Friday, April 07, 2006

Musings: God doesn't work alone

Thy Will Be Done

When was the last time God worked alone? If you start at the end of your Bible and flip backwards, you'll have gone through it in its entirety before you reach the answer: the creation of the entire universe. God, who was before all, caused the universe to come into being by His very word. Since then, God has not worked alone. He has worked with and through humanity. Even our very redemption was done through a man who was truly human. His incarnation as Jesus was perhaps the pinnacle of His working through humanity.

But why is this important? It's because there's a dangerous idea out there that all we have to do is say "Thy will be done" and God's will shall be done. We don't pass an exam by saying "I will pass this test". We do not appease our appetites by saying "I shall eat my fill". We will never bring God's will to fruition if we simply declare it to be so. We must act. We are not helpless infants whose cries are answered with milk or food or toys. We are children of God; God seeks responsible children who can carry out His work on earth. Our faith that God's will shall be done is worthless if we are not willing to carry out His will!

Faith Without Works

What good is faith without works? Recall the letter of James:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17)
(For those of you who find James's argument contradictory to Paul's, please read "Faith, Works, and the Apparent Controversy of Paul and James".) Look at the stories of people who placed their faith in God in the Old Testament. When God told Noah of the impending flood and Noah's duty, Noah followed God's commands and acted. He did not say "Thy will be done" and then wait for the rain. When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham followed God's commands and acted. He did not say "Thy will be done" and then sit around waiting for his countless descendents to appear.

Carrying out God's Will

The story of the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham is interesting -- when Isaac asks Abraham where the sheep for the holocaust is, Abraham replies "God Himself will provide the sheep". How we misinterpret that! How often we say "God will provide" and then wait for Him to provide! If we place our trust in God and then refuse to have anything to do with our fellow man because they are not God, how will we ever carry out God's will? As important as each one of us individually is to God, we cannot forget that we are all God's children, and cannot cut ourselves off from each other.

God does not work alone. He seeks to have His will carried out through each of us. The sooner we see Christ in others -- in the poor, the oppressed, the hungry, the homeless -- the sooner they shall see Christ in us. Let God's work be done through you. Let God's will be done! You do it!


Josh S said...

God worked alone when he created the universe, became incarnate, died on the Cross, and rose from the dead.

japhy said...

I would argue that:

His incarnation was done through Mary, who accepted this gift ("May it be done to me" Luke 1:38).

His death on the cross, which was not just a person dying, but the consummation of the ritual of sacrifice for sins, was done through Jesus Christ (fully man, fully God). Consequently, the Resurrection was done through Jesus (man and God).

If you think I'm splitting hairs with that last answer, I'd say that the whole nature of our salvation was based on it being done through a human, through a physical human person. It would have been a whole other thing if God had merely "pointed His finger" and wiped away our sins; instead, He chose to take our humanity upon Himself, and in that way, worked with and alongside humanity.

japhy said...

Now, I will admit I had not considered the final Judgment, but since that is yet to come and we cannot truly know its nature, since God's ways are not our own, I can't say how it will be done.

codepoke said...

Very cool point! And reading the bible backwards is a great illustration. I will try to remember that.

There is a verse somewhere that suggests that God will have help in judging. I'm inclined to disallow calling God 2 people when He is incarnated, but I'll roll with you on it. ;-)

Great post.

japhy said...

As for God being two people when Jesus was incarnate, what I mean is that God works through humanity. God taking human form in Jesus is an example of that; it happened because we were made in God's image. I'm sure God could have manifest Himself in some other physical form, but He chose a human form. In that way, Jesus was (and is) "one of us", and God worked through Jesus's humanity.