Saturday, February 18, 2017

6 Things God Wants (according to Jesus)

Roger Waters claims “What God Wants, God gets.”  Jesus must take issue.

In Jesus’ world, God must command, cajole, beg, manipulate and train, even those willing to do God’s will. In his famous community prayer, the community has three lines in which they are praying for God, literally commanding God to act for His own benefit.  “Make your name hallowed.” “Make your kingdom come.”  As if God was just waiting for the go-ahead from humanity to do what he wanted all along.

The history of Christian theology is the progress of the distancing of God.  To make God less human-like, to strip him of any but the barest of human characteristics.  But Jesus affirms that humanity is made in the image of God, thus there is an indelible, unbreakable link between God and his creatures.  Jesus never diminishes the greatness or strength of God, but he also acknowledges God’s limitation.  That he doesn’t accomplish everything he desires.  That the world is far from where He wants it to be.  He is restrained by his love for every person, saint or wretched enemy.

What exactly does God want?  What is it that we could give Him that would make his Christmas complete?

a. Love

“The foremost is this, to love the Lord your God with all of your heart…”

The main thing God wants is our love.  The one thing he lacks is our love. 

This statement may seem silly.  Millions of people every Sunday… every day… worship God and perform sacrifices of praise to him.  How much love could a being possibly want?

It is interesting that the main act that Jesus did when going to the central place of worship of God in the first century is violently point out that they may be worshiping God, but they were not loving him.  They had allowed idols in the temple and were rejecting God’s people left out of the building.
Worship is an act of love, but it is easy to love an ideal that does not exist, a member of our Parthenon that has nothing to do with the God of Jesus.

To love God, we should follow the example of Jesus, who neglected the temple, but went off alone every day to spend time with God.  He sat in silence which became conversation with his Father. 

The core of loving any being, the foundational point is attentiveness.  To grant the object of our love full attention so that we can see who that being is, not just our ideas of the being.  To love is to see the full joy of the being of the other, to love is to really see, and to rejoice in that sight.   But this cannot happen unless we spend time, not just analyzing another, but time listening, observing, delving into the soul of the other.  Even so, our love of God doesn’t begin with a prayer led by a worship leader or a shouted song, but with us in God’s presence, remaining attentive to him, allowing us to hear what he wants to show us about himself.

b. To be respected

“Hallowed be your name”

To be “hallowed” means “to be made holy.”  But God’s name is already holy, then why should he desire anything else?  In Ezekiel 36, God speaks for himself about how his people worshiped idols, how they disregarded God’s love and so threw God’s name—his reputation—in the mud.  All the nations of the world spoke poorly of God because his people disregarded him.  He said that he would restore his reputation by renewing his people’s love.

Even so, God’s name is closely related to his people.  If his people worship power, money, judgement, fear or lust more than God, then those looking at God’s people have a right to call them hypocrites and God a weak ruler who is not represented by his people.  This prayer is a cry for God to renew his reputation by renewing his people, by having them worship the right God.  God wants respect, not through fear, but through a loving people.

c. To create his kingdom

“Your kingdom come”

Jesus told his disciples to “pray this,” which is interesting because it is generally recognized that God’s kingdom already was on earth through the temple and the priesthood, even as today most Christians see God’s kingdom on earth through the church.  But Jesus recognizes that these institutions are not the realization of God’s utopia, the ultimate manifestation of organized love, mercy and forgiveness on earth.

God’s desire is not just to have a people who are worshiping his name, but a political nation that transforms the world through powerful, all-encompassing love.  Until we see this, God will keep working in us to make it happen.

d. Heaven on earth
“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Heaven isn’t as homogeneous as some think.  The biblical images we have of heaven isn’t people playing harps or creatures worshiping 24/7.  The main image we have is God as the emperor, the one who makes the decisions, directing the well-being of all.  He makes the final decision, but we see others in heaven who don't have the same opinion as God.  On earth, it is even more so, God is a distant figure, dropping acts on occasion, but not creating the order.

It is the false idea that God is Fate, controlling every event, good or bad.  Many praise God for every act of good fortune and also blame him for every misfortune.  As if God had control over every action that happens on earth.  Point of fact, God has control over very little that happens on earth.  Biblically, God handed over rule to humanity and they kicked God out of earth.  So God grants love and pours out his power on a limited basis, when humans allow him to, after crying out to him for help.
It is God’s desire to share his father-love to all.  He doesn’t want to be limited to Sundays and touchdowns.  He wants his people to invite him to come to earth and take up residence.  To share his love in their homes, their communities and their nations. 

e. To be known

“No one knows the Father but the Son.”

Moses saw God as the power, the law-giver, the jealous, at times abusive husband.  David viewed God as the object of desire, the Helper, the joy of his heart.  Elijah treated God as the task master, the one who drained him of his life.  Jesus treats God as the misunderstood father, who called out to his children and so desired to connect with them, but they were in such awe and fear that they kept their distance.  The children got so caught up in the details of the sayings of God that they failed to understand his love. Jesus claims that all of the previous visions of God were inadequate, poorly understood.  He knew God, personally, so he was the only one who could well-explain who God really is.  And he wanted us to primarily understand God’s love, especially for the weak and rejected.

f. Love for humanity

The second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself.

We only know a person who understands God’s will by how she loves those around her.  God’s love is for all of humanity, all of his creation.  Those who love beyond themselves, beyond those they call their own, are God’s children, for they understand with God how important each and every person is to Him.  No one can do God’s will while abusing, harming, or abhorring another of God’s populace.  And no one can claim to love God while ignoring the need of the one in front of them.

At the top, we said that God wants our attentiveness.  As we are listening and loving God, He, meanwhile, is pointing back to earth, showing us the weak whom we have missed.  We know that we are turning earth more like heaven when we go to the weak and give them our time, resources and love.

The end of all things is that God wants us to love with the love He has for all of us.