As I read Job’s conversation with his “friends”, I’m so reminded of the different views we have of God, and how many of them are faulty. It’s as though different situations we are in can crack the lenses through which we look at God, and distort the truth.
Chris Cloniger did a video back in the ‘90’s called “Godviews” in which he plays God in a myriad of different segments, but each time he is playing God as some see Him through their cracked lenses. He plays the Old Doddard God, who was around in the past, but has grown so old and senile, He doesn’t have much impact on the world today. He plays the Party Throwing God who “just loves everybody and can’t wait for them all to come to (His) party!” complete with party hats, confetti and noisemakers. He plays the Mechanic God, who’s just here to fix everything we break when we call on Him, but with a pretty hefty tab to pay later. One of my favorites is the Butler God, who is simply trying to give us all we could ever want or need, anticipating our every need and apologizing profusely when He misses something we may want (“It WAS the red Ferarri, wasn’t it sir? Very good.”)
But the one I was thinking about with this reading was the Cowboy Sheriff God, who is watching us closely with shotgun pre-aimed for when we do screw up, “An’ you WILL screw up sooner or later, and then… KAPOW!” This seems to be the closest to what Job is envisioning. “If I sinned, You would be watching me,” Job laments in 10:14, “and would not let my offense go unpunished.” His is a God of justice for sure, but a seemingly graceless God. And Job’s friends agree: this punishment has come because of some sin of Job’s though he deny it. Guilt and confusion have cracked their lenses, giving them a distorted view of their King.
I’ve believed in this God before. When something terrible and unexpected (and unearned?) comes, I question God’s mercy, wondering what I’ve done to earn His displeasure. Oh, I don’t doubt God’s justice, only my own righteousness, for if I were truly righteous, He would have no need to punish me so. And I know from my work with others that I’m not the only one who’s approached God with cracked lenses that distort my vision of the Almighty.
And so I rejoice that Cloniger ends his video of Godviews with a story that best sums up the reality of God’s relationship with us. It is a beautiful, tear-jerking rendition of the story of the Lost Son from Luke 15. This parable assures us that God is not there just to give us all we want, or to fix what we break, and certainly not to punish us for every sin we commit. Yes, there is a party, and He is portrayed as an old man, but ultimately, in both the parable and Cloniger’s retelling we meet a Loving Father God, who is respected and wise, patient and kind, and will not hold our mistakes against us when we return in humble contrition. In fact, He is waiting for us, not with shotgun in hand, but with arms spread wide in welcome.
If you get the chance, read Matt Mikalotos’ book My Imaginary Jesus. It fleshes this out in an entertaining, heartfelt, and yet convicting way. Described as, “C.S. Lewis meets Monty Python,” this book is well worth the read.