Real Coffee Hour Questions II

A couple taking a long car trip had plenty of time to reflect on my sermon on the death of John the Baptist and wrote asking why God, or Jesus, hadn’t intervened to do something about it.  After all, it would have been so much better for everyone if John had lived to continue his ministry so that Herod might even have had a conversion.

Here is my brief answer and if you have a better one feel free to take a shot at it.

Haven’t you two got something better to do with your time?  Nothing like coming up with questions that have irritated theologians for hundreds of years.  Anyway, here goes.

Most of us want God to answer questions in ways that make sense to our way of thinking, and it goes back to the start.  Why did God like Abel’s offering better than Cain’s?  Why did God let the people of Israel sit around in Egypt for 400 years before getting them out?  The list goes on and on.  So your questions fit right in.

Why would God let John be killed, and why didn’t Jesus pull off a simple miracle to stop or reverse it?

We teach and I believe that God is fully engaged with human history, but does not often intervene with a heavy hand to do what we think should be done.  People have to work things out for themselves within the context of the overall direction and purpose of God’s creation and plan for salvation.  We humans are such slow learners and so unwilling to go where God has led, even when God’s word became flesh and lived among us.  I guess we just have to learn the hard way.

A part of Jesus work in life was to demonstrate to us that God is present with us in all things and cannot be defeated by any evil, even if it looks like things are not going too well.  It could not be a game of ‘let’s pretend.’ It had to be the real thing.  So Jesus and his disciples had to endure everything we all have to endure, and more than that.  Nevertheless, Jesus also demonstrated God’s ultimate victory in many ways including the various miracles of healing, and even the raising of the dead in several instances.  But remember, not everyone who was hungry got fed, not everyone who was sick got healed, and not everyone who was dead got raised.  Those few with whom Jesus came in contact became signs of God’s power that promises ultimate victory for all, but not for all in this life or when we demand it.

In the end, it is the death, burial and resurrection that display God’s ultimate power and our ultimate destiny.  In the meantime, God has given us all that we need to live blessed lives, but he has not prevented us from inventing our own trouble or becoming so evil that there is no visible good left in us.  God has also not crafted the world to be without danger or imperfection.  God has crafted the world to be full of limitless possibility, and I imagine that also means that there are a lot of dead ends and wrong turns.

The ‘what if’ questions are always intriguing and contribute the plot lines for great and not so great fiction such as The da Vinci Code and all those horrible Left Behind books.  But, just like Bruce Almighty, given the chance and the power we turn out to be really lousy gods (with the exception, of course, of George Burns and Morgan Freeman).  We never seem to understand the Law of Unintended Consequences.  As for me, I have daily conversations with God in which some part consists of my instructions on how things should be.  I just can’t seem to help myself, but in the end, I’ll stick with Isaiah’s 55th chapter.

7 thoughts on “Real Coffee Hour Questions II”

  1. questions are very interesting indeed. when i hear or ask questions i have learned to consider 1) is the questioner/me truly interested in the response (i.e. wanting to gain wisdom, etc.) or 2) is the question merely a shield to avoid looking at the \”real\” issue or asking the deeper questions?this post provided me with a few new things (possibly not what you had intended 🙂 i enjoyed re-reading isaiah 55. thanks for the nudge.i did a little review of the \”Law of Unintended Consequence\” quite interesting.i agree that morgan freeman makes a wonderful \”God\”. (or maybe that\’s not an agreement…it\’s hard to tell with you sometimes. did you actually see that movie???) if you saw the movie, i learned that you do see a few movies besides old westerns.and btw–how many of those \”horrible\” Left Behind books have you read? how about the \”davinci code\”? just curious :-)looking forward to having a real coffee hour with you soon!! xoxox

  2. Lucy,I sort of saw Bruce Almighty in bits and pieces over several showings on TV. I\’ve read a half dozen reviews of The da Vinci Code and more reviews of the left behind books but not read either. But really, why let ignorance get in the way of profundity?CP

  3. CP AND Lucy – oh I love you two in conversation. It proves so amusing to me (and maybe even other readers)!Very inciteful L with the \”when did you read\” and \”when did you see\” questions. I was forming those comments for myself, although you do have a way of backing up your comments with research in advance…..something I am not often clever enough to do. Besides the entertainment value of the comments, I find the post illuminating in its content, thank you.xoxo

  4. I also find myself in daily conversations with God, often telling Him how I think things should be. And sometimes, when I listen with my heart, He brings Scriptures and other things that I have read or heard to mind, and I get insights and answers.I\’m so glad that He loves us and apparently doesn\’t mind this.For what it\’s worth, I think that John the Baptist is one of those heroes of faith described in Hebrews, Chapter 11. I particularly think of verse 35: \” … Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.\” I think this particular Scripture applies to Stephen as he was being martyred, too, even though Paul is obviously talking about Old Testament saints.John the Baptist himself told his own disciples that it was his destiny to decrease as Jesus increased. And I believe he was a hero of faith despite sending his disciples, while he was imprisoned, to Jesus to ask if He was sure that He was indeed the Messiah – this after he\’d seen the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus as if it were a dove, and heard God speak from heaven, and recognized Jesus as the Messiah not only when He came to John to be baptized, but also as an unborn baby, when he leapt in Elizabeth\’s womb at the voice of Mary.God loves us and understands us in our humanity, and regards us as His faithful children and servants in spite of our weaknesses. That\’s just one of the things that makes me love Him.

  5. Thanks Firefly,Well said. One of the things I like best about God is he seems to take delight in our relationship with him. I don\’t think it\’s the same thing as the delight we take in the presence of babies and toddlers. Rather, there is something about us as adults, as incompetent and stumbling as we can be, that God really likes, in fact loves. We are not patronized by God but taken seriously. What an amazing thing that is. CP

  6. You posted too late for me to incorporate your thoughts into my sermon on the 10th. God is ruler and sets the rules, but not in absolute control of our choices concerning obedience to those rules.I liked all of the \”O God\” movies and think Freeman portrays the kind of God I can follow.

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