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God Isn’t Safe, But…

Recently I finished reading through The Chronicles of Narnia with my kids. It is a series of fictional books written by the great Christian author and apologist, C.S. Lewis. I’ve owned my set since I was a kid, and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read them, even as an adult. Though they were originally written for children, the simple yet fascinating stories are full of Biblical truths and references that perhaps only adults would pick up on; some subtle, others more obvious.

In The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, one of the main characters asks someone if Aslan (the Christ figure) is safe. The answer: “Safe? … Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” Putting it another way, many times throughout The Chronicles, characters are reminded that Aslan is not a tame lion.

I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks, among believers and non-believers alike, is the fact that God is not ‘safe’ or ‘tame.’ That’s what many people want: a god they can manage or tame, a god who won’t tell them to give up something they want to keep (possessions or habits) and won’t ask them to do something they don’t want to do. Many Christians choose to focus on God’s love, while ignoring His justice or His wrath toward sin. Then there are those who have a hard time understanding how a good God can allow bad things to happen to ‘good’ people, especially when the bad things are the result of the forces of nature, or ‘acts of God.’

But we must remember that God’s ways are often very different from ours (Isaiah 55:8), and God’s perspective is so much bigger than we can understand. Of course God isn’t safe! He has shown throughout the Bible and history that He can cause, or simply allow, all sorts of things to happen that are not safe. But He is good! No matter what happens, God is able to make it work out for good, to those who love God and who follow Him (Romans 8:28).

I believe our worship of God will become richer when we understand and acknowledge that: 1.God isn’t safe, so He deserves our awe and reverence, and 2. God is good, so we can trust Him in all circumstances.


When God Hates Worship

It is possible for church-goers to be doing the typical things they do – worship, fellowship, etc. – and for God to hate what they’re doing. That sounds like strong language, but those aren’t my words:

I hate, I despise your religious festivals;

    your assemblies are a stench to me.

Amos 5:21 (NIV)

In Amos 5:21-27, God is speaking to His chosen people. Clearly, God is not accepting their worship. After making the blanket statement above, God gets specific: he does not accept their offerings (v22), and he doesn’t want to listen to their worship music, saying, “Away with the noise of your songs!”(v23)

Why is God so opposed to the worship of these people? Perhaps the rest of the passage helps to explain. Verse 24 says, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” More important than outward expressions of worship are championing justice and living rightly according to God’s standard, found in His Word. This verse also reminds me of Micah 6:8, in which God indicates that going through the motions of sacrifices (religious ceremony) is not as important as acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly (living out our lives) with God.

Going back to Amos 5, in verses 25-27 God challenges the people to consider the authenticity of their hearts. Maybe they did bring sacrifices and offerings to God, but they also – or maybe, instead – worshiped idols. In our day, we have to be careful of making the same mistake. The challenge we have is that our idols are not as obvious as those of Amos’ day; ours are more subtle. I shared more about what I’ve learned about modern day idols in this blog post.

The important thing is to honestly assess our hearts and minds, and ask God through the Holy Spirit to show us where we may be worshiping other ‘gods’ in our life. And then we have to be willing to get rid of those idols. God does not change; if he hated such worship then, He hates it now. God will not accept our worship of Him if we are also worshiping other idols. I think this is what Jesus Christ was saying when He taught that one can only have one master; one cannot serve both God and other things (Matthew 6:24).

May we purify our hearts and motives for worship. May we be willing to discover and discard any idols in our lives. May our worship be not hateful, but pleasing, to God.

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