Genie v. God
While teaching a young adult group called Micah, I asked for a list of things that God has done in their lives as an answer to prayer. Silence. Maybe that was the wrong question. Does God answer prayers? Head nods. What is an example of a prayer God won’t answer? “To win the lottery!” (I agreed through personal experience.) If a person can not answer these questions, why pray at all? Collective sighs. It seems to me that one can’t pray unless one can name what God will do in response. Crickets. How can anyone have a deep relationship with God without answers to these questions? Cell phone glances. What is God’s role in your relationship?
I thought it might be helpful to draw analogies. I had compared God to a wish granting Santa for good little girls and boys in their past but was ready from something new. I certainly hope God is not offended with me drawing comparisons between God and a Genie; however, it challenges me to consider the nature of God, and how God is revealed to us in similar ways! If I, (let alone young adults) can imagine the immense power of God while appreciating God’s self-imposed limitations, then I, (we) can have meaningful prayers and build deeper relationships with God when we comprehend God’s nature.
Aladdin’s Genie was bound by three rules. A) Genie cannot kill. B) Genie cannot raise someone from the dead; C) Genie cannot make someone love.
A) A Genie cannot kill. Does God kill? The Old Testament is full of examples of God’s wrath upon humanity which ends in death. Yet, I am a New Testament guy. I can’t read anything in the Bible without imagining Jesus reading it to me. And I simply can’t imagine Jesus giving up on a person or a group of people and simply ending their lives. Jesus is the definition of forgiveness. Jesus is full of unrelenting compassion. No matter how vile, mean, hurtful or horrible a person becomes. . .I cannot envision Jesus drawing a line, seeing no redemption with no possibility for restoration, and essentially giving up on a person and ending human life.
I’ll confess: I have thought about the terrible acts of violence perpetuated by dictators, terrorists, and mass murders and I have wondered: “Jesus, why don’t you end this? Why do you let this happen? You have the power to spare innocent victims the pain inflicted by human evil, so why don’t you intervene?”
Yet, the more I know about Jesus, the more I understand he can’t, simply because he loves. Jesus can never give up on anyone any more than Jesus could give up on me, and I’m so grateful that Jesus never draws a line or looks at my sin and sees no possibility for redemption.
It seems to me that a Genie is bound by his contract to never kill. I believe God is bound by love. Even though God could kill and would have every right, God never reaches for the death penalty, not because God can’t, but won’t.
I look at examples like Noah in the Old Testament. Genesis 6:5-8 5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord.
I try to imagine Jesus reading these words to me and I can’t. Everything I have learned about God through the incarnation of Jesus suggests that these verses do not describe God’s character. God does not use weather to inflict punishment upon humanity and this theology has long since distorted our perception of who God is and how God acts in this world.
There will be some who read this and want to challenge this perception of Biblical interpretation. Again, I am a New Testament kind of guy. If I can’t imagine Jesus reading it to me as truth, then I am in a Biblical pickle. I’m going to study and seek an interpretation that reveals a truth about God and God’s relationship with humanity that is congruent with God as revealed in Christ.
Noah has truth for me because it speaks of faithfulness in the midst of a heathen culture. It challenges me. It inspires me. It calls me to bold acts of faith and trust in the midst of human failing. This is about me and who I am in the crazy world in which I live. It is not about divine wrath as an explanation of weather.
Praise the Lord! God, as revealed through Jesus, is a God of abundant, repetitive, redundant forgiveness and I am a recipient of that grace. Even though humanity gives up on sinners, (i.e. the death penalty) I don’t believe God does and I am deeply grateful.
Socially, are we to live like Jesus? Or, do we separate ourselves from that standard in difficult situations like ramifications of our penal system?
B) The Genie, by design in his contract and manifest in the power bands around his forearms, can’t raise people from the dead. God has that one covered. God been there, done that. Praise the Lord! Moving on.
C) A Genie cannot make someone love. Can God manipulate love? I think that God can. But I think God won’t. Out of my naiveté, I wish God did. I’ve prayed for it. I’ve even been disappointed in God when God did not manipulate someone to choose a loving gesture.
I believe that free will is a gift God has given humanity. I don’t believe we chose it or plucked it from a tree in Eden. I believe that God loves us so much that God gives us the choice to embrace love so that we might know its power and its blessing. Sometimes I wish God didn’t love me so much. Sometimes, I wish God would thrust a loving decision upon me. I want love to be my choice every time; however, selfishness wins more often than not and that is not how I ultimately want to live. God will not force me to love; however, God will move mountains to foster the love I choose.
In my realm of thinking, God does not force love any more than a Genie. YET, God inspires love! Offers love! Works miracles of love! Provokes love! Is love.
This knowledge I have of God has ramifications. It influences the way I pray. Sometimes, I ask God to “fix” the chaos around me. I need solutions to the storms of finance, employment, relationship, health, etc. And in the midst of my “want” I wonder if God doesn’t look at my narrow minded prayer(s) and think, “Tim, I can fix this chaos around you. . .but, instead, if I give you contentment. . . it would be a blessing that would last a lifetime when the next chaos rears its ugly head. I love you too much to offer a temporal fix when what you need is a lasting altered perspective.” Lord, don’t love me so much! Just fix this mess! Work on fixin’ me later!
Love, more specifically divine love, sees a bigger purpose and offers a better solution, than my human eyes easily perceive. I guess that’s why growing in faith, therefore growing in love, is a blessing God desires for us to find on our own rather than force upon us.
Genies can’t force love. God won’t. Wow. Divine love is that incredible.
My goal in my time with Micah, (the young adults) was to get in their heads and help them question preconceived notions about the nature of God. If we can imagine the immense power of God while appreciating God’s self-imposed limitations based on love, then we can grow in our relationship with God centered on the power of God’s love. This kind of awareness, this kind of wisdom about God, changes prayers and sheds light on a potential Divine response. God is motivated by love. God’s love shines in the dark places. God challenges us to grow in love no matter how hard that choice may be. God inspires love. Prayers to comprehend the vast reaches of love are the prayers that I believe God loves to answer.
In the opening welcome and introduction to this website, I shared the Scripture that inspired this online adventure, I Tim 6:20. This text is also the origination of the name; “Sacred Chatter.” However, my intent is not to be a singular voice. I invite your voice to be a part of the “chat” and I base this on another of my favorite Scriptures: Hebrews 10:24. “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.” I am considering how I can provoke love and good deeds in places beyond where I live. This is my attempt to enter into a Hebrews 10 conversation with you over social media.digitally. Now, I am interested in your feedback. Consider what provoking you can provide with your own Sacred Chatter.
What’s important to you? What really matters?
Add your voice in Sacred Chatter.
Love is ours to provoke. Good deeds are ours to sew.
That the wisdom of Hebrews 10 may flourish and grow.
Email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, they’re potential mediums for the Hebrews 10 plan.