Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him! (Job 13.15-16)
Here We Are
On occasion, I check Straight-Friendly’s traffic and note a one-time visitor who reaches us by Googling a familiar Scriptural phrase—“Good Shepherd” or “loaves and fishes,” say. He/she spends quite a while here, viewing several pages and examining the posts’ comments. I pray he/she is an earnest seeker who finds our discussions helpful. But sometimes the gleeful side of my imagination takes over. I envision a diehard legalist or cynic mousing through the content, utterly befuddled by what he/she finds: alienated gay and straight believers embracing Christ’s law of love for their neighbors; straight ones encouraging their gay sisters and brothers in the faith; incest survivors attesting the power of forgiveness; feminists patiently serving in communions that deny women equal opportunity; parents fervently raising children, straight and gay, to live in integrity—in short, people of all sorts (including “none of the above”) sharing their joyful confidence in God’s unconditional love and acceptance.
In my little fantasy, the dogmatic Christian or crusty skeptic scans page after page, looking for the “real agenda.” Where are the anger and resentment? Where’s the victim mentality? Where’s the “gay angle?” Why is much of this no different than other “traditional” Christian blogs? And, particularly for the cynic, how can such obviously intelligent people—many wounded and cast aside by religion—invest hope in their faith? When unenlightened visitors here, as well as many of our family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and even fellow believers, observe our witness, we make not one bit of sense to them. And yet here we are. We’ve been told we have no right or reason to believe God loves everyone equally. Still, we do. We’ve been told we can’t follow Jesus. Still, we do. We’ve been told we’re insane to think returning love for hate, tolerance for intolerance, and kindness for cruelty will change anything. Still, we do. Still. And yet.
Any time religiously oriented people observe individuals who don’t fit their image of what Christians “look like” or how they “behave,” their first inclination is to discredit those who break the mold. While this is lamentable—and has often resulted in grave harm to others—it’s nonetheless understandable, because unconventional believers inherently challenge constructs of conformity and tradition. They threaten other believers, many of whom feel rightly compelled to defend their faith. It’s essential all Christians grasp this, as disputing the credibility of one another’s faith is the primary cause of disunity in the Body of Christ. These tensions are most keenly felt when those we differ with encounter serious trials. Instead of rallying in support, we rally to show them the error of their ways. They need our love. We pronounce judgment. This is the central conflict in Job’s story.
Job’s losses and suffering occur because he’s a righteous man—not because he’s gone wrong. But his friends don’t understand this. They plead with him to identify how he angered God, and beg His mercy. Although he insists he’s done nothing wrong, they won’t accept it. They go around and around until Job tells them to let him speak. He’s convinced what God’s doing involves him, but it’s bigger than him. And rather than take things in his own hands, Job’s prepared to trust God. “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him,” he says. “I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him!” (Job 13.15-16) Yet will I hope in Him. This is one of Scripture’s most stirring depictions of still-ness—unconditional faith in the face of intimidating logic, beliefs, and evidence that seemingly contradict it. Job knows who he is. He knows Who God is. And that’s all he needs to know, regardless how much his friends think they know or what they think he doesn’t know.
Paul makes a similar statement in 2 Timothy. The letter appears to be written from the Roman prison cell where Paul awaits execution. He advises Timothy not to be ashamed (intimidated) of his faith or ashamed (embarrassed) of Paul’s status as a condemned prisoner. Having been called as an apostle, he writes in chapter 1, being called to die for Christ doesn’t surprise him. “That is why I am suffering as I am,” he says in verse 12. “Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” Yet I am not ashamed. Still-ness.
Faced with condemnation and questions of his faith, Job practices still-ness. “It looks like there’s no hope, and yet I hope.” Staring down death’s corridor, Paul rejects shame and fear. “It looks like my suffering is deserved and my life is over, and yet I know.” Every believer who encounters hostility for his/her faith—whether from non-believers or misguided fellow Christians—must store up a ready reserve of still-ness. People will scoff at our commitment to Christ. They’ll contest its validity with every imaginable reason why confidence in God’s love and following Christ are futile. On many levels, what they say will make sense. And yet we must persist in believing what we can’t prove, trusting what we can’t see. As Scripture instructs us repeatedly, we live by faith and not by sight. What God’s doing involves us, but it’s bigger than us. Despite every reason to doubt this, still we have hope. Despite what others think of us, where we presently are, or where God ultimately leads, we’re not ashamed. Still we know. “Yes,” we say to others, “and yet.” Still-ness.
Please comment: What challenges do you face that require still-ness?
Others will question our faith—sometimes convincingly. Still-ness enables us to deflect their questions with confidence.
(Tomorrow: Still-Ness: Peace)