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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Response to a Comment: The Generosity of God

OK, so now a response to the third part of the earlier comment:

3) Then further confusion comes in because I know people 20 years in sobriety whom God has not "revealed Himself" to them as anything other than the God of the 12 Steps, and I know a Jew who had visitations and spiritual revelations almost identical as a Christian in AA - It is confusing to me why God would give this consolation to a Jew without really letting her know it was Himself: Jesus Christ. I then wonder if it is God at all! 

Well, I am not going to be the judge here, but I will say this: if it is not God Himself that is keeping her sober, then is it just a trick of the mind?  Perhaps is the mere fervent belief in God sufficient?

My take on this comes largely from the second post in response.  Here, I have cited that even the Scriptures themselves bear witness to the presence of God in what would otherwise be considered 'pagan' practices (I did not get into 2 Ki 3:27, since it is outside the scope here and is a bit more complicated).

The Three Wise Men (Mt 2) come to worship Christ ... and God manifested Himself to them even though nothing indicates that they left being anything more than Babylonian astrologers.  It does not say they became Jews, since they did not return to the Temple to offer sacrifices.

Our struggle is to see God as being truly generous.  We feel comforted somehow knowing that what we are doing is right, and this is reinforced when we see punishment poured out on those who do wrong.  

But, here is what Jesus said:

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.  When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same.  And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’  They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’  When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’  When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.  Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’  But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.  Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’  So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Mt 20:1-14)

God has the right to do what He wants with people in recovery, period.  Whether He manifests Himself to them directly or not, that is up to Him.  For the rest of us, it is simply none of our business because we ought to know what it is we ourselves have experienced in the Church.

Or, do we?  How often do we forget about the miracles and signs that accompanied our own lives, and begin to wonder whether we are being tricked.  Sure, there are plenty of folks that can talk themselves out of the Church just as they talked themselves in to begin with.

I watched a classmate from seminary who went from Super-Duper-Orthodox to panning the Church and rejecting all religion in less than a decade.  I still care for him, and I think he has made a big mistake, but it is his decision to make and it does not affect my own Faith.

There are others who abuse the Faith, using it to beat down other people and condemn, even though our Lord Himself said He did not come to condemn the world, but to save it.  The world and the people in it judge and condemn themselves, so we don't really need to pile up more on them.  It is important to speak the truth and point out falsehood, but not to assume there is no hope.

I think that we ought to be glad when someone finds God, even if only in a small way.  Why?  Because, perhaps it is all they can handle.  Why put more on them than they can bear?  God says there are some who are 'greatest' in the Kingdom of Heaven, and some who are 'least.'  What is more important: getting in, or being first?

Perhaps God will allow for this smallest of revelations to suffice, just as we believe that those who have never heard the Gospel are not automatically condemned.  

Or, perhaps God will hold us accountable for not being better examples to others so that they might see Him in us, in which case the real problem is not with those who have only a partial revelation of God but those of us who have received a greater portion but hidden it under a bushel.

I don't pretend to speak for God on this matter.  I do know that no one comes to the Father except through the Son.  I also know that many we think should be last will be first, because only God knows and judges.

But, I also know that Christ made a way through hades by His own death and resurrection, and I know that the Church prays for everyone to pass through to the Son.  My belief, based on the prayers and teachings of the Church, is that some people go through their conversion in the death process itself.  Nothing is final until the Last Judgment, and if those who are dead in this life can turn and accept life, then I do not see how the dead cannot also.  When Christ finally returns, then there is no more 'wiggle room.'

The more I contemplate the mercy and love of God, the more I see His compassion for the lost.  When I was new to the Faith, I had a very black-and-white approach to God.  Now, I realize that the Scriptures are far more subtle and profound, at once condemning the sin of man and yet seeking his salvation and conversion.

When it comes to AA and other 12 Step groups, we will see and hear many strange things.  The question is not whether God loves these people or not.  he does.  The real matter is whether we can love them as well.  This is our own challenge.

The other struggle is to keep working for what we were hired for and to not resent God for being generous with those who have not worked as much as we have.

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