Monday, June 29, 2015

A Thought for Monday 29 June 2015

It’s always the same thing.  One guy says, “God’s not dead” (and yes, this is also a movie title), and suddenly the flood gates burst open with Christians declaring their allegiance … until an atheist/agnostic/internet troll demands, “Prove it”.  It makes me think of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day demanding “signs” (Matthew 12:38).  In that particular text Jesus refers to Jonah and his message to the people of Nineveh, the people who repented and turned to The Lord after hearing Jonah’s message.  The people of Nineveh, Jesus says, “will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah” (vs 41). 

What is it that makes a devout atheist demand a “sign”?  And what sort of “sign” would it take to make an atheist come around?  What sort of “sign” would push an agnostic off the fence?  Come to think of it, what kind of “sign” would bring complacent Christians around and back into the fellowship of the Church?  What sort of “sign” would convince Christians that being “saved” does not give us license to do as we please when we please?  That being “saved” does not make adultery, idolatry, lust, slander, hatefulness, vindictiveness, and vengeance somehow magically righteous? 

When the rich man died and was “in torments in Hades” (Luke 16:19-31), he begged Abraham to allow Lazarus, who had also died and was resting in the “bosom of Abraham”, to go back and warn his family about what awaits them (apparently his family was as selfish and uncaring as he).  Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (vs 29).  The formerly rich man insisted that nothing short of the miraculous resurrection of Lazarus would convince them, but Abraham replied, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead”.

Remember Jesus was telling that story.  More than simply imparting a parable, however, Jesus was indicating that even upon His own Resurrection there will still be many who will not believe.  If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will a resurrection get through to them.

In both instances (Jonah/Nineveh and Lazarus/rich man) Jesus points backward as the way forward for the people of faith.  What we need to know in order to serve Jesus and His Church faithfully is in the Law (not just the Ten Commandments) and the prophets, both of which Jesus came to fulfill/perfect.  That Law from which Jonah preached saved Nineveh.  That same Law, from which Jesus taught and which affirms that “the first will be last, and the last first”, saved Lazarus and condemned the rich man. 

So what is the “sign” we all desire?  And let’s face it; from time to time even the faithful would really like to have some kind of affirmation, some sort of validation for enduring this life, taking the punches we sometimes take!  Jesus teaches that a “sign” was given long ago and that if we are unwilling to believe that, there is likely nothing else – not even a resurrection – that will convince us. 

But what are we trying to be convinced of?  Or what are we trying to convince others about?  The plausibility of a living God?  Or the reality of a loving God? 

I think that question must be answered first before we can even begin to answer questions of unbelievers.



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