I have a difficult time with the idea of “Because I said so” parenting. Theoretically, I am opposed to it and really react strongly to it. But in practice there are moments when I don’t want to or don’t feel I should have to give an explanation for why I want my kids to do something. I just want them to shut up and do it.
Most of this boils down to patience. It is much easier to just hand a command down from on high and let others do it unquestioning. The difficult part and the part that requires great patience and the ability to slow down is walking alongside your children to help them become people who make their own choices and think through their decisions.
That is such a hard thing to do.
Now, if we have a “Because I said so” view of God Leviticus 19 and the Sermon on the Mount seem not only difficult but oppressive.
Be perfect. Because I said so.
The unredeemed, sarcastic, irreverent parts of me which react to “because I said so” parenting, really wants to complain about a command like that. Then I read the piece from Leviticus and I want to say:
So wait, Are you the Lord?
But this actually ends up being the exact question we need to ask.
Care for the poor. I am the Lord.
Don’t steal or lie. I am the Lord.
Don’t take of advantage of people even when it is easy. I am the Lord.
Be just. I am the Lord.
Don’t hate or have grudges or take revenge. I am the Lord.
Is this “Because I said so?” or is something else going on here?
In the class I am in this week, we looked at some of David Benner’s work who shows that in all of the Bible, and really all of life, there are three questions which drive us:
Who is God?
Who am I?
Who are they (they being the rest of humanity)?
These are the questions we ask as human beings. And being a disciple of Jesus means we answer these in very specific ways.
But the main question is the first question. Because if I don’t know the answer to the first question, I won’t get the other two right either. Or as Benner says, “the same cloud that obscures God obscures our vision of ourselves.”
So whatever God is doing in these passages this week, it has to do with the way we see God. The commands are actually rooted in who God is.
It is not: Be just, because I am God so I make the rules: Be just, because I said so…
It is: Be just. Because I am just.
Use your power, position, and influence to care for those who can’t care for themselves. Because that is what I do.
When I read the call to be holy or perfect, I don’t see it as a command. It is permission giving.
Let there be holiness. You now have permission to be like God. You can actually reflect who God is to everyone around you.
Because God is good, holy, loving, and just, we are now blessed to be the same way.
And if we want to know how to do this, we look through passages like Leviticus 19 and the Sermon on the Mount.
If “be perfect” is a command. I will never live up. I might as well stop. If this is permission giving, that changes the whole nature of what we are reading.
If it is permission giving, all the stuff about justice, honesty, not hating, not mocking, not taking revenge, and even love of enemies is simply a path to get there. You have permission to holy. Here’s how.
Holiness is doing all these things because that is what God does. As Chris said, holiness is being like Jesus and reflecting what he looks like.
When we see who God is, we know what life is supposed to look like.
What God does as a parent is have the patience to walk alongside us. God reminds of who God is. Reminds us who we are supposed to be. Reminds us who are neighbors are.
It would be easier to set the commands down and walk away. But God doesn’t. God walks WITH us and continually calls us back to who God really is.
Because we forget.
The nature of human beings is to forget the answer to the three most important questions.
But God keeps reminding. This is who I AM. This is who I AM.
It is why we do the Church calendar. If we could sit in texts like these and have them mastered in a week, the calendar is pointless.
But we forget. So the Church calendar is a disciplined way of reminding ourselves of who God really is.
And all the while God is patient.
So we remind ourselves who God is and we stumble towards God’s example of holiness.
We are given permission to be holy like God, because God said so….
….and God knows the way and is helping us get there.
***Side note: Since 1 Corinthians hasn’t been engaged much this week or last week, check this out: http://tmblr.co/Z8QMAt18QdYwm