As we turn the page on 2015 and enter into 2016, I want this to be a year you trust God more. I want you to trust him to be big enough, good enough and loving enough that if you, in all your frail humanness, make a mistake or get something wrong in your efforts to do it right, you do not have to live in fear of his disappointment or wrath.
I have a little book in my office called Children’s Letters to God. It’s a collection of letters children have written to God giving us a snapshot into their view of who he is. For example one little boy wrote, “Dear God, it rained for our whole vacation and is my father mad! He said some things about you that people are not supposed to say, but I hope you will not hurt him anyway. Your friend, but I’m not going to tell you who I am.” Another wrote, “Dear God, I bet it is very hard for you to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only 4 people in our family and I can never do it. Nan” And, one more said, “Dear God, I didn’t think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset you made on Tuesday. That was cool. Eugene”
Even as children we begin to form our view of who God is. Is he a God who loves and forgives or is he a God who keeps score and waits for us to mess up?
There was so much discussion regarding my blog two weeks ago called “If I Leave I’m Afraid I will Dishonor God,” I thought I’d add a few more thoughts to this whole idea of being afraid of disappointing or dishonoring God.
First, the Bible reminds us that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). When we are secure in God’s love we don’t live in fear or dread disappointing him. If we are born again, our heart changes and we want to please him in all we do. But the reality of that is we walk that process out by faith not by sight. That journey alone honors God, but truth is, we’re not always sure that when we make some tough choices (for example, to stay in a destructive marriage/ to leave a destructive marriage) if we’re really honoring God by those choices.
Here’s a similar illustration. If a child picked all her mother’s beautiful flowers in order to present a lavish bouquet to her mom, might not the mother be disappointed that her eager youngster stripped her garden bare? Perhaps. But a good mother knows the heart of her child. She knows her child’s actions were acts of love. She knows her child’s actions were meant to please her not dishonor or disappoint her.
In the same way, there may be things we get wrong in our desire to please God. We are children and as a result we are still immature, blind, and sometimes deceived.
God tells us that we won’t always see the big picture or spiritual reality clearly. But when we walk in faith and love, we do not live in fear of God’s wrath or his disappointment with us. (tweet that) Romans 8:1 assures us, “Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Some responders questioned whether walking in faith might mean staying in an abusive marriage and enduring mistreatment in order to honor God by keeping one’s vow's. But let’s look at this idea more closely. When you made your marriage vow's is that what you promised?
Did you promise to allow yourself to be raped, mistreated, abused, lied to, cheated on, ignored or maligned no matter what? Are those the terms of the covenant of marriage that God intended? And is God a God who loves men more than women, or a husband’s right or needs or desires more than a woman’s safety? (Watch this video for an example of how ridiculous that sounds)
I don’t believe that’s what the Bible teaches.
In your vow's you promised to be faithful and to love your spouse in all its various forms. Can you do that and still say no to abuse and mistreatment? I think you can. It’s true we see numerous examples throughout the Bible numerous examples of brave individuals suffering faithfully at the hands of wicked people. The most potent example is of Christ with his tormentors before he was crucified. Yet, Christ didn’t always submit himself to abuse or allow others to mistreat him.
In certain situations it might honor God to patiently endure suffering but in most other instances it honors God more to flee. Several times the Bible mentions that Jesus left a situation where he was going to be harmed (John 8:59; John 10:39; Matthew 12:14,15). The Bible also tells us Jesus didn’t trust certain individuals because he knew what was going in their heart (John 2:24,25). There is only one time where Christ submitted himself to mistreatment and that was when he knew he was called to the cross. All other times, he fled the situation. Yet in each instance, he honored and glorified God.
The Bible tells us that abuse of any kind is an expression of hatred, selfishness, envy and pride; the very things God hates (Proverbs 6). These sins always destroy people and relationships, which we know God values and loves. Let’s be sure to look at the whole counsel of God and the context of each martyr’s story before deciding in our particular situation which actions might honor God most.
The closest instructions we get to this topic in the context of on-going relationship dynamics are in 1 Peter 3 where he talks about suffering in the relationship of slaves and masters and husbands and wives. I’ve already written a blog about this and you can read it here.
Recently I’ve been reading a commentary on Galatians by Martin Luther. He writes, “Men fast, pray, watch, suffer. They intend to appease the wrath of God and to deserve God’s grace by their exertions. But there is no glory in it for God, because by their exertions these workers pronounce God an unmerciful slaves driver, an unfaithful and angry judge. “
He goes on and says that there are two things that define Christian righteousness. “Faith in Christ, which is a gift of God, and God’s acceptance of this imperfect faith of ours for perfect righteousness. Because of my faith in Christ, God overlooks my distrust, the unwillingness of my spirit and my many other sins. Because the shadow of Christ’s wings cover me, I have no fear that God will not cover all my sins and take my imperfections for perfect righteousness.”
What that says to me is that you and I don’t have to be afraid of disappointing God. Will we disappoint God? Of course we will. We are incapable of pleasing God in every single thing we do, that’s why we need Christ. But we don’t have to be afraid of disappointing him because God sees us as he sees Christ. Not because we deserve it, or haven’t disappointed him, but because Christ stands in our place and we receive his righteousness.
That friend is the best news we could hear. Go forward in 2016 walking in faith and not in fear. That glorifies and honors God the most.
Friend, what helped you to finally rest in the security of God’s love instead of fretting that you were disappointing him?