How Often Do Our Agendas Eclipse God’s Call on Our Lives?

How Often Do Our Agendas Eclipse God’s Call on Our Lives? August 21, 2017

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Get your solar eclipse glasses out. Today’s the big day when we witness the extremely rare eclipse of the sun. History is filled with tales of how societies and civilizations interpreted eclipses according to cultural norms, values, and taboos. As a New York Times article notes,

For instance, for the Arapaho, he said, the coupling of the sun and the moon prompted a discussion of sex and incest. In the Andes, where an Inca-related people believed that the moon was whispering lies into the sun’s ear, solar eclipses provided an occasion for a discussion about the evils associated with lying.

Still other people associated eclipses with the apocalypse. While The New York Times article cautions against dismissing various cultures’ perspectives on nature, their interpretations and approaches still appear to have eclipsed what today we would take to be the natural phenomenon and natural explanations.

Regardless of what you make of these ancient accounts of solar eclipses, we often eclipse God and the Bible. It is worth noting that Hans Frei wrote a book on the eclipse of biblical narrative, which addresses how many during the Enlightenment period approached the biblical narrative according to an alien historical lens rather than allow it to speak for itself, according to which it provides its own storied rendering of reality (Hans W. Frei, The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics {New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980}).

Beyond Frei’s account of the history of biblical interpretation, we often eclipse God’s call on our lives by seeking to confirm our own biases and agendas when we approach Jesus and the Bible. We might even pay lip service to biblical truth and authority, or claim falsely but with conviction that we have obeyed its teachings our whole lives.

The Bible records the account of someone who claimed to obey the Bible’s essential teachings. Here I have in mind the story of the rich young ruler who approached Jesus to ask him what he needed to do to be saved. While I have no way of knowing, the rich young ruler may have come to Jesus to justify himself, to confirm his biases about his spiritual state, and to prove he was a good candidate for salvation (Mathew 19:16-22). When Jesus told him to keep the commandments, the young man responded that he had done so since his youth (Matthew 19:20). In Mark’s account, we are told that Jesus felt a love for this individual as a result of his assertion before telling the man he still lacked one thing to be saved: he needed to go sell his possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and then follow Jesus (Mark 10:20-21). The young ruler went away dejected because he had great wealth.

Jesus has a way of piercing our religious claims and agendas to get to the heart. As in the case of the rich young ruler, he will not allow us to eclipse him or his call on our lives. For the young ruler, it was his riches. For us, it may be something else. This is a far cry from a Moralistic Therapeutic Deistic perspective (MTD), where God is on call in case we need him. Jesus does not enable our confirmation biases or do our bidding. The God revealed in Jesus operates very differently.

Even though he is addressing pantheism, C. S. Lewis could have been speaking about MTD’s deistic deity when he writes,

An “impersonal God”—well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads—better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap—best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband—that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (‘Man’s search for God’!) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?

So it is a sort of Rubicon. One goes across; or not. But if one does, there is no manner of security against miracles. One may be in for anything (C. S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study {New York: Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1960}, pages 93-94).

So it is with Jesus in his interaction with the rich young ruler, and with the rest of us, whether rich or poor, young or old, ruler or ruled. We will not have our way with him. Do remember that the sun’s rays blaze fiercely around the rim of the moon’s eclipse, just as it does at other times. It is never good to try and eclipse Jesus. It can do damage to one’s spiritual vision.

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