Testing our beliefs is a good thing. Even the Lord, in speaking to a rebellious nation, told them:
“Come now, let us reason together.”Isaiah 1:18 NIV
We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, AND mind. He who created our minds encourages us to use them.
As believers, we are to test what we hear, to see if it’s from God:
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.1 John 4:1 CSB
So, from these and many other references, we can be confident that as Christ-followers, we don’t park our brains at the door of the church. We are made to question, to test, and analyze. David did it over and over again in the psalms, as he struggled over evil, sin, and hardships.
The key, however, is that we allow God to be in the conversation. “Let’s reason together,” he said.
The danger of leaving God out of our struggles with faith is that we replace him with something or someone of lesser value.
I definitely can’t simply push God aside and try to figure things out on my own, because my own heart is not reliable.
The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it? I, the Lord, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.Jeremiah 17:9-10 CSB
One day, we’re sure of moving in this direction and tomorrow the next. I remember as a young woman, I deceived myself into believing I should marry a man who was not even a believer. In my mind, I justified my actions and feelings. Thankfully, my parents, in their own gentle way woke me up to my self-deceit.
When we question God, we don’t go looking for the answer in another god of this age. What do they know about it? Can anyone replace God as Creator of the Universe, Lord over All, the One who holds our life in his hand, or Lover of our souls? Buddha never claimed any of that, Muhammed certainly didn’t, nor even the coolest, newest self-help guru. So, why would we go to them for answers? We’re replacing The Source with sub-par sources at the minimum.
When we have questions about God, the Bible, how Christians live, or how so much evil can be happening in this world, we must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Don’t dish God, the Bible, or Christianity, simply because the bathwater got dirty.
All through history—literally, since the beginning with Adam and Eve, men have been messing with the way God intended things should be. It’s called sin, and it infiltrates every aspect of life.
- When the Lord told Abraham that he was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah over the raging sin in those cities, Abraham didn’t walk away in fury; no, he asked him directly, “Will you sweep away the righteous and the wicked?” (Genesis 18:20-32). As a result of his pleas to the One who could save, we know that Lot and his family were snatched from the judgement on that place.
- When David was in despair over the way the “wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men,” he did not cry out to Baal or the other gods of his day. No, he cried to the One God over all. “Help, Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception.” (Psalm 12:1-2, 8)
- Daniel, the interpreter of dreams, a leader in a foreign land, found himself facing the possibility of a den of lions because the king made a rule that everyone should pray only to him for the next thirty days. Though it was unjust and senseless, Daniel did not turn from his God or give up on his faith. Instead, he went home and prayed to the God who had proved himself faithful, knowing he would continue to be faithful no matter the outcome of his defiance.
The unjust and imperfect world we face today is no more so than that which Jesus Christ faced the night he was betrayed.
- Betrayed by one of the select, of the twelve, and still, he pressed on and went into the garden to pray to the One sovereign overall. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me—nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42 CSB
As fallible human beings, the Christian witness is bound to be sullied by the sinful acts of those who claim to follow God. While, by grace, we are saved from our sins by faith, we are still imperfectly living out that faith on this earth.
Am I proud of the way the message of Christ has been harmed by those who have done evil in his name? Of course not. Am I proud of times when I’ve hurt my own witness for him by sinful actions, thoughts, or words? Hardly. Do I excuse my behavior or that of others? Never. While I can find forgiveness from my sins in confession to Christ, it doesn’t always mean there are no consequences for my actions or words. The same goes for larger evils done in the name of the Church or Christ. Consequences can last for generations.
Our bathwater can get filthy at times, but I’d rather drain the bathwater through acknowledgement of past evils, and confession of sin, and allow the Spirit to fill the tub anew with fresh water. Rings may remain in the tub, as consequences linger, but the baby remains.
This is a long and rambling analogy to hopefully get my point across: If you’re mad at God, the Church, or even individual so-called Christians, take your complaint directly to God. You’ll never be satisfied with answers elsewhere.
Grace and Peace