Have you noticed that it is usually man who points a finger when we are wrong? God rarely points a finger. He approaches the sinner with questions designed to create a relationship based on love, solid reasoning, self-examination and truth. In fact, unlike humans, God asks questions of sinful people. He rarely accuses. The reason our loving Lord does this is because
He wants to create a relationship with us.
1. In the Garden of Eden, after Adam had sinned, God said, “Adam, where are you?”
Remember, Adam had hidden himself when he realized he was naked. Before sinning, Adam would rush towards God’s voice -- the voice of joy and peace, the well of truth and joy. He would hear God walking in the cool of the evening and race to this wonderful God who was the fullness of joy. But now: God sees something strange. There is no human creature rushing to meet him, only a fearful hiding and a fearful dread of retribution. God doesn’t come out and say “Adam, you’re hiding from me.” Then Adam comes out of physical hiding –he is still hiding his sin-- and says “I heard your voice and I was afraid.”
Now comes another chance for Adam to try to bring honesty to the relationship. Instead of saying, “I judge you as not being trustworthy and loving to take care of me so I ate the food to
become like you and take care of my own life”, Adam does an intellectual hiding: he blames someone else. Sure, we can be tempted by another. But one is tempted only when they are taken away from God by their OWN lust. God asks Adam, “Have you eaten of the tree that I forbade you to eat from?” Adam says, “The woman YOU gave me tempted me and I ate it.” Very slick. But God doesn’t comment on Adam’s slick snaky excuse.
Let me digress for a moment and discuss this aspect of God’s personality. It’s a forbearance that is remarkable and that appears many times in the Bible. God simply refuses to point out how slick the wrong-doer is. Slickness and self-delusion is common in the Bible. It is especially common among religious people. Many Christians nowadays are slick: they find a religious way to destroy someone they dislike. Religion is often used by bad people to hide behind. Very often it is used to hide our hatred of other people. We find religious reasons to harm other people. Remember Prince Shechem and Dinah? Jacob’s sons used the religious ritual of circumcision to destroy an entire people. Remember Lamech? He used religion after he committed a murder to hide his sins. God didn’t even try to speak to him.
So God doesn’t tell Adam to quit the self-deception and the blaming he turns to Eve and asks her: “What is this that you have done?” Another chance for reality and truth and relationship to enter the game. Eve said, the serpent beguiled me and I did eat. Beguile is a better word. It implies an entrancement. Satan created a kind of seductive sensual longing in her for the fruit and the more she thought about it, the more the fruit took on cosmic proportions. Eve is at least a little nearer confessing her gilt. And she doesn’t implicate God by saying, “YOU made the snake.”
3. Cain and Abel set out to praise God. Cain’s worship is not accepted. This really is no big deal at this point. God hadn’t demanded worship. The boys had wanted to show God their love for
him. But when Cain sees that there is the right way to do a thing and the wrong way to do a thing, he gets upset and jealous. (This theme of jealous children and favored children floats through the Bible.) Seeing Cain so crestfallen, God approaches Cain and asks, “Why are you sad?” Cain doesn’t answer. But God knows his thoughts so God says, “Sin is lying wait to master you. But you can master it.” This is the first time SIN is mentioned in the Bible. And God depicts it as a preying creature who will prey on Cain if Cain isn’t careful. It’s a loving caring comment. God is telling a mere human about this being SIN. We have no record of God telling Adam and Eve or even Abel about Sin’s nature. So Cain’s sulking has brought him a spiritual gift. The fact that God is talking with Cain so openly shows that relationship between man and God is not so badly shaken at this time. But the next thing that happens is that Cain murders Abel out of jealousy. The first religious war. God calls out to Cain, “Where is your brother?” Note: he doesn’t say, “You evil murderer!” And he doesn't play Oprah by psycho-analyzing Cain. Psycho-analyzing people is yet another way of judging them.
No, God simple says, “Where is your brother?” Cain replies with a pun. Not the first pun in the Bible, but the first really snide joke. And this pun will reverberate throughout Scripture. Cain’s pun is also a question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” His brother was a keeper of animals so the pun was a good one. God does not respond to the pun but asks another question: “What have you done? Your brother’s blood is calling out to me from the ground.”
This personality trait of God’s, this asking of questions instead of accusing shows his love for us and shows the difference between Our Lord and the Accuser of the Brethren. When Jacob fought with the angel of the Lord, the angel of the Lord asked, “What is your name?” Perhaps, the Lord wanted Jacob to get back to his roots. Before Jacob becomes a “prince” (Israel), he must acknowledge that he is a “supplanter” (Jacob). When Sarah heard the prophesy that she would have a son, she disbelieved and laughed in her disbelief, “Why did you laugh?” When Hagar was despairing in the desert, the angel of the Lord asked her, “What is the matter, Hagar?” When Moses asked God to part the Red Sea, God responded, “Why are you looking at me? You stretch out your hand and part the sea.”
Remember when Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman Moses had married? The chapter begins with Moses writing to his reader: “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because he had married an Ethiopian woman.” Their prejudice was so bad that they went about saying that they were equal with Moses and against the Lord’s anointed. Many
Christian prejudiced pastors who want to believe that interracial marriages are a sin say that God afflicted Miriam because she spoke against his anointed. They refuse to see that God spoke against Miriam’s excuse. He did not mention the underlying reason. Rather, he spoke to the great lie they were spreading, not to their inmost soul. God came down from heaven, leaned on the column and said, “Have you spoken against my servant, Moses? Moses is the appointed leader, not you.” They knew enough to know what he was hinting at. And the reader knows what’s what because Moses already told us what was going on. God adds, “If her father had spat in her face, would she not be ashamed seven days?” This is the third person invisible. Miriam is nearby, but God is making a point of not talking to her directly because as a backup for her racism, she had said that God had also talked directly to her.
This asking of questions continues all through the Bible. When Samuel was upset that the kingdom had been taken away from Saul, “How long will you grieve over Saul since I've removed
the kingship from him?” And even Satan, the great accuser of the brethren, gets a question and not an accusation when he came to see God in the court of Heaven, God even asked him a question, “So, I see that you have been pondering my servant Job?”
Jesus also shares this trait with His father:
1. After He had left His mother and father and made them worry themselves sick about him, “Why were you looking for me? Didn't you know I would be doing my father's business?”
2. To his mother after she asked him to turn water into wine: “Woman, what is that to you and to me?”
3. To the man who told him that his brothers and mother were waiting for Him outside, “Who are my brothers and sisters?”
4. To the woman taken in adultery, “Woman, where are your accusers?”
5. To the man who wanted to know what the greatest commandments were: “Tell me who acted as a neighbor?”
6. To the man who wanted Jesus to give the man’s greedy brother a talking to. “Who made me a divider among you?”
7. To John and James when they asked Jesus to make them special in heaven, “Do you think you can swallow the cup reserved for those who will stand at my right hand?”
8.On the question of tribute, “Whose inscription and face is on this coin?”
9. To Simon Peter, “Who do you say I am?”
10.To Simon Peter, “Do you love me?”
11.To Simon Peter, “If I will that he (my best friend) waits around until I return, what is that to you?”
12.To Phillip on the eve of his crucifixion, “Have I been so long with you and yet you don’t know me?”
13. To Paul on the road to Damascus, “Paul why are you persecuting me?”
These questions show God’s gentleness, care, and desire for communication and relationship. He asks questions to prod human spirits. But He also awaits their answers.
Of course God also gives answers. Two of my favorites are:
1) When Moses asked God, “If they ask me who sent me, what will I say?”
God’s answer: “Tell them, I AM sent you.”
2) Jesus’s Answers in the New Testament
1. In response to Paul’s question, “Who are you Lord that I am persecuting?”
Jesus’ response: “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”
This gentle humble divine trait is shown throughout the Bible, in confrontation after confrontation, the Bible writers portray God or His divine representatives asking questions of guilty or stupid or “religious” people. Anyone who claims the Bible isn’t written by the same Holy Spirit Author, would be hard-pressed to explain why mere humans would so consistently portray such a lovely gentle forbearing God as this.
And most remarkable, God uses this same method today as the Holy and gracious Spirit works in our conscience. But what about His people?
I want you to imagine something: What if Satan realized that he could be blessed by humans? What if he decided to trust God's creation and accept humans? What a different world it would be! But he did not want to enter into a loving relationship with humans. He hated humans! He thought he was better than they were. He had an agenda to make them know the good and evil of their actions! He wanted to lay the law on them. Doesn't he sound like many Christians we know.
Many Christians are accusers of the brethren without even knowing it. Often, they destroy relationships with their tongue, that powerful little member of our body. Unlike God, they don't care about the relationship. In fact they consider the words they are compelled to say to be more important than the relationship. "I don't care what happens; God wants me to let them know how wrongly they are behaving. But does God really want us to lead people to the law? Doesn't he want to lead people to relationship to the Lord of Life?
Many Christians would be blessed now if they hadn't destroyed the possiblity of relationships with a person they felt they had to enlighten! Imagine that! These Christians don't consider that Christians are supposed to mutually edify each other. It's not a one-way street. They arrogantly suppose that they are wiser than another Christian in many if not all ways.
Imagine for a moment that a judgemental tell-everything on his tongue Christian were to be friends with a silent Christian brother or sister who understood forbearance, gentleness and holding the tongue. The relationship would be an odd one. The judgemental brother would always be speaking his mind. While the Christian brother would endure him patiently with forbearance. This happens so many times in Christian fellowship it would be laughable if it weren't so sad. The judgemental Christian chatters on always...always shows his silent friend the right way to be, act, and think. Because the silent forbearing Christian is silent about the sins of the judgemental Christian, the judgmental Christian assumes he is wiser, smarter..even less sinful than his friend. It would never occur to him that his friend is simply not an accuser. This happens many times in Christian relationships as I have said. But it also happens in our relationships with God. God is more patient and subtle in leading us to knowledge of our sins than we are in leading others to their sin (as we judge sin.)
If God has the gift of forbearance, why can't we? And why do we think that we are the only ones who can bring a sinner's attention to a particualar sin? Why do we think that we are the ones --the only ones-- who will say the right words that will finally make a person do things our right way? Why are we sooo sure that we are guiltless of the sin we accuse others of?
Christians often compare others to themselves: "I don't know how you could see a movie like that. The Holy Spirit keeps me away from such things." Well, it is possible that the Holy Spirit might want to keep one Christian away from certain movies and might not mind another Christian seeing "a movie like that." The Holy Spirit works with each person's soul. The Holy Spirit may allow one person to see a film because of explicit sexuality but forbid films about greed or anger. One person might hate award shows because of all the false glory up there on stage. Another might like award shows because the awards remind them of the day when God's people will be rewarded in heaven. Some Christians will only see movies that are rated "G" because they don't want to be affected by the sexuality in movies. And yet, they may come home from a "G" movie hating their furniture because something in the movie fueled greed or envy. Yet, they don't see the sin in this and continue judging others who see lustful movies.
The plain truth is that we are supposed to take the log out of our own eye before we attempt to take the speck out of another's eye. What we might consider a speck in someone else's eye might be a calling. God made Samson and Delilah fall in love in order to bring down the Phillistines. How can we judge and accuse each other? During the sixties, God called Martin Luther King and Norman Vincent Peale. Peale helped American Christians look inward and develop positive thinking in order to gain their personal goals. King, on the other hand, told American Christians to look outward and stop thinking only of their personal goals: society needed Christians who thought about the sad lives of others. Didn't God send these two men?
One can only wonder what God does when He sees one of His children behaving like an accuser, like Satan himself. We get a glimpse of Jesus' attitude towards judgmental people: they were the only people He was ever harsh with. They were the only people he ever judged angrily. He called them a generation of vipers! Snakes and serpents just like their accusing daddy! We have a choice of two fathers: the father of love and truth who leads people to Life and Love. Or the father of lies and self-delusion, the accuser of the Brethren who leads people to the knowledge of law and evil. Our mouths often show where we are: accusation or relationship.