Been a busy few days; better late than never! Today and tomorrow we will cover 1 Corinthians 13:6, two quite powerful insights into relationships.
Rock You Like A Hurricane
Job 8 opens with his friend Bildad responding to Job’s finally snapping by explaining that Job can’t be an upright man because of the circumstance he’s in. “Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man,” he says. Chapter 9 is Job’s response, in which he makes the statement in the banner graphic up top: “This is one thing, therefore I said it, He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked. If the scourge slay suddenly, He will laugh at the trial of the innocent.”
That’s steep language; what he is saying is that God sees all people the same, so if something bad happens to good people He will delight in it the same as when the evil are punished. We call that being a sociopath, and I think there’s a whole lot of people who agree with Job on this one. Plenty of movies and books have said some variation of “God’s a kid with an ant farm” (though the direct line is from Constantine…) or “man plans and God laughs” because at the core there is a huge volume of people who see God as a demented, cruel, sociopathic, and absentee tyrant.
In chapter 11, when Job finally shuts up, his friend Zophar verbally smacks him down for such brazen stupidity. Even if you’ve not read the book you can imagine this doesn’t help. I think Zophar should have just slapped him across the boil-ridden face, honestly. But what we know of Zophar is that his name means “sparrow” (as in, “does a lot of chirping”) and he was a Naamathite, meaning he was from a city we know nothing about (including where it was) beyond the fact it’s name means “pleasentness” or “loveliness”. So by context the suggestion is that he had lived an easy life but had a lot to say about how others dealt with challenges. Isn’t that always the friend you want? The one who can’t understand your pain but who feels the need to tell you to suck it up? Zophar didn’t really have footing to help Job as much as to lecture him. 1 Corinthians 13:6 is what I’d have said to Job, so here we go with part one…
God does not rejoice in injustice
The New Living Translation reads “does not rejoice in injustice” and the King James renders it “rejoiceth not in iniquity”; the Greek word is, ἀδικία, adikia, and it means “legal injustice”. The Aramaic reads “rejoices not in evil”. Aramaic has a LOT of different kinds of evil; this one specifically refers to legal injustice the same as adikia. The interesting thing is that all these words — the English, Greek, and Aramaic — are all rooted in the words (in each language) for “to show or to expose as right or true”, which really gets at the heart of what court is supposed to be: a place where truth and rightness are to be exposed to everyone.
The word “rejoice” in Greek is χαίρω, chairo, and it means “to be exceedingly exhuberant”. Why would you ever need to say that someone is not exceedingly exhuberant about injustice, though? Isn’t that sort of a given? Yet this is what Job was accusing God of: laughing about the injustice of bringing a scourge down on the innocent. Sadly, rejoicing about injustice is just rampant in humanity. I wrote last post about our tendency to keep score and the thing about a score is that at some point you declare a winner and a loser. And, oh, how we do Love to declare a loser. The idea of seeing someone “gets theirs” really does get our motors going. We are never satisfied with a guilty verdict; we want to see them put in the public stocks and then hung before a live audience. We aren’t satisfied to see a harasser outed, we want him penniless, prosecuted, castrated, and humiliated. It’s not enough to see an adulterer divorced; we need her branded with a scarlet “whore” across her forehead for all time.
That’s not a comfortable thing to admit, but it’s real and it’s true. We feel so slighted, so injured, by the trespasses of others that when we hear they are about to get their comeuppance we get overjoyed. We create scenes in our mind of the person not just getting outed for their terribleness, but ostracized. We don’t want the guy fired, we want him fired, divorced, humiliated, and living under a bridge alone, with no possession in the world but a picture of us pointing and laughing at him. This isn’t just me accusing you: I do this stuff, too. When someone I don’t like falls it doesn’t just make me happy, it makes me crave seeing them hit as rock-bottom as possible. When someone cuts me off in traffic and later I see them pulled over by a cop I am exceedingly joyous about it. I do want to kick people when they are down, because they deserve it. I’m not saying we all feed that desire, but it’s there. And there it is: the sociopath in this equation isn’t God; it’s me, and it’s you, and it’s Job.
Might is right
Of all the qualities we misassign to God, vindictiveness is the most insidious. It’s the one the little lion satan gave us in the garden: “you won’t die, He’s just holding you down because He hates you; you can’t trust Him.” That ploy works for us for two reasons: it confirms in us that we will pay for our evil ways, and it brings God down to a more manageable level so we don’t have to work so hard to please Him. This will sound terrible, but this is what the Bible has brought us to.
If you just read the book you walk away with the image of an angry God of smiting who we can be saved from by Jesus, the passive-aggressive God of socialism, as long as we pretend to live how He lived. You think I am exaggerating, but holy men made up this dispensation nonsense to explain away the branding problem of an angry God. We named an entire branch of study and evangelism “apologetics”. Do you get that? It means to apologize — to explain the hidden or unexposed — for God. I’m sorry, but God doesn’t need you or me apologizing for Him. He doesn’t need a publicist. He doesn’t need a marketing team. He doesn’t need me or anyone else to explain the hidden mysteries of the universe to you. God. Does. Not. Work. In. Mysterious. Ways.
Right here waiting for you
I don’t mean to steal the thunder of thousands of power hungry “holy” men (well, yes I do, because as I said I’m still anger driven, but I’m trying not to be…) but there is not one person on earth who can teach you something unknown about Our Father. He lays Himself completely open if we just ask. How do I know He doesn’t rejoice in injustice? Because King David said so. Because Jesus said so. Because the apostles Paul and John said so. But mostly: because He says so. It’s excessively easy to read the words and see a tool of a God. But if you’re just reading the words you’re building an empty golden calf in your mind. If your heart is open you don’t just read the words. You make request to the Spirit to teach you. You make request to the Father to hold you. You make request to Jesus to light your way.
Maybe you never considered it that way, but you are. Christ wasn’t the Torah made flesh; that is not what logos means. He is the physical embodiment of what God means when He speaks to us. That’s why He is a human: God’s heart was breaking for the injustice in our world, for the apathy in our minds, for the hate in our hearts, for the legalism in our tongues. He spoke a Christ into flesh to show us the way. Yes, the way to Him and to salvation, but more importantly the way to live. Here and now. Jesus over and over talks about the Kingdom of Heaven and it is nothing to do with the afterlife. God hates injustice so much that He brought Himself here to be crucified just to reignite a fire in a few dozen hearts that had been out for half a millenium.
I’ve said it before, but the Bible is like your spouse’s diary or journal; you can learn a lot about them through it, but if you make the mistake of forming your relationships and all you know about them on that you will end up divorced. You need to talk with them, spend time with them, and experience them. Solomon asked for wisdom and it was the wrong ask; look how it failed him. How much more glorious a life if what he asked was “to know You more”? How much more if we do the same? Until we do He just waits, patiently, beside you, waiting for His next opening to show you His heart. I pray we can get out of our way and ask Him.