Friday, March 11, 2005

Is God binary?

Too often, I've made the mistake of thinking that God is binary--that He can only be "for" something or "agin it." Fortunately, he's more merciful than that. Often times, there is a third option that may be in play that we haven't considered--"I don't care, as long as you act in love."

I see this so clearly as a parent. When my kids were younger, I had to make laws for them, explicit rules that could not be broken. I was either in favor of them playing a board game at that particular moment, or I was against it. I made the rule, and they had to comply.

As they mature, I find myself less inclined to lay down explicit laws for them. I find that I really don't have an opinion, most of the time, on whether they play a board game or not. The bottom line now is that if they choose to do so, that it be a pleasant experience for all involved, without arguing. In short, they need to act out their love for their siblings. Too many times than I care to think about, I find myself responding to their dispute with the words "I don't care either way, just get along!"

There's no surer way to get this loving Dad to lay down the law and abolish a particular activity than if I find them arguing about it. After all, law is added because of transgression and is only a tutor, or schoolmaster. But when my kids are grown, they will have outgrown my laws, which were only intended to be training tools. Left in place of those regulations will hopefully be the law of love.

The obvious parallel is that we are no longer under law as believers. The old law was a code book given on mount Sinai full of "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots," and this code book was nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ. It was meant to fence us in with regulations, but now we are to be drawn by love to serve him willingly.

But the other parallel is this idea that God is not a God of two answers, only "yes" or "no." Sometimes the answer is "either way is fine, just get along with each other."

    Romans 14:13-20- Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

    Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.

One of the lessons of Romans 14 is that if our rules of Biblical interpretation only allow for two answers, then we must be filtering out some of what God has to say.

We can only learn so much about God or what He wants by mashing truth through the screen of binary proposition statements. I know, because I've tried that route, and it is a lifeless relationship with the Creator when raw data about Him is the main thing we're after. Sure, God is the God of truth. But we like to think of truth in binary terms, like a code of ones and zeros. The real truth is that sometimes the answer is neither yes or no. Sometimes the truth is "It doesn't matter, just love one another."

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