God’s no Bully, And He ain’t no Coward

Have you ever been really upset about something and poured your anger and disappointment out before God and waited for him to agree with you? Agree that the other person was wrong, agree that you haven’t been treated fairly, agree that someone should apologize?

And when our words run out there’s a long silence.

“Well, God, do something!”

“I am.”

“I’m not getting it.”

“I know.”

“Why?”

“I don’t take sides.”

“Yes but…”

“I understand you’ve been hurt and are upset. Not everything is just or fair, and wrong has been done, for sure. But you are part of the problem, I haven’t heard you say anything about that. If we reason together then we can find a way forward – because when I’m included I contend for everyone. No favorites, no arm twisting and bullying, just a father working things out with his kids.”

The world has moved a long way away from knowing how to work things out together. The bloodline to truth has been cauterized and society has been bullied, anaesthetized, and rendered numb or even indifferent. We’ve chosen political correctness, hyper sensitivity, revisionism, cancel culture, and character assignation to distract, avoid or deny real accountability.

Even more distressing is that those who profess to follow Jesus are in the thick of it. Sometimes even at the front of the line waving sticks and justifying attitudes and actions – so far from the character of Jesus as to make his life and teaching unrecognizable. But he warned even two thousand years ago that people would say and do all manner of things in his name. He called them wolves in sheep’s clothing, and through Paul’s writing, clanging gongs.

I’m not going to spell out the many obvious examples we could use around the world to make the point. To illustrate how far we’ve drifted. We could pick any country in the world. There are countless issues, numerous so-called leaders who posture from self-interest, who have long ago made a pact with electability rather than integrity and substance. But we have to keep ourselves grounded. After all we love to learn from examples and Biblical contexts for our principles to live by. The only challenge is that the revelation Jesus brought rendered Biblical study restricted to laws and principles secondary to relationship. After all he asked a dripping wet Peter on the shores of Galilee, not, “Do you understand me?” But, “Do you love me more than all of these?”

Here’s where it gets awkward because there’s a deep awareness in me that many of you, understandably, would prefer to read a blog about walking with Jesus in the Butchart Gardens swatting butterflies and smelling roses. But I can’t escape the fact the Christianity was birthed in disturbingly tumultuous times where politics, power, and religion were as intertwined as braided hair. If an early Christian walked anywhere with Jesus it was into the blood-thirsty Colosseum swatting lions before experiencing more than a soundbite. Nowadays we’ve strained Jesus out of politics, public life, business and personal relationships, even some churches.

The really good news is that the authentically resurrected Jesus breaks free of boxes, stands his ground in the Colosseum, and rides tigers for breakfast. He’s no limp wrist bible geek with his head buried in spiritual self help pages. The real Jesus stares down lies, rescues captives, and exposes cowardly alliances between church and state. After all, the only way for salt and light to impact the world and make a difference is to be intermingling and engaging.

Throughout the pages of the Bible God is reaching out to restore relationship, repeatedly, consistently, and passionately. There’s not one word recorded by Jesus that asks his father to annihilate the Romans for their oppression of the Jews. No prayer Jesus prayed suggesting to his Father that their chosen people, the Jews, should be severely reprimanded for the early persecution of disciples following ‘the Messiah’. Perhaps because political change was too superficial, fleeting, and building on the wrong foundation?

Applying that into our present day reality. Is God really on the side of Israel to bomb, persecute, and land grab the Palestinians who have the same historical rights around Jerusalem as they claim to have? Why in God’s name does a people so traumatized by persecution, diaspora, and holocaust, not know how to treat those on their doorstep facing the same predicament? In the name of God international communities line up in support of either side looking for some insane victory that can never happen without mutual understanding and compromise.

I don’t think God is enchanted with either side. It’s not in his nature. God is not national, or racial, or locked into an identity that excludes any nation or tribe. Of course there are boundaries and guidelines that apply to all creation, but I’m convinced they are not as restricted as our mindsets or paradigms tend to be. It’s not our job to judge what we can’t understand. But we can be gracious and kind. We can leave the mystery to God and in the meantime make room for one another.

We don’t have to agree to make room. We don’t even have to like very much. The command to love one another is not a feeling, it’s a cold-blooded decision behind action that has nothing to do with subjective and bruised feelings. We love because he loved us. That’s the bottom line. No wiggle room or whining. Vengeance is mine says the Lord.

I don’t like what I’m writing because I prefer to make excuses, and find a way to justify my indignation. I want God on my side and therefore by default, not on yours – if you’re opposed to me. I want to call my attitude righteous and yours something less divine. And believe me I’ve tried. But the good news for our spirits and the bad news for our egos is that God has no favorites. Peace on earth is for all…. not just Christmas Day and a carol about shepherds and angels outside Nazareth for a fleeting moment before the birth of Jesus.

Silence, the great escape for many is not really an option. For silence is complicity if we’re not careful. The fact of the matter is that life is difficult, relationships challenging, and we are all flawed. Unless grace abounds and communication encourages better mutual understanding, then the only option left in our weakness is lobbing bombs at each other and bullying. It’s nothing to be admired and is no testimony to much that is redemptive or praiseworthy. However it does take two to tango….. so I’m not suggesting there is never a reluctant need to up the anti and draw a line in the sand to resist those who insist on having it all their own way.

In all the turmoil around us I do believe that much is a testimony to our own failures. To invoke the will or God as an endorsement for any side is stepping into an assumption above our pay grade. It certainly would be refreshing to find Christian leaders modelling and bearing witness to a better way ‘in all the world’ with greater courage and conviction. That’s why today I applaud Liz Cheney for her courage in standing up in the way I would have loved to see Christian leaders and others of principle stand. Firm, resolved, gracious, without vindictive insults or an invocation of violence. It’s beyond politics. It’s about integrity, the welfare of others, and when the Emperor has paraded around naked for long enough, declaring what most are aware of but have become too intimidated to declare.

Is there anything we’re willing to fight for, beyond ourselves? Fighting in the Kingdom of God means loving unconditionally, serving sacrificially, laying down a life for a friend, being gracious and kind, often saying yes, and sometimes…. no, over my dead body, enough!

The song below is so counter-intuitive. It’s how Jesus prepares us to stand for him….. and make a difference…. becoming as little children empowered by love, not bullied into compliance. Let us grow in being strong and kind, salt and light, courageous, gracious, and declaring truth and freedom for all.

John Cox

Christian Author and Counsellor

One comment

  • Someone wrote saying that I sound like I’ve swallowed Islam/Palestinian propaganda. My reply:
    It’s not meant to be one sided. The North American perspective is very blindly pro-Israel…… When I visited the region for 5 weeks I was saddened by the way the Palestinians were treated in refugee camps. I had dinner in Jerusalem with a Palestinian family whose family had roots there way back. I’m not for one moment insinuating that Hamas is noble or that Israel doesn’t has every reason to be concerned. When we toured the Golan Heights we heard how close Syria had come to taking over the whole country. Apparently it was so easy when they rolled in they thought it was a trap and stopped…. All I’m trying to say is that the same thoughts and principles apply to each side and there has to be a way to give room for one another. The easiest way to justify one’s own hostility is to vilify and demonize the other….. we were weaned on that in SA and still harsh consequence are played out. It’s a mess and very tough to figure out… I just don’t think God is backing sides as we tend to declare…. But I agree, I could be totally off….. The point of the blog was to at least raise the complex issue of Christianity as salt and light in a fractured world……

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