Two days ago, I wrote this post about the book of Job.
And then I ran for the hills, joined a hippy commune, became Rob Bell’s best friend (which I actually think would be awesome), and denounced my faith in Jesus.
Not really, but it might seem that way if you read some of the feedback I’ve fielded (both publicly and privately) over the past couple days. I’m not afraid of the discussion; I think that honest discussions where we give voice to our differences, doubts, and convictions are conversations that ultimately mold us into better people.
But I think that we often retreat from those conversations in favor of sweeping generalizations, defensive stances, sacred traditions, and under-the-breath snarky comments. As such, we miss the beautiful moments of challenge, growth, inflection, and relationship which honest conversation forges.
Sadly, I think that this discussion reverted to those darker places.
I fancy this blog to be a place where nothing is unquestioned. A place where doubts are allowed to be voiced and differences are allowed to co-exist. A place where believers and skeptics find new reasons to love Jesus. I write to encourage and challenge others, but mainly to grapple with my own beliefs and convictions. I’ve been called a false teacher, told I’m having a faith-crisis, praised as a creative thinker, complimented as a great teacher, and everything in between. The truth is, I am just a a dude trying to understand this complicated, messy life while believing that God is making sense of it all. A man with struggles, a jaded past, doubts, hopes, convictions, and a God-breathed destiny.
Which brings me to the original post, and a couple of thoughts:
- I still think that Job is a story, not a definitively historical account. To me, it sounds like a story and is structured like a story. There is talk of once upon a time, and a seemingly happy-ever-after ending to the book. Having said that, there may be some historical accuracies included; the Jews were notorious for the oral narratives handed down from generation to generation. They were stories of their history and their beliefs, and as such, were weaved together into the very fabric of their heritage. It is possible that a man named Job really lived, and suffered a terrible series of events while holding on to his faith. To be fair, it should be noted that Job is referenced three times throughout the Scripture outside of the book of Job. That’s compelling evidence to suggest its’ literal nature, but could also just be indicative of the way the story had found its way into the fabric of Jewish life and culture. So, honesty wins: there is good evidence to support both viewpoints of the nature of the book of Job.
- My struggle with the text is found in the beginning of the book, when God and Satan meet up. To me, there are many issues which seem inconsistent with the rest of Scripture. For starters, God and Satan are together in a cordial sense in some heavenly place. That seems odd, due to the nature of Satan being removed and cast away from the heavenly places earlier in Scripture and being God’s enemy and all. It seems he should have a hard time getting past the bouncer at the heavenly gates. Second, the interaction itself inflicts me. In the moment, God offers Job on a sort of whim – a cosmical game of truth or dare. As if manning up for an “I told you” moment, God thrusts Job into the most hellish experiences that we can imagine. It seems whimsical and unintentional at best, and unthoughtful at worst. It’s this thought that sparked my comment (which should have been worded more contextually) that I want nothing to do with a God of that variety. Throughout the Scriptures, God leads forward things that I cannot explain – things such as terrible wars – but He is always intentional about His actions; to preserve His people and the bloodline through which the Savior would be born. Understanding Job as a sort of parable (perhaps fiction is a poor choice of words) those observations of God being cavalier regarding the plight of creation are not brought to the surface. Instead, we learn that God believes in His creation – that He sees something good and worthy in them (us), a notion reinforced through the sacrificial death of Jesus.
- Retrospectively, I should have offered my opinion as another option rather than a definitive stance. As a creative, a dreamer, and a writer, I typically err toward the side of dramatic flair. Perhaps it was out of place here, in this moment, due to the content I was writing about. My bad.
- I don’t think that God cares what we think about Job. I think He cares what we think about Him. We spend far too much time preserving our opinions and heritages – or being the new, trendy thing – than we do investing in the mission of God which is spilling out all around us. Within God’s mission, we find His heart. Jesus didn’t spend much time debating Scripture when He was here; He was too busy pursuing those far from God with a manhunt of grace, redemption, and healing. Perhaps our greatest compliment shouldn’t be our knowledge of Scripture (which is important), but our reputation among those who are far from God.
- It shouldn’t need to be stated, but I will say it anyway: I very much love the Scriptures which God has given us. In my life, I’m afforded the opportunity to speak and teach about Jesus, His kingdom, and the life He offers. I’m thankful for that journey I get to experience, for there’s nothing more thrilling than weaving together the story that Jesus has been telling for thousands of years: that God has not given up on us; that His kingdom is breaking through everyday in real, tangible ways which are overflowing with grace, mercy, truth, and love.
- The Scriptures are not my Savior. They cannot save me. My right opinions about them will not make me more holy in the sight of God. My study habits will not cause Him to love me more. Our piety doesn’t sway His opinion. All of us are prodigals; yes, all of us are sons and daughters loved by the Father. That’s where it starts, and that’s where it ends. My past rebellion is drowned underneath a pool of blood at the foot of an execution cross. My Savior is Jesus, and His law is grace, not religion.
As Christians, we’ve treated people terribly in the name of “defending God.” What a terribly sad testimony. I’m tired of people “defending” the Gospel – of feeling responsible for ensuring that everyone believes the right things. I’m tired of feeling the need to walk around on pins and needles because I might somehow offend someone who thinks differently than me. That’s no way to be alive.
I prefer to live out the Gospel (the good news that God has come and is making everything new), and to let it defend itself. The Gospel is religions’ coffin. Grace wins. Always. Ever.
Take courage, for God believes the best things about you. That’s Job’s story, my story, and your story. Let’s believe the best about each other, and find our hope in His kingdom rather than our traditions.