GOD IS NOT FOR CHOOSING
Jeremiah 2:4-13, Psalm 85. Luke 14:1-5
August 30, 1998 by Tad Mitsui
I had a friend, who turned out to be a spy in the Secret Service of the South African government. I was opposing the policy of that government at the time. The fact of the matter is; he had never been my friend. It was a deception from the beginning. I know now that his treachery caused the deaths of a few friends. But I am more sad than angry when I realized that someone was capable of abusing a quality as precious as friendship for a tool of deception. Prophet Jeremiah spoke of God in a somewhat similar situation. People took God for convenience.
After the people of Israel settled down in the land of Canaan and became prosperous farmers, they abandoned their God of Abraham and Moses, and started to worship the god called Baal. When their need was fulfilled, they just dumped the old friend and went to someone more attractive, so to speak. "What wrong did you find in me?" asked God. "I saved you from slavery in Egypt. I guided you through the desert. I led you into a fertile land to settle. But now you ran to another god. What did I do wrong?" God sounds more sad than angry. The people thought that they had the freedom to choose God for convenience. God isn”t for choosing.
We also commit the same sacrilege too. A sociologist by the name of Reg Bibby interviewed hundreds of Canadians a few years ago, and concluded that we have changed our way to practice religion. Bibby says that God is still very popular in Canada. But Canadians nowadays tend to pick and choose religions rather than sticking to the churches they used to go. People adopted the same attitude about religion as about shopping. They shop around, and choose the religions that suit their needs or go to the churches they like. I hasten to add, though, that this is not necessarily wrong. It means that we have finally begun to exercise freedom of conscience and religion. But, the danger of this trend is in its influence in our attitude towards God.
There is an important difference between choosing a church and choosing God. The freedom to choose your church does not mean there is freedom to choose your God. There are people and things you can choose, and those you can not. The difference is like between a car and a mother. You can choose a car. But a mother is not for your choosing. If you don”t see this obvious distinction and think you can abandon your mother when she is no longer useful, there is something fundamentally wrong with you as a human being. A creature can not choose the creator, just as much as a child can not choose parents. You can choose your friend and spouse. But even there, once you have made a choice, you commit yourself to the relationship with that person. You can not easily say, "Oops. Sorry, that was a mistake." If you think that you can run to someone else any time, you have a profoundly serious problem. You have a crippled mind lacking basic understanding of what it means to be a human being.
Likewise, if you think you can pick the God of your choice, your understanding of religion also needs complete scrutiny. God is not for choosing. If you think you can pick and choose God like you choose your new car, what you have in mind is not a true God, and you don”t know what religion is. What you have is mere wishful thinking not faith.
Let us look at the people of Israel and see how they went wrong. Their escape from slavery in Egypt was fraught with extreme dangers. The forty years of life in the desert was extremely difficult. They needed God who gave them courage to live on without losing hope. God gave them laws which taught them how to live in harmony with other people. Without God, the people of Israel would have perished or disintegrated in Egypt, in the sea, or in the desert. So, they stayed with the God of Moses. With God, they survived and became a nation.
Now settled in the land of milk and honey, they prospered. But in prosperity, they became greedy. The more they gained, the more they craved. They forgot to be grateful. God became an annoying hindrance in the pursuit of pleasure and profit. They forgot the God of Moses who guided through difficulties and suffered with them. They did not want a teacher and a guide. So they became more attracted to Baal, the god who promised fertility, pleasure, and prosperity. God became a mere instrument of their greed.
Faith is a relationship with God who created us. Our option is not choosing one god among many. The choice before us is whether we have relationship with the creator or not. We live out that relationship with the creator by loving and honouring those around us. There are people who are committed to be in relationship with God and people. They seek no gain nor pleasure in doing this. If there is gain, it is the joy of being in relationship. This week, we mark the first anniversary of the deaths of two remarkable women, Diana and Teresa. They were completely different personalities. They were humans with human faults. But we remember them because of their compassion. We remember Diana in the pictures with emaciated men in Toronto who were dying of AIDS, and with children without arms and legs in Angola. We remember Mother Teresa with homeless people in rags who were dying of disease on the streets of Calcutta. They shook hands with them, picked them up, kissed them, and gave them life-giving touch of one human to another. They did not choose those people for pleasure. They chose them because, they were all God”s children. Their choice simply reflected God”s.
We too must be committed to those who are in relationship with us, parents, spouses, children, friends and neighbours near and far. They are not for our choosing. They are God”s choice for us. God is not for our choosing. He was here long before us, is with us now, and will be for ever.