Blessed Dishonesty

I am continually amazed at the Holy Scriptures and the worlds apart they are from our modern day American culture and American Christianity. Living on a Christian college campus again brings up all of the contradictory and complicated aspects of evangelical college student's faith lives.

Exodus 1 is one of those chapters that throws a wrench in our nice spinning wheel. In this chapter, the king of Egypt issues and edict to have all of the infant males of the Hebrew people drowned in the Nile. Despite this ruling, the midwives of the Hebrew people refuse to kill the infant males-- in direct defiance of the king. The king even catches on and asks them why they are not killing the babies to which the midwives specifically lie to the king-- they create a very dishonest tall tale.

A few verses later, Exodus 1 clearly endorses the midwives dishonesty! Not only is there a blanketed endorsement, the text goes on to say that God blessed the midwives for their actions and gave them children of their own.

I love this story because it is such a shift from our Puritan ethics in American Christianity. The Old Testament does not have these neatly defined understandings of ethics. It always stands on the side of the people God is favoring-- almost always the oppressed people under the domination of some empire or corrupt authority. In each instance, some behavior that would be considered questionable or outright wrong in our current systems is used and endorsed by the Scriptures.

What scripture text like Exodus 1 tell us is that there are horrible atrocities going on in the world and that there must be some who are willing to stand up and stand against it. We cannot hide behind our quaint systems of morals and ethics. We must stand against oppression because God hears the cries of the people!


Bumping Into God

Occasionally my dog gets excited enough to run across the room, try to make a corner, misses and runs into the wall... something that is both very sad and very funny! The wall, of course, does not give at all, it has no way of responding or cushioning or shifting. However, when my dog runs and jumps on me, I move, cushion, and shift in order to take the impact.

Is God a wall that does not move, respond, or cushion? For some, the immutable, unmovable God is a comfort. For some, if God changes or is moved, then there entire system of theology begins to crumble.

Indeed, there are statements in Scripture that seem to paint God as an immovable wall, one who does not change and remains the same no matter what circumstance comes along. There are verses that describe God as knowing all things, having every detail of human history already worked out in advance, foreknown, and chosen.

Yet, much of the Bible describes God in very different language than this. Many scriptures describe a very movable God-- A God who repents, relents, is suprised, and regrets. When I read the story of Moses interceding on behalf Israel in Exodus 32 and God "repents of the evil he was about to do", I am overwhelmed by such a God who would respond to the passionate pleas of a human being. I am overcome with emotion at a God who takes the time to listen and shift perspective and change action. This is a God who is so powerful that vulnerability is not seen as a weakness but the hope of creation. This is a God who allows the dog to jump and cushions the blow. This is a God that is in relationship-- a true relationship, a give and take relationship.

Let us stop striving to create bomb-proof systematic theologies and allow each scripture text to move us as it sees fit. When in Exodus 32, let us fall in love with a God who could be moved. When in James 1, let us feel strong that we have a God who does not shift like shadows. Both are true and both have something very amazing to teach us.