“We the members of the jury find the defendant not guilty.” So concludes another Perry Mason movie. Even as I turn off the television, I reflect on the similarities between the “trial-of-the-month” in the movie and the spiritual life we enter into when we become children of God.
Movies and shows like Perry Mason mysteries, Matlock, Murder She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder, and Colombo have become a part of our cultural psyche and mythology. Why does this genre of mystery appeal so much to us? Easy! Because we instinctively know that things are not always what they seem and enjoy trying to see through the tangled web of falsehoods until we finally come to the truth.
Such a movie proceeds in a typical way. Mr. Victim has been murdered it seems and, according to a cursory look at the circumstances, it is apparent that the only one who could have done it is Mr. or Ms. Too-Obvious. An obnoxious District Attorney froths at the mouth in the courtroom, vehemently accusing the falsely accused while the real “ne’er-do-well” sneaks around in the background smiling pleasantly and looking innocent.
Finally, after various misadventures suffered in the name of truth and justice, the hero (suave defense attorney, disheveled police lieutenant, nosy doctor or busy-body author) pieces together clues so obscure that only Sherlock Holmes would be left unimpressed. It turns out that the obvious candidate for committing the crime did not do it. The only ones unhappy are the real culprit, who must face the music, and the DA who probably must face some music of his own and likely send out his résumé first thing Monday morning.
Doesn’t it often seem that God Himself is the victim of “circumstantial evidence” in our own lives? We look at our circumstances, piece them together (putting square pegs into round holes), do some math (two plus two is three) and come to the wrong conclusion, or, at best, imagine several scenarios, all rather grim in their conclusion: “God must not love me”; “God must not care”; “God wants me to be miserable”; and so on and so on.
So why doesn’t God go out and hire a good defense attorney? Hmm. Just think of the brownie points Perry Mason could have earned in defending God (I am tempted to insert a lawyer joke here, but shall resist the temptation).
The bottom line though is that God isn’t interested in explaining Himself. Mary Poppins in the movie by that name announces at one point, “First of all, I should like to make one thing perfectly clear: I never explain anything.” One never does find out what the “Second of all” thing might have been.
When God storms into Job’s consciousness at the end of Job’s ordeal, He never says why He allowed and even encouraged Job’s misfortunes. All He seems to say is “I shouldn’t have to explain Myself to you.” The Scriptures say explicitly that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Living by faith in the every-day, practical sense is all about not jumping to conclusions about God by what is going on in your circumstances, ultimately despairing of the Lord’s compassion for you and His desire for you to turn to Him. In fact, God maintains that His plans and promises cancel out what our circumstances dictate. He expects us to simply believe that we are indeed His children when we come to Him by faith through Jesus Christ, and that He will not be less than our perfect, loving Father. As for me, it just seems to make sense to take God at His Word and believe that He loves even me.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 37-39).