What if your friend told you he’d heard a voice lately instructing him to do exactly that—take a hike up a distant mountain and sacrifice his son there as a burnt offering. And furthermore, he’s pretty sure it was God’s voice. Would you think, “I’ve got to get this guy committed to the psycho ward…he’s either believing a really bad joke or is a fringe lunatic.”
Or what if one of your good friends told you that God had told him to hang out in the red light district of a local city and marry the first hooker that propositioned him? Would you tell him he’s a sick man taking a one-way ticket down a road clearly paved with marital wreckage and well-deserved character defamation?
Or would famous Father Abraham or holy-man Prophet Hosea both come to mind. These men both heard from the God of the universe tell them to do exactly what I’ve described above (Genesis 22:2, Hosea 1:2; 3:1-3). And both real-life stories from the Word beg the question: does God still ask His followers to do seemingly crazy things that go completely against conventional wisdom?
Just yesterday morning I read in Mark 3:21 that Jesus’ own family thought He was “out of his mind.” They tried to shut him down or at least bring him under their control. Have you ever been accused of being out of your mind when pursuing a God-inspired dream or following the course God has laid out for you? Does heroic faith often look absurd to those obsessed with commonsense and only aspire to a “good call” in retrospect?
Stories of other Biblical heroes further rock our airtight arguments for rigid applications of truth and principles. A faithful woman named Ruth uncovered a guy’s feet in the middle of the night (Ruth 3:7)—was she setting a good example to those wondering about how to ask out a date? Isaiah walked around naked and barefoot for three years to make a graphic point (Isaiah 20:2-3)—shouldn’t someone like that be arrested for indecent exposure? And then there’s Jesus. Rather than going along with a broken religious system, He rebuked its leaders in fits of anger (John 2:15-17) and preferred to hang out with outsiders—men and women of ill repute (Luke 5:29-32; 7:37-39). Always at the center of controversy, Jesus often caused disunity (Matthew 10:34) and exhorted His followers to choose Him above their parents and religious authorities (Luke 14:26-33). And finally, the Apostle Paul—a former promoter of Jewish orthodoxy and absolute adherence to its system—is a Spirit-inspired troublemaker who today might be known as one who is constantly “church-hopping” (Acts 16:40; 18:1-23), judging Christian leaders (Galatians 2:11-14), and instigating violent protests (Acts 17:1-9).
Consider further these last two characters. Would Jesus pass the “Not even a hint of immorality” test with all the people He hung out with? And honestly, would you let a preacher speak in your church who like Paul had mystical experiences (2 Corinthians 12:1-4) and whose handkerchiefs were used to heal the sick (Acts 19:11-12)?
I’ve just finished reading Fixing Abraham by Chris Tiegreen that has me re-thinking my typical approach of forming conclusive opinions on the purposes or nature of God. I’m also wondering about our tendency to judge those who don’t follow conventional Christian pathways or use orthodox methods while pursuing what they understand to be God’s will for their lives. Is our general approach to Biblical understanding too sterilized; or in Tiegreen’s words—“Is it possible we’ve created a safe, tidy Christian culture that too often holds back from embracing the complete truth of God’s character—and those of His people?”
What do you think? What part of the Biblical narrative is jarring your neatly packaged theology?