This is a follow-on from yesterday’s most insightful passage about map-making from M. Scott Peck’s ‘The Road Less Traveled’ that i am busy reading and so make sure you have read that one first, but this is a little bit of a deeper look at the ramifications of it, specifically for my Jesus-following friends.

There is a much larger chance that you at some point or other have been subjected to the sung or chanted version of this little mantra:

 

“God, you’re bigger than my box

You’re bigger than my theology

You’re bigger than my understanding

You’re bigger than me.”

The point being, that due to the size and vastness and complexity and enormousness of God and the smallness of us mere mortals in comparison, that no matter how big your view of God is [Who He is, how He speaks, what He looks like, how He works or reveals Himself to us, if He does at all] it is with all likelihood not going to match up with the reality of who God actually is.

A really poor analogy would be akin to a four year old child taking a look at the inner workings of a personal computer and expecting them to understand it. They will have an experience with what they see and they will understand it to the extent that their minds and vocabulary allow it to. But the reality is that their definition and understanding will fall so far short of what the truth and reality is. It is not the child’s fault. They simply don’t have the capacity to understand at that point.

So it is with God. And us. We can have some measure of understanding and some extent of experience, but if we ever decide that we have arrived at a comprehensive and complete understanding of who God is and how He works, then we are very likely going to look foolish.

“God, you’re bigger than my box

You’re bigger than my theology

You’re bigger than my understanding

You’re bigger than me.”

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a box or theology or an understanding. Or a map. But it does definitely mean that we can’t hold the edges of those things too preciously. As with yesterday’s Peck passage, we need to be constantly shifting or revising our map as our knowledge and experience and conversations and learning dictate to us.

What is also super helpful is realising where we are taking our picture and understanding of God from. Most Christians would claim it is from the Bible. That was given to us to help us have a better understanding of God and His story and how and where we fit into it. I would agree with that in terms of intention, but i would also suggest that for so many people in the church, that is not their reality.

For example if your picture of God tells you that the preacher of a church [a man] has to shout and get worked up and have passion oozing out of every vein and pore for it to be an effective preach, then i don’t think you have been informed by the bible. I think you have been taught by the culture of the pentecostal church.

If your picture of God tells you that to worship Him you must raise your hands in the air and emotion must be present [you must feel the songs you are singing so they become more real] then you have not been informed by the Bible. You have likely been taught by the culture of the charismatic church.

If your understanding of God dictates that liturgy is the way to truly connect with your Creator and that the only person who is able to administer the communion bread dipped in wine [or wafer dipped in grape juice, because, you know] then it is likely that you have been influenced by the culture of the anglican or catholic church.

i am not saying for a second that any of those thoughts or ideas are necessarily in themselves wrong. What i am hoping is that each of us will look at the things we believe about God and church and christianity and really try and be more sure of what is directly taken from the Bible and what is definitely a message from God [One absolute we can hang our coat on is ‘Love God with all your heart, strength, soul and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself!] and what things [some of which might be good and helpful, some less so] were merely aspects of the culture of the church we felt connected to, that we have taken on as a God thing.

“God, you’re bigger than my box

You’re bigger than my theology

You’re bigger than my understanding

You’re bigger than me.”

It is helpful to have an idea of who God is and how He works. But it can be restrictive when we hold those as set boundaries that He is never able to break out of.

For example, before Moses, God had never spoken to anyone through a burning bush.

Before Balaam, God had never sent a message to a human by way of a donkey.

Before Jesus, God had never appeared to mankind as a baby or done many of the things Jesus did in quite the same way that He did them.

Does that mean God doesn’t speak through burning bushes, donkeys or babies? Not at all. It just meant He hadn’t yet. Until He had.

ENGAGE WITH YOUR MAP, CHURCH

i believe the map-adjusting concept is for everyone. But i especially believe the church needs to embrace it.

What makes it particularly tricky is the need to embrace it with discernment. There are many long-held beliefs and practices in the church today that are being challenged [women in leadership, the LGBT conversation, stance on abortion, death penalty, euthanasia and more] and these need to be looked at. But they do not need to be changed simply because they are being challenged. They need to be looked at through the lens 0f scripture and in community God’s heart, view and stance needs to be determined.

This should be an easy one as followers of Jesus have the Holy Spirit living in them helping to inform, guide and nudge in the right direction. Although we have seen too often people on both sides of a complicated conversation [take the death penalty for example] who are clearly Spirit-filled and yet coming to different conclusions.

So this is not easy stuff. But it is so incredibly important. Too often i see people chiming in on Facebook discussions or article comment feeds and throwing out a statement like ‘The bible says so’ without giving any reasoning [beyond often an out-of-context quoted verse] or backing for their statement. And too often, if you look a little deeper you can easily see that it is ‘my church culture’ or ‘the family understanding i was brought up with’ that is actually saying so.

The easiest way to be sure if it is God or the Bible that is doing the informing in a particular situation is to take a look at the Love being demonstrated. If Love is lacking or not evident at all, then it is quite easy to know we are not dealing with a God thing here. Because with God, Love is always the key and the heart. It doesn’t mean that Love won’t sometimes be a tough one to swallow or be interpreted as unloving [God does not tolerate sin easily. He does always continue to Love sinful people though] because a spoken Truth that points out that you are not behaving in a Godly way will not necessarily feel like the way we expect Love to feel. But if Love is absent, then God is as well. And that is a lesson the church could do well to focus more strongly on.

Where we have failed to Love, we have failed to bring/show/demonstrate God.

And any space on our map that is devoid of Love, needs an instant change [and quite possibly a significant one] to get us moving in the right direction.

Can you say/sing this with me?

“God, you’re bigger than my box

You’re bigger than my theology

You’re bigger than my understanding

You’re bigger than me.”

[For the next part looking at how adjusting your map means refusing to settle, click here]

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