The Scandalous God – perhaps an offensive title to some. The word scandal is defined by one dictionary as a situation or event that causes public outrage or censure (Encarta World English Dictionary). Sounds so……ungodly.
I must admit, I don’t believe the word scandal, or scandalous as an adjective, is a bad word to describe God. Rather, I believe God is regularly involved in scandal. I don’t mean He isn’t true or holy or faithful or good. But, what I mean is that God regularly likes to do things that cause ‘public outrage or censure’. (Censure means severe criticism.) Yep, God is in the business of scandal.
Ok, if the religious are having too hard a time with the word scandalous, then maybe we could label it as God is good at ‘ruffling feathers’.
Nah, I still like scandalous because the word ruffles the feathers of the religious.
I believe it was the Puritans that referred to God as the wild goose. And, wasn’t it that famous Christian author, C.S. Lewis, that reminded us that, ‘Aslan is no tame lion’. Yep, I’m still getting the sense that we have been redeemed by a scandalous God.
God doesn’t always play by the rules, or at least our rules that we think God should play by. Nor does God seem to fit into our formulas at times. You know, those formulas of moralism, legalism, super-star-ism, and whatever other ‘ism’ by which we might try and define this Wild One. And God’s probably not an American evangelical either.
Ok, relax. I’m still a Christian. I’m just trying to get us to think through these things.
I heard a story the other day about what author and theologian, N.T. Wright, used to do when he was chaplain at Cambridge University. [Thanks for the story, Phil.] He would always set up meetings with all of those who were first-time, incoming students. During that meeting, many students would feel the need to confess that they really didn’t believe in God. This was the chaplain of Cambridge, so let’s go ahead and clear the air, get it out in the open.
Wright would, then, go on to ask, ‘What God don’t you believe in?’ The students would follow up by describing the God they had rejected and, after doing so, Wright would rejoice with them and say, ‘I don’t believe in that God either.’ You can imagine the shock on these 18 and 19-year old faces.
I share this story because I think it points to the reality that many a people don’t believe in the actual God which the Bible describes. Because of our upbringing, education, and even church our background, we can have a very askew version of the God. And I’m not even necessarily referring to non-Christians. This is very much true of Christians today.
Maybe God seems like a pushover Santa Claus that always has gifts to give us, or an overly angry Gandalf, or a strict school teacher from the late 1800’s, or whatever. But we all have a view of God that is usually somewhat off, if not way off, from what Scripture actually teaches us about Him. And maybe that’s why we all got a little uncomfortable when we read The Shack.
Thank heavens that Jesus arrived on the scene stating, ‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9). Yet, even with such an advantage of peering into the eyes of Jesus through the Gospels, we still can come out with an obscure view of God. Perhaps it’s because we either skip over certain Gospel passages or we explain them away to fit into those nice systems of theology.
Hey, don’t pick up stones just yet. I’m the chief perpetrator in this.
But if we are struggling to understand the heart of God, then let’s dip back into the Gospels. No, I don’t presume we will get everything from our next read through the Gospels. There is a lot to chew on there. And that’s good. It will keep us busy. But, I think it might be a relevant place to start.
Matter of fact, we can read the Scripture, and specifically the Gospels, for the rest of our lives and still not get a full understanding of God. So, I understand our dilemma as finite humanity.
But, if Jesus was really telling us the truth in John 14:9, and I think He was, then I believe we would do well to soak up as much as we can from the Gospels. And, from a regular reading of the Gospels, we might find the courage to jump into some of those harder portions of Scripture, for Christ and Christ alone will remain as the central key to understanding the rest of the text.
Singer-songwriter, Joan Osborne, sang a song in the mid-90’s called, ‘What If God Was One of Us?’ The whole song is a poem, maybe a kind of psalm, in which she wonders what God would be like if He became a human. Interesting question to ponder, no doubt.
But the answer is simply found in the Gospels. We can pull out the Sunday School answer card here. Jesus is what God would look like if He decided to become a human, for that’s what He did in Christ.
So, I thought I would just share some introductory thoughts on God being the scandalous one. I suppose I will write another blog article or two in which I hope to share more thoughts on this topic, put some flesh on it. And, yes, I must admit that I do have an agenda. That agenda consists of breaking down our boxes, the nice and neatly packaged boxes in which our idols……I mean, God……fits into.
But I do it for mine and our good. I do it so some of the junk can be stripped away that we might get a better glimpse of the God who came in the flesh.
“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Click here for part 2.