We live in the era of safety. Anything that looks dangerous has to be curtailed, softened and child-proofed before we can allow it to be in the public domain. Here once again our modern sensibilities come to play. Christians also give into this idea of safety by making a connection between this notion and what Jesus came to do. He came to save us from the jaws of destruction, and so we should also live lives away from the edge. However, this idea of safe-ness is more from modernity than it is from the God of the Bible and this is proved by the very existence of the Bible. You read that right, the Bible.
We think of guns in the same way. They are dangerous, and so we will not train ourselves or our young ones to think of them or even use them correctly. We pretend the danger does not exist and only interact with them through the medium of Phones or the TV screen. It is never something that they have to personally use and apply themselves. It is never something they have to handle and practice, because as we see it there will never be a time when they will have to use it.
Self-defence? No chance, that is for high crime areas or China and Japan, that stuff is dangerous. Knowledge of weapons? Never! Those things are sharp and the junior can hurt himself. We think we have successfully made the home and the world “safe”. What a delusion!
Theology is dangerous
One of my favourite things to see is conservative Christians handling the notion of freedom. If you want a mental image, think of a child trying to carry an uncooperative cat; the child keeps picking it up, but the cat keeps spilling out of every whole (and there are a lot of holes). In reality this conversation happens with a lot of ‘buts’. Jesus paid it all; your past present and future sins, and so they will not be held against you BUT that does not mean you should live a life of sin.
All things are permissible and what God has called clean let no one call unclean BUT the current thing you want to do should not be done. There is truth in all this, but we know how dangerous talking about Christian freedom is we wrap it up in bubble wrap and make it safe. We have to do this, we have to draw lines where God has not because God’s lines are in dangerous places. I mean imagine if God actually said we have a financial obligation to him, right?
Another example is the doctrine of providence. In simplicity this doctrine teaches that God is sovereign over all and nothing happens that he has no control over. This means that all the evil things that have ever happened to large groups of people like the holocaust, 9-11 and even the Rwandan genocide happened under the watchful eye of an ever present God. It also means horrible things like murder, rape and abuse also happen under the watchful eye of an ever present God.
This is not PG13 theology, it is dangerous stuff. Which is why we would rather not deal with it or even think about it. We must hide it away in a closet and only relate to it when forced to do so by our phones or TV screens (both of which we can turn off or switch to something more entertaining whenever we want).
God is also dangerous
He is a loving father, and yet he disciplines with a firm hand. He knows our pain and yet will punish sinners in hell for all eternity. This is not hubbly bubbly stuff. It is closer to dancing on a knife edge than it is to being hubbly bubbly. It can be quite dangerous. This is prevalent throughout the Bible and yet we, to a large extent, refuse to engage with it.
You don’t need to go far into the Bible before you realize God chooses the death penalty as the punishment for eating a fruit. Not eating the whole fruit or multiple fruits. Not gluttony because of the fruit but taking and eating a single fruit would result in the death penalty and not just for Adam and Eve but for the whole of mankind after them. This is something real that we must contend with. We cannot just put it in a drawer and pretend it didn’t happen.
A few pages later God announces to one family that he will wipe out all (above water) life on the planet except those who get on the boat with them. So God and Hitler both came up with a similar plan? No, well what is the difference? Is this even something we talk about in our homes, with our friends, in our churches, in our children’s bible clubs, at our youth meetings?
Do you see the similarity between how we treat this and how we treat guns? The topic is bubble wrapped and sanitized to the point we do not even think about it any more. How many family devotions sessions have passed through Genesis and placed all the focus on God creating the birds and the bees but not contend with the reality of God condemning the world to damnation because one man chose to eat A FRUIT.
Yes, God saved Noah, but he also wiped out a whole planet of life. Rahab was a prostitute, a real one, with all the negative connotations and sexual acts and abuse that come with that lifestyle, and yes, she lied as well. The people of Israel killed people in their taking the land of Canaan and they did so while Moses watched from a hill raising his hands.
Joshua was no different, at Jericho he and his troops killed people to the epic soundtrack of the church choir jazzing it up at the back. This is hard stuff that has to be contended with. A failure to do so is nothing more than sticking our heads in the sand while anyone with the literacy of a 5th grader is pointing out the obvious while we sing ‘God is good all the time’ with arms held high into the sky so blue. Amen.
Lean in to the danger
The answer is not running and hiding from this danger or remaining in the middle of the road, moving slowly. God made the Bible this way, it is a sword and the sword is not safe, but it is good. Because of this it would be folly to treat the word of God in a way that God does not and did not mean for it to be treated. We must wield the sword and use it in the battle against the world, the flesh and the devil.
This requires work because wielding the sword requires knowledge of it, skill and repetition. We do this because we know that God has made the sword beautiful in its application; it is glorious and beneficial for us as we use it. We can only know and understand this if we treat the word as should be treated; not as a plastic toy sword but as a sharp double-edged blade that the good Lord gave to us for our benefit.
God made the world dangerous, and this is good! There is good in the danger because that is also a part of his nature. C S Lewis tries to make a meal of this in his description of Aslan the Lion as the Jesus character in his Chronicles of Narnia. The Lion is not safe, because he is a Lion after all. There is strength but also a softness. One does not take away from the other. This is the God we see in the Bible. One moment he is being praised and worshipped by the children as he comes into Jerusalem (you can almost see the smile on his face as he watches the little ones have fun praising him) and the next he is in the temple whipping people for desecrating it. Is this a multiple personality disorder? Far from it.
When approaching the scriptures, we should approach it on its own terms and not try to squeeze our modern sensibilities into it too early. Do not try to sanitize it for yourself or your hearers because God doesn’t need you to apologize for him. He is right and true even if the whole world says contrary, and he should be taken at his word because his word… makes sense. Running from these dangerous truths (and they are truths just as much as they are dangerous) only gives credence to the naysayers and leaves us with a weaker faith.
My God is the God of the Bible, the creator of heaven and earth, the one who condemned the human race to death because of the sin of Adam and the one who granted us new life through the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the weeping saviour outside the tomb of Lazarus and the warrior king in Revelation with a tattoo on his thigh, blade and the hem of his garments dripping with the blood of his enemies. He is not safe, but he is good.
Article by Mwansa N Mbewe