January 22, 2013

God You're Doing What?

There is an on going conversation in my house right now. It takes different forms but it sounds a lot like this; 'Please pick up your X and Y'. Meaning please pick up your coat and hang it up. Or please pick up your boats and put them on the shoe rack. Or please pick up your dishes and put them in the dishwasher. I suspect anyone who is married with children finds that they have these same conversations.
When I tell my son to pick up his toys and put them in the toy box I find that I have some level of difficulty getting the results I want. In John 5 Jesus told a man who was paralyzed for 38 years to 'pick up your mat and walk.' With those simple words Jesus got the results he wanted.

Upon hearing Jesus' command seemingly without thought or reflection the man did just that! Suddenly for the first time in nearly four decades the man's stood up and walked. This is the third sign that Jesus preformed, the healing of a paralyzed man.

The first two signs that Jesus preformed (turning water into wine and healing the Nobel man's son at a distance) were in many ways quiet miracles. Only a handful of people knew that Jesus preformed either of these signs. But this sign was different. This sign was preformed to be seen.

The man obeyed Jesus' command and he walked through Jerusalem carrying his mat. As he did this he was seen by the Pharisees, they self appointed stewards of the Law. When the Pharisees looked at him they did not see a man set free from 38 years of paralyses they saw a man carrying his mat on the Sabbath. Instead of joy, they reacted with condemnation.

How dare he carry a mat on the Sabbath!

My theology professor would be so mad at me if he saw this!

The Pharisee's response leaves us with a pressing question, how can they see a man healed from such a debilitating illness and become angry? The answer is simple; as far as they were concerned God was not supposed to act this way.

Before we get too critical let's examine our own hearts.

I am part of what I would describe as a progressive conservative Baptist denomination. That comes with a lot of strengths but it also includes a number of weakness. For one I find myself very distrusting of reports of modern charismatic miracles. The idea that a church could irrupt into 'tongues' runs somewhat counter to my theology, personal experience, and personality. Likewise were a faith healer to set up shop in my town I would likely denounce such a person.

I could go on and list other examples, but the truth is when I look at events like those I have a hard time believing that God would act in such a way. On a bad day I might even pick a fight a person claiming to have experienced these things.

Try as I might I cannot see my behaviour and attitude as much different than the behaviour and attitude of the Pharisees. I see the same tendencies; to assume I have God all figured out, and to lash out at people who try and tell me God might be doing something differently than I expected.

What about you, when you see God act in a way you didn't expect to you rejoice or do you complain? Do you see a sign pointing to a God that is bigger and better than we imagined? Or do you retreat in to the safety of your preconceptions?

Jesus used this sign to show us God was doing a new thing, and that he would remove whatever was shackling us. Be that a 38 year long illness, the Pharisee legalistic system, or a system of our own creation. When we see God moving lets try to see the movement, and not a man carrying a mat.