Monday, September 30, 2013

Whose Side is God On?

With humanity comes “sides.”  They include political, theological, ethnicity, gender, etc. etc.  There are as many ways to be divided into opposing camps as there are issues and diversities on the planet earth.  We like to think that we are right and that God is on our side.   As United Methodists who discern our beliefs based on Scripture, tradition, reason and experience, we have Bible verses that support our “side.”  But does that necessarily mean that God is with us and not with the people with whom we disagree?  In our heart of hearts we know that God is bigger than this but somehow it is much easier to make God into our own image than to grapple with the God-presence in the “other.”
The Book of Jonah in the Old Testament is about the most outrageous four chapters in the Bible.  It proclaims, it screams, it sets off neon-colored fireworks in the sky that say “God is on everyone’s side!!!” and God goes to great lengths to embrace all in the circle of divine love.  In chapter one of Jonah we see the prophet fleeing from God because he does not want to preach repentance to the evil city of Nineveh. Jonah would prefer that they get what they deserve for their sins and be destroyed.  God would prefer that they get a second chance and be forgiven. God extends that same grace to Jonah by saving him in the ocean using a great fish as a life boat and to the good-natured sailors on the boat by calming the sea.  God is on everyone’s side working for salvation and the good of all. 

What would it look like if we, God’s children, took a page out of the Book of Jonah and worked toward the acceptance and good of all?  Do our partisan camps accomplish the work of the salvation of the world or does it create more division and strife among us?  Do you really want to look like Jonah, who at the end of the book (chapter 4), is pouting on the hill under a tree because God did not kill the Ninevites?  Can we instead rejoice that God wants everyone to be saved and join in that cause, putting aside our need to be right, our need to be God’s favorite, our need to see the other “side” lose?  God’s love is outrageously inclusive and sometimes offensive when we try to put God in a box and insist that we own God exclusively.  Who on the other “side” can you embrace this day with prayer, forgiveness and good will?   What sword and shield of self-righteousness can you lay down for the cause of God’s purpose of inclusive salvation?

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