“After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained.” 1 Samuel 5:1-4
I love this random story of two deities dueling it out. YHWH–the Lord of the Bible–versus Dagon. While we don’t get to see how their fight unfolds, what is captured is how the people kept trying to place their gods alongside the God of Scripture.
The people really wanted their god to stand alongside the LORD. Yet, after all their best efforts, the Lord won out, even though He was “captured” and on enemy territory.
This shows an example of the narrative arch of Scripture and that the God revealed through Jesus Christ is the only God that will last. If we were to honestly place our worldviews, faiths, idols, philosophies and belief systems up against the God of the Bible, we discover that they are but broken shards of hollow pottery. They are weak ideas easily toppled when compared against the Lord.
Unfortunately, many Christians have taken a position of defensiveness and argumentation, worried that the God of the Bible will lose the cultural battle.
Recently I was reading Richard Rohr’s book regarding A.A. and Spirituality. In it he writes, “We have wasted years of history arguing over whose God was best or true, instead of actually meeting the always best and true God of love, forgiveness and mercy. A.A. was smart enough to avoid this unnecessary obstacle by simply saying, ‘God as we understood Him,’ trusting that anyone in need of mercy as much as addicts are surely need and meet a merciful God. If they fail to encounter this Higher healing Power, the whole process grinds to a bitter halt, since we can only show mercy if mercy has been shown to us (Luke 6:36-38).”
In other words, at the end of the day, only the merciful and gracious God revealed through Jesus Christ can withstand the reality of sin, the brokenness of disappointments, the freedom of forgiveness, the tragedy of suffering, and the victory over evil. It is Christ alone that fulfills all of humanity’s longings and desires.
Unfortunately most Christians fail to even engage that God because they have failed to confront the false gods we have made in our lives. In fact, most of the South Charlotte Christian culture–and our private schools in particular–are teaching anti-Gospel messages. They are producing stressed out children and anxious parents because performance and production are the markers of success. You are what you accomplish; any failures or mistakes or chinks in the armor will ruin the life that you are destined to live. Therefore, parents walk this tightrope of anxiety that if their children fail they will never recover. As a result, these parents feel the pressure to provide for every need and protect from every danger. This causes us to have very little need for the God of the Bible. If life is manageable and accomplishable through my efforts then why would I need a God who shows forgiveness, a God who rescues or a God who lavishes us with gracious mercy?
An addict’s first step, in contrast, is to realize that you are someone in need because recovery and sobriety are not accomplishable without forgiveness, need and mercy. In doing so they have to confront a gracious God. I love Rohr’s point. By avoiding the religious debates of their time, A.A. was able to create a pathway directly to Jesus Christ. In essence, they place the merciful God of the Bible alongside our false idols like Dagon, and come to see the next day which one will last the duel.
While it might be culturally relevant to say that all faiths profess the same core beliefs about love, truthful examination of orthodox Christianity makes a startling claim that is contrary to all other world religions and faith philosophies. It claims that love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and peace are not accomplishable by human merit. In fact, while we are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), we are not all God’s children until we surrender to Jesus Christ (nowhere in scripture are people outside of the covenant called “children of God”). Jesus Christ adopts us into the family. He lavishes us with grace. Grace–getting what you do not deserve–costs something, but rather than us having to pay that cost the Creator God paid it for us.
This claim alone sets the Christian God apart. And at the end of the day, when we tap into our “inner light,” our moralistic therapeutic deism, and do a ruthless self-assessment of our past mistakes, we discover the need to meet that merciful God.
This introduction is done not through argumentation about whose God is best, but a simple invitation to “Come and See.” So, come and see–what is it you believe?
- Do you believe in a Higher Power that created the world?
- Do you believe that the Higher Power can participate in its creation?
- Do you believe that the Higher Power is good and desires good things for you and the world?
- Do you believe that the Higher Power is just and will address the evil things in our world and within us?
- Do you believe that the Higher Power has the ability to show mercy–not giving us what we do deserve?
- Do you believe that the Higher Power has the ability to lavish grace–giving us what we do not deserve?
If so, may I suggest accepting the invitation of Jesus Christ to come and see that He alone is the one who embodies all these things.