liberal agenda pushers and the PC police.

In the last week and a half, I've read from Exodus to Judges, which I'll finish later this evening. I've seen the true versions of many paraphrased portions that once served as hurdles between my intellectual mind and my willingness to submit to God. What I invariably conclude, in all of these seemingly extreme outcomes, is that humanity is always the first to offend. If you believe the scripture, and I certainly do, none of us would be here were it not for Noah, who found favour in God's eyes amidst a world of detestable sin. God felt compelled to destroy it all, just as I would if I were to create a people that would eventually come to represent everything I abhor. But surrounded by countless awful deeds was a man who acted in accordance with God's will, at least as it had been conveyed to that point. And so God chose to spare him and repopulate the world with his descendants.

Fast forward to Exodus (and forgive my lack of citations, for now). It would be easy for a rational thinker to sympathize with the Egyptians. Even if you want to discount the fact that Noah's descendants were oppressed by these people, you could argue that God might have tried to soften their hearts instead of making them the token guinea pig during the life of Moses. But that's not what happened. They were punished in accordance with their crimes. They enslaved God's people, and He acted quite dutifully in releasing Israel from Pharaoh's iron grip. And then Israel lived happily ever after? Not at all, my friend. After witnessing miracle after miracle, receiving blessing after blessing, Israel griped and moaned. Everything was provided for them, and yet they always seemed inclined to cry out to God as if to say, "Yes, LORD, You have done much for us. But we think we might be convinced if we had just one more olive branch as a testimony of Your love."

I guess you need to read it all to understand, but this seems so fickle to me. We are very fortunate that Jesus Christ came to earth as a man and paid the debt for all our sin, effectively creating a ladder for us to get into Heaven. Of course, it rests on the individual to climb it, but it's there. Of course, just as voter interest has been diluted over the years, so has the contingency of faithful. Our laws have been glossed over with generic versions of their old selves. It saddens me that even if we could behold the types of Old Testament miracles I've been reading about, we'd still probably fall from grace. I mean, God's acts are so beyond any scientific technology we could develop that you'd think people would have forever raised their children to bow down to His grace. Again, not at all. As soon as compelling leaders like Joseph son of Jacob or Moses or Joshua passed away, people lost their faith. Makes you wonder if it was even God they revered in the first place, or was it the human representatives He chose?

As people drifted from God's will, God continued to provide. The books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy describe many a law and covenant that God handed down so we might have ways to demonstrate our love to Him. Some seem almost cultish (the sacrifice of burnt offerings, for instance), but who are we to question the offerings He requested, when exchange we stood to gain eternal life?

Suppose it were possible to speak to the old me again. If you were to describe to him the process of making a sin offering, without any of the surrounding info, he would have thought God quite an adept cult leader. Thanks to God's grace and forgiveness, none of which I deserved, I've changed my stance on these rituals. I see them as further offerings, as I describe above. Instead of expecting perfection, God provided Israel with very visual, very methodical ways of demonstrating their obedience. I used to think that God was the mean and Christ was the kind one. Christ's ministry was very forgiving and restorative, at least from the side of the coin. I've no doubt that when you stand in front of Him and are judged for the way you live, He returns the same verdict God would. But what I didn't appreciate until I actually read the Bible for myself was just how generous Old Testament God is. We all get tempted. We all have sinful thoughts. But God saw beyond these and offered a cumulative set of ways to atone for our increasingly evil deeds.

Why do so many non-believers twist this grace into anything sinister? Because, as I used to feel, it's in our nature to want to live for ourselves. We are all inclined to selfishness. But I've learned over the last several weeks, cleansing oneself much more rewarding. It's not an easy process, but it leaves me feeling complete. I have God's presence with me whenever I choose to acknowledge it. My days are populated with prayer, even little blurbs here and there, when something goes well or when I feel myself in need of patience. I hand over all that is good and bad in my life to the LORD, and He reciprocates every time, whether it be in erasing my doubts or depressions or offering new blessings. Sometimes I'm not meant to have what I want, and He helps to erase those empty desires. There is a time for all these things, and I see that.

But man, does it ever tick me off when I read how generation after generation of people who saw much more visual signs of God's grace were still stubborn. They were still willing to submit to earthly idols admist irrefutable signs of God's authority. Call me a radical, but I've come to the point where I know what God's intent is: it's to gather all His people into His kingdom. I've also come to another realization: those who refuse, especially to the extremity I read about in Judges, get what they deserve.

I can't explain why I've been given so many chances to walk God's path, and I certainly don't consider myself any better than any person who ever lived. I wouldn't take the aggressive approach with people on the fence, and I hope my comments will be limited to the people described in the gospel. I believe in the principle of helping people mend their lives, not throwing the book at them. It just really bugs me when people think they've been given the short end because these are the ones who fit the classic definition of insanity: trying to same thing multiple times and expecting different results. That was me. I tried to live for myself and lay claim to all my deeds and accomplishments, and none of them ever left me with a feeling of satisfaction. Now that my eyes have been opened, I could kick the old me in the neck.

The thing is, though, don't let anyone tell you who to worship or how to vote. Especially me. Take the onus upon yourself to know the basis of every word you breathe and every action you take. If you aren't genuinely satisfied with your life, try something else. Even if you need to take another five steps before trying to know the LORD, don't settle for an unsatisfying life.

Now then, my purpose: I will defend with every ounce of my intellect the scripture I once scorned. That's one of the reasons my updates have been so sparse laterly; I'm trying to read every book of the gospel so that I might familiarize myself with it. I feel like a new kitten that was adopted into a large house. First I must sniff my way through each room (i.e. each book) to know what's inside. Once I know where things are, I can seek them out as need warrants. I must learn where my figurative dish is, the coziest spots to rest, the parts to seek when I need comfort. And yes, even where my litter box is.

It will likely take a lifetime of study to even begin to wrap my little brain around the subtler points, but for now I will satisfy myself to just know the story and where things are. Whatever insight God chooses to plant into my head, I will share it with you. It's just become very apparent that a lot of these stories intertwine with one another. There are cumulative things that lead to certain acts or situations, and it seems evermore closed-minded for me to wrestle with things on a micromagerial level. Of course, I seldom feel the need to rebel against any of the Word, so that too is a great comfort to me. I believe every ounce of what I've read thus far, and if my testimony is worth anything to you, then there you have it. But don't just accept it; read these books for yourself. We are none of us entitled to an opinion on something we don't understand. No exceptions.


Blogger Slave Morality said...

Very interesting to hear your take on the more heavily critisized portions of the Old Testament. Someday I'll have to dive into it myself.

Just wanted to drop a line and let you know I'm still loving these posts!


29/11/07 21:06  

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