This is one of the sections I added to my book as I revised it tonight… in the last section of the chapter simply entitled “God”. Enjoy —
Sometimes I wonder if Christians – at least Western Christians, anyway – aren’t the most thin-skinned people around. When someone makes a movie, writes a song, authors a book, creates a piece of art, or says something that pushes the envelope, there is no group around you can count on to get riled up more than Christians.
It’s almost as if we don’t really believe God is more powerful than our wildest dreams, because we don’t fully believe he is love.
In the Old Testament, a really interesting story is told of a man named Gideon. Gideon was this big, famous, holy warrior of God – only he wasn’t. He was a scaredy-cat who God used anyway, and that in itself makes his a story worth reading. But the rest of the context makes it even more intriguing to me.
When Gideon comes along, it’s in the middle of a bad situation for the nation of Israel. They are being attacked and oppressed by a neighboring kingdom and are crying out to God to rescue them. This other kingdom is doing awful things to Israel: even though they have the strength to just come in and wipe the Israelites out, they hang back, watch the Israelites plant their fields, and then swoop in and destroy all the crops. Over and over again. They are slowly starving the Israelites to death, and the Israelites are powerless to stop them.
But God isn’t.
God sends a messenger down to Gideon one day to tell him that God has chosen him to wipe out the bad guys – but before he does that, God has kind of an introductory quest for him first. There is a man in Israel who has set up some altars to pagan gods, and God wants Gideon to destroy the altars before he will commission Gideon as a leader.
Oh, and the twist? The man who has been worshiping false gods… is Gideon’s dad.
Gideon, being one of the broken protagonists who fill the pages of Scripture, is scared – and so he sets out at night under the cover of darkness. He tears down his dad’s altars, including one to the pagan god Baal, and returns home to what I can only imagine to be incredibly restless sleep.
When he awakes the next morning, the town is abuzz with the news. Eventually, someone puts the clues together and figures out that it was by Gideon’s hand these altars fell, and so a mob gathers demanding his death.
It is into this scene that Gideon’s dad – the one with the broken altars to false gods – steps. And he says something of such wisdom it leaps off the page at me: “Will you contend for Baal? If he is a god, let him contend for himself.”
All this outrage. All this angst. And for what? Because they feel like a god needs defending?
And so when Christians – with good and decent motives, I have to believe – call for boycotts. get upset and worked up, write letters, bemoan and decry things, and get outraged, I just want to put my arm around their shoulders and say, “Will you contend for God? If he is God, let him contend for himself.”
Because if we believe God is love, then our response to the culture around us looks radically different. Defending God begins to seem quite laughable. Defend a God who is love? Who are we to defend the most powerful force in the universe?