I’ve long been on this campaign to encourage people to perceive Jesus as the relationship that He is. He invites us to His table, He brings us into the conversation, He invites us into His song. Prayer is actually a two-way street, it is a conversation, basically dialoguing with the Creator of the universe Himself. How blessed are we to have our Father’s ear, an ear that is never too busy, never short-tempered, never in a bad mood. He is always patiently waiting for us, eager to talk, eager to address our concerns.
Why then, do we so often perceive God as sitting on high, issuing one-sided dictates that must never be questioned? I just cringe when I hear things like, “Jesus was no dialog partner.” I have a lifetime built on asking God questions, on dialogue with Jesus since I was very small. I assure you, if He found dialoguing with us unpleasant, I’d have become a pillar of salt long ago.
I also do not see that anywhere in the bible. Observe Jesus’ dialogue with the woman at the well, with the disciples, with the lady of the crumbs. Rather then preaching and lecturing, He actually simply asks questions, tells parables, engages in a two-way conversation. Take note of the fact that the Lord in Genesis does not ask, “who told you you were naked,” because He needs to collect data. Nor does He ask the woman at the well “where is your husband,” because He is in need of that information. He is engaging a relationship, encouraging a two-way dialog. He does not ask the woman about to be stoned, “where are your accusers,” because He needs to know where they are. He asks, because SHE needs to know where they are. They are gone and just as they are gone, “neither do I condemn you.”
If you want to get technical about it, the only time Jesus actually says anything negative, speaks a non negotiable declaration, is when He is speaking to the pharisee, who are actually trying to inhibit His (and other people’s) ability to dialog with God Himself. In fact, Jesus’ very death and resurrection has to do with building a bridge, closing the dialogue gap, tearing down the temple curtain.
I will concede one point, like any good parent, there probably are some times of non negotiable dictates, of times it’s really irrelevant if you understand or not, the dictate is still, don’t play in the street.
However, God is so, so seldom sitting on high, issuing dictates and demanding unconditional and unquestioning obedience. That’s sure not the Lord I know! That’s more man, that’s pride and wrath and insecurity speaking. God is all-powerful, if unquestioning obedience is what He wanted, He’d have it already. We actually aren’t that powerful, we cannot thwart God with our resistance or our non compliance.
We people can be so silly sometimes. We can no more trigger God’s wrath then a two yr old can trigger a good parent’s wrath. The last time I had a two yr old throw a tantrum in a store, I actually had to fight the urge to just laugh hysterically. I even had to fight the urge to encourage him! He was actually quite entertaining, reminded me of some adults I know, and the only reason why I would have gotten angry was if I were tired, stressed out, and weak. God is so not weak and He never tires. We are very small and to believe we are capable of triggering God’s wrath is to perceive ourselves as more powerful than we really are. Anger is a response to a perceived threat and if you believe you are capable of threatening God in someway, then you are actually not recognizing His power and authority.
Preaching is also a two-way conversation, a dialogue, and all the best pastors will let the Holy Spirit speak through them, will trigger a two way conversation, one that engages people, one that causes a response. That’s what communication actually is, a dialogue.
I totally blame religion, bad parenting, and our entertainment culture for creating some of these misunderstandings. If you think about it, the structure and nature of some of our churches have become more like one-sided entertainment venues, where one passively receives a presentation. Even in the staid, the reformed, you have something that looks far more like the one sided presentation of passively received rituals, including the one sided presentation of some non dialogue preaching, thus sayth the Lord…..
CS Lewis once said, “There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (‘man’s search for God’!) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?”
Indeed. Let the Lord find you, and trust that when He does, it is going to be good.