Saturday, April 22, 2017
My Wrestling Match with an Immoral God
When I was a boy, I firmly believed that virtue was the highest way. I was a Boy Scout, I was a leader in my church's youth group, and I was certain that God saw how good I was being and was pleased by it. I was disgusted by my friends who behaved as immorally as they wanted, and felt sure God was displeased with them.
Then I read about Jacob. Jacob was a liar, and a thief. He swindled his brother, he was a lazy momma's boy, he stole the blessing from his father, he cheated his employer, and GOD BLESSED HIS SOCKS OFF. Seriously, he was extremely wealthy. Plus, he had four women with whom he fathered TWELVE SONS.
God was clearly blessing Jacob, and I couldn't figure out why.
It became a crisis of faith for me.
I came to the point where, if I were going to demand answers for Jacob, I was either going to leave Christianity altogether (Because the Christian God was far less moral than I was) or I was going to stop looking for answers to this question.
I decided to stop looking for answers.
Twenty years later (literally, not figuratively), I'm married and I have applied for Pastoral Candidacy in the United Methodist Church. And through a strange series of coincidences, I find myself sitting in the car while my family is eating dinner. I turn on the radio, and a pastor is talking about Jacob.
He is just as angry at Jacob as I had been for twenty years. And he's preaching up a storm, and I'm along with him for the ride, because I'm angry at Jacob. Then he says (I paraphrase)
"Jacob had his wrestling match with God, and when the sun was coming up, Jacob demanded God bless him. And God said "What's your name?" Did God not know Jacob's name? Of course He did. So what does "Jacob" mean? It means "he cheats." In telling God who he was, Jacob fulfills the pattern of confession of his sins, and God forgives Jacob and begins pouring out blessing upon him."
After 20 years, I got the answer I needed. If I had left the faith, how different my life would have been! But the more important answer I got that day was this: There ARE answers. And we may not get them. But there ARE answers.
Our part is not to know everything, our part is to be faithful. And God has earned that trust.