One thing I have learned through the years—you can’t box God in. You can’t put HIM in a little, narrow confined space and say, “This is who God is and this is what He will do. And He CAN’T do anything else.” I can promise you, every time you try this, He will prove you wrong.
Isn’t that part of the wonder (and joy) of the Incarnation. The Jews, especially the Pharisees and the lawyers and the rabbis had it all figured out. God gave this many laws—613 to be exact—no more, no less. According to the Talmud the Holy One (blessed be He!) was like an exalted rabbi—for example, He spends one fourth of the day studying the Talmud. He wears a Tallith (prayer shawl) and phylacteries. And He is so bound by His own laws that sometimes the rabbis could fool Him by using His own words against Him. Yep, they had God all figured out… or at least they thought so. Then, He shows up in a manger, as a baby, in human flesh. What was God doing? They just couldn’t figure it out. He wasn’t operating according to (their) plan. He was breaking all the rules.
And guess what? He continued to break the “rules.” (Not really. They weren’t His rules, they were only man-made, silly rules.) For example, He was more concerned about relieving human suffering than the legalistic observance of certain days. He was not ashamed to be seen eating with sinners and outcasts. He was confident enough in who He was that He was willing to do odd and strange things to accomplish the Father’s will—like sticking his fingers in someone’s ears, making mud out of dirt and spit and putting it in someone’s eyes, or interrupting a funeral to raise the dead. Not normal rabbi stuff. He was the Incarnate God of the unexpected and surprising.
You just can’t box God in!
But as I have told you I am a slow learner. So it took me a long time to learn this—especially as a Protestant, Evangelical Christian. You see, I also knew how God worked. I had it all figured out. Then I discovered a liturgical virtual saint in the person of C. S. Lewis. Oh my. Not only was he Anglican, but he was known to down a pint of ale on occasion… and he smoked too. Wouldn’t seem too bad if was just a pipe. That seems homely, warm and paternal. But he also smoked cigarettes. Oh oh oh my! Then I read about some of those wacky “Catholic” saints. Like Thomas Aquinas. Here was a guy who put my prayer life to shame. And at the same time he had an intellect that just blows me away. And what about Francis of Assisi, and Ambrose, and Thomas à Kempis? Have you read The Imitation of Christ? If not, give it a try. A Kempis’ devotion to Christ makes me feel like a spiritual kindergartener. And my, my, my… how I was inspired and challenged by Brother Lawrence and The Practice of the Presence of God. (I am still trying to live out the principles that Lawrence taught.) And I cannot forget Madame Guyon, a devout Catholic whose interior life puts mine to outright shame.
And that’s just the Catholics… I could add some Lutherans (most notably Luther himself), and Presbyterians, and Methodists (Wesley has become one of my heroes), and even some Orthodox saints. Believe it or not, I have even developed an artistic appreciation and certain “reverence” (for want of a better word) for icons. And don’t get me started on the ancient Celtic Church—Patrick and Brigid and Columba and Columbanus and David and Kevin and… well, the list goes on.
Bottom line: I know what I believe. And I hold to it dearly. You would be VERY hard pressed to sway me from the doctrines and principles I hold most closely to my heart. I cannot and will not compromise the Scriptures, nor my belief in them. I cannot and will compromise what I know to be true. But I have also learned not to limit the grace of God. And I have learned that God’s arms are big enough to take in all kinds of people—people I may disagree with, but I can still love as brothers and sisters.
And isn’t that part of the message of the Gospel? He came for all of us. Even those who disagree with me. (Oh my!)