'There is therefore now no guilty verdict, no judgement sentence for those in the family of Jesus the Messiah.'
There is a question that always crops up when nations are at war and the same sort of question hangs in the air whenever people have fallen out with each other, whose fault is it? Who is in the wrong? When two people have fallen out, you can go to one and he will say the problem is down to the other one; then you go to the other and she says the same!
I would say that a very similar sort of question hangs in the air and is at work on a cosmic scale; in spiritual terms you could say it’s the six billion dollar question. We live in a world that looks very much like it's been designed and made by God, and we look like people who are the product of a divine creator and, yet, how is it that God seems so absent as far as so many people are concerned? The world keeps on stumbling from one crisis to another and God doesn’t seem to do anything to help or show any interest. Something appears to have broken down somewhere…… So then, whose fault is it? Who is in the wrong? And who is ultimately responsible for the world being in such a mess?
These questions don’t really go away for people who respond to God’s apparent absence by falling into agnosticism or atheism. It’s very obviously present when you listen to an angry atheist like Richard Dawkins. He doesn’t actually say that God definitely doesn’t exist; he says he probably doesn’t exist – and why? It is as if he is shaking his fist at God and shouting at him, “I don’t think you exist, because you don’t deserve to exist! Look at nature red in tooth and claw! Look at all the wars! Look at all the terrible things religious people have done - the torture, inquisition, the bigotry!” Now let’s imagine we could whisk him up to heaven, show him God and say to him, “There we are, Richard, here’s God - what do you say to that?” How do you think he would respond? I think he might well say something like this, “All right, so there is a God then; so that means that he’s responsible for all this mess. You’re asking me to give my life over to a God who claims to love me and who claims to be all-powerful; but when you look at how dreadful the world is sometimes, what makes you think I would give my allegiance to the one who is responsible for all that!?”
At least Dawkins is up front about how he feels. If he was to go to God with all his questions and his objections and say to him, “Now then, God, (if you’re there) what do you say to all that then?” and if he was then ready to stop and listen for an answer, and listen with an open heart, I think he would be a lot nearer to the kingdom of God than the typical agnostic who puts these issues on a shelf in the back of their mind and refuses to confront them openly. This is not to deny the existence of agnostics out there who do have an openness to God; there are people with a spiritual hunger and searching heart who just need someone to show them the way. On the other hand, the really closed-down agnostic is very difficult to reach. Imagine yourself going to a new school and every time you try and talk to any one they just turn away; no one wants to make friends or even make the effort to say anything back when you try to talk to them. You cannot avoid the conclusion that these people have a problem with you, but you can’t do anything about it because, if you ask them what it is, they won’t respond. There may be no direct accusation levelled at you but there, nonetheless, is an implied accusation that there is something wrong with you. That is what it must be like for God dealing with closed-off people. Sometimes when people fall out with each other and we want to get to the bottom of it, we try to find out who started it. If your children have been fighting, you may ask them who started it and find them blaming each other for this, so you’re none the wiser. But let’s imagine one day you’re fortunate enough to have witnesses to tell you who started it, so you go and confront the perpetrator. What are the chances of him (or her) putting their hands up and accepting they were completely in the wrong? The more likely response goes something like this, “Okay, I may have started it, but……” and then out come a catalogue of complaints and grievances which are meant to constitute the justification for starting it. In the same way, it was very clear who started the first world war but those who started it believed they were justified and, when they were defeated and were made to pay reparations, there were some in that country who resented being on the losing side and being held to be at fault. They felt they’d been robbed in some way and, out of the seed of that resentment, grew a movement out of which came Adolf Hitler. There was a very different reaction after he was defeated and you only have to meet Germans now to see that; it might not have happened quickly but few nations have been able to come to terms with their own dark past to the extent that they have and we can see how much the country has prospered since then. When it comes back to the falling-out between God and humanity the account in Genesis is clear about who started it, but the Man and Woman were persuaded by the serpent that they were justified in this. How then did they react when they were confronted and God told them what the painful consequences would be for their action? Other than the fact that they blamed each other for the problem, we are not told how they felt, but does what happened after that indicate that they were properly able to face up to it? Or was there a lingering sense of grievance and resentment? What we read of after that looks all too much like the second of those scenarios. The Serpent’s inference that God did not have their best interests at heart seems to have lingered in their hearts and in the hearts of the generations after them, breeding mistrust of God and alienation from him This is something that has gone right down through the history of humanity to the present day; it affects each one of us.
At one point in the Bible we are given a picture of God’s frustration mounting up over all the things that have been simmering away in people and all inferences being made against him, to the point that he is determined to confront the matter head-on and have it out with them. So he calls on heaven and earth as witnesses and summons the people to a big court case so that the matter can finally be settled. Now let’s imagine such a court case with God in the dock, standing accused of incompetence, negligence and lack of care for the world he has made. Chief witness for the prosecution, representing humanity, gets up and launches a catalogue of complaints against the accused. Then counsel for the defence gets up to cross examine him, “Mr Smith, we will come to your accusations in a second; but firstly I see from my records that last year you were found guilty of fraud and embezzlement, yes? Oh, and not long before that when you were involved in a legal dispute connected with an acrimonious divorce, your ex-wife said that you lied through your teeth repeatedly and the judge concluded she was right”…..and so follows a long catalogue of past proven lies, misdemeanours and evasions. Any jury listening to this would only come to one conclusion; the chief witness’s testimony must be discounted because he cannot be held up as a reliable witness. Indeed by the end of the trial it turns out he has been saying false things about the accused and then he has shown himself guilty of perjury.
So it is with humanity when it points the finger at God; we find the accusation turns back on us. Our long catalogue of sins mean that any testimony we give against God can hardly be held up as reliable evidence. Worse still we are found guilty of false accusations, whether directly stated or implied ones. With all our sins as corroborating evidence, all this means that, in the continued falling-out between God and Man, it is us who are shown up as being in the wrong.
We cannot come to God unless there is a significant part of ourselves that decides it no longer wants to be part of this any more. When we do God declares us to now be in the right, even though there are still parts of us that belongs to the old way of thinking with all its resentment and evasion - which is why we continue to sin – and we can spend a life-time trying to come to terms with this. God’s mercy means that, as long as we hang on to him, he will overlook all that because we come to him as brothers and sisters of Christ. This means that some one like C. S. Lewis, who tells us he had to be dragged kicking and screaming into acknowledging God for who he is, as “the most reluctant convert in all England”, belongs to God just as completely as St Francis or the Apostle Paul.
God’s judgement sentence against humanity goes something like this: all right, you don’t want me: so then, you will live without me and you will have to face the consequences of your wrongdoing on your own and, when you get into a mess, I won’t be there to help you. However, when we come to God through Christ, all this is taken away from us. Much of the old thinking that made us sin, and which still causes us to sin, may linger as a continuing issue. Nonetheless we are completely and fully his, and get the full rights and protections of adopted children.