Let God Be God

Tony Robinson writes in his Lenten devotional this morning: “Let God be God.”

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

Yeah, well, Jonah didn’t think so. Truth be told, most of the time neither do we.

God can be a very forgiving type. Hate the sin, love the sinner and all that. Which is all well and good as long as its my sin we’re talking about. Once it becomes someone else’s sin, especially some one or some ones we despise – we would all be much happier if God held off the forgiving until some revenge was extracted.

You may recall Jonah was sent to preach a word of forgiveness and repentance to the people of Nineveh. An evil lot they were, according to legend. If anyone deserved some retribution and good old-fashioned divine punishment, it was they.

Jonah heard the call to preach some repentance and basically said to God: “Yeah, I don’t think so. The thing is, you forgive too quickly. Let the suffer first and then come back to me with this whole forgiveness thing.”

I get that. I’ve got my list, too. People whose transgressions I have been counting and whose wounds to myself, to people I care about, or to the world in general are too painful for me to dismiss. I want some getting even displayed before I go preaching forgiveness to them. I want those so-and-sos to suffer a little – some of them a lot – before any divine grace is experienced.

So, yeah, Jonah had a right. Let me preach something other than repentance and forgiveness.

All that makes sense. But, then there’s that whole “let God be God” thing. By some strange twist of fate (if you’ve remembered this much of the story you surely remember the whole being swallowed and spat out by a whale part, too), Jonah ends up in Nineveh. His whole message took less than 30 seconds: something along the lines of sneaking into a quiet city street late at night and saying out loud: “repent and change your ways or else!”, and then calling it a night.

Well, it took. That whole forgiveness thing worked and the people of Nineveh repented: as did God. Mercy and grace abounded, and everyone was happy – except old Jonah.

Yeah, I know the feeling.

This Lent, think about all that is contained in the beautiful phrase: love your neighbor as yourself.

In a world where there is so much pressure for Christians to hate Muslims, for Democrats to despise Republicans, for whites to fear Blacks, for men to lord their power over women, for the young to dismiss the elderly, for the rich to disdain the poor: how effective would a little love of neighbor be in building a just world for all?

We can give in to our baser emotions: hatred, anger, disdain, revenge, and the satisfactions gained fantasizing about retribution.

Or we can let God be God. Practice a little more love and grace, mercy and forgiveness. Seek the repentant heart and embrace the offer of a new way. Maybe even remove a few planks from our eyes and seek a little repentance ourselves, grateful on the other side of that for a mercy that can be hard to come by these days.

This Lent, let us all make a promise to opt for love. Let love change our hearts, seeking forgiveness for the times we have hurt others and being open to receive the offer of a changed heart in another. Let God be God as we continue this journey Into the Mystic.