Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Judging and The Judge

Chapter 11 in The Shack is entitled Here Come Da Judge.

The two quotes preceding the chapter:
Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods. Albert Einstein
Oh my soul, be prepared to meet Him who knows how to ask questions. T.S. Eliot

As I was reading The Shack, I kept wondering how the author would have the central character, Mackenzie, get unstuck. I think this chapter is the key. What a masterful way of handling the Biblical concepts that God is love and how evil is viewed and how God judges compared with how humans judge. Masterful!

Toward the bottom of page 155 –She sat back, beaming. "You are wise in the ways of real love, Mackenzie. So many believe that it is love that grows, but it is the knowing that grows and love simply expands to contain it. Love is just the skin of knowing."

To me, this really speaks to what I believe the Bible teaches, that when we accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord, that we are born anew, i.e., that all His attributes are supernaturally given to us and the rest of our life is spent in the exciting adventure of knowing and growing in discovering all that He is and all that He has given us. Yes! I loved that phrase: it is the knowing that grows and love simply expands to contain it.

Sophia, personified wisdom, was presented incredibly. She asked questions, but they were gentle questions, not probing I'll get you to see type of questions. Mackenzie, while answering her questions, came to his own conclusions. I have friends who think that asking questions is the way to communicate. It's mine. But I am learning that there are ways to ask and there are certain questions that are really caring questions and not judging questions. Quite a difference.

Mackenzie comes to realize through Sophia's gentle persuasion that "Papa (God) has never needed evil to accomplish His good purposes. It is you humans who have embraced evil and Papa has responded with goodness."

The paragraph in the middle of page 165 is perhaps wisdom's call to us all. "Return from your independence, Mackenzie. Give up being his judge and know Papa for who he is. Then you will be able to embrace his love in the midst of your pain, instead of pushing him away with your self-centered perception of how you think the universe should be."

When Mack came to the place he realized he was judging God and thereby was acting as God when he judged others, he says on page 165, "I don't want to be a judge any more. I really do want to trust Papa. ... But I'll need help."

Sophia's response: "Now that sounds like the start of the trip home."

Is that not wisdom beyond words?!

Stop judging and trust. Know that God loves me and will never leave me. Trust Him. Let go of all the judging that shows that I think I know better and how much better I would do it. This is an unbelievable foundation on which to live my life. It is changing me daily.

I was captured by the truths set forth in this chapter and the way in which they were presented. I realized that I don't often read the Bible, pray, or communicate with God with a soft, receiving heart, but perhaps with an anxious, judging spirit. What am I doing wrong? What more do I need to do? How can I be better? I thought the spirit of Mack's meeting with Sophia overall was a great dramatization and revelation of a very different sense of a human being's interaction with God, with Papa, with wisdom. 


greg.w.h said...

More early morning ruminations:

Flip Wilson (Here Come Da Judge) for the win. I still have my invisible dog that he gave me when I was a eight or so. When his invisible dog had puppies, he gave them to any in his television audience that wanted one!!

The entire philosophy of the problem of evil fits into this category of thought that this chapter explores. For me, the process of considering that problem has been fruitful and has deepened my trust in God. But the way it deepened it was to realize that "he's God and I'm not."

I do not want God's job. I don't want it. I lack the capability to judge the world on several different levels (think of Moses' situation of spending all day judging disputes for the people and Jethro's proposed solution of delegating that responsibility to the tribes and clans).

But it's worse than that: as I have been responsible for leading in my work life, these kinds of situations are a tremendous emotional drag on the precious reserve of energy and optimism that a leader must maintain in order to influence and direct in a civil manner. And when that precious reserve of energy and optimism is exhausted, the worst parts of me emerge in an effort to protect myself from the worst behavior in others.

That is also true in my home with my wife. (I won't go further in describing how that turns out just as a matter of intimacy, but anyone who has been married can easily project their own lives into that comment and understand what I'm saying.)

I think of the U.S. Army marketing campaign "be the best you can be." Ignoring for a moment whether living the life of the soldier CAN produce "the best you can be" in a citizen (I believe it can, by the way, but will not make that argument here). If the soldier receives the freedom to openly criticize the chain of leadership on every command they issue, will that soldier use that freedom responsibly? Similarly, if we adopt the position that we are free to criticize God on ANY action or failure to act that we think might be his responsibility, will we really use that freedom responsibly?

I'll offer--and leave the proof to the reader, so to speak--that we not only cannot use that freedom responsibly, but that we fail to acknowledge that we simply do not know whether any of the situations we judge God for are actually his fault or not even when we assume they are. Are lack of omniscience alone requires us to make the choice of whether or not to live life trusting the same God that created both this wonderful earth and US purely and solely a matter of faith.

He's God and we're not. And we either trust him as a matter of faith or we reject him. And the thing that is impossible for us to fathom is this: I am certain that he suffers unimaginable disappointment when even one person rejects the offer of abundant life through Jesus Christ that he has made available to us. After all, his love for each of us was so great that he asked Jesus to suffer and die for the sin of each of us as well as for the sin of all of us.

I suspect God's suffering is not at the waste of the life of his son because many ARE saved. It is at the loss of possibility that the unsaved person will realize the unimaginable blessings that God intends for him or for her when salvation is rejected. And it is at the loss of the presence of that person next to the Heart of God when the saints worship and rejoice around the Throne of Heaven. He is not willing that any should perish.

Greg Harvey

The Lenoxes said...

I loved this chapter. There are so many good things in it as you have pointed out.

There is one interesting thing on page 153 that I didn't pick up on the first time I read it because we don't find out who "she" is until the next chapter. When I re-read this chapter after knowing that Sophia is "the personification of Papa's wisdom" this part stood out to me:
"Like a breeze sweeping away the dust, her voice gently ushered his question out of the room. Mack could almost feel her words rain down on his head and melt into his spine, sending delicious tingles everywhere. He shivered and decided that he never wanted to speak again. He only wanted her to talk, to speak to him or to anyone,just as long as he could be present."

This is the way I feel when I'm in the presence of someone who speaks with wisdom. I just want to be quiet. To be in the very presence of the personification of God's wisdom would magnify that feeling, and that's what is being described here. He didn't want to speak again, he just wanted her to speak. If I could really get let Wisdom talking would be diminished greatly!

The other part that convicted me was on page 158:
Mack is saying that he doesn't have the ability to judge and Sophia says this: " have judged many throughout your life. You have judged the actions and even the motivations of others, as if you somehow knew what those were in truth. You have judged the color of skin and body language and body odor. You have judged history and relationships. You have even judged the value of a person's life by the quality of your concept of beauty. By all accounts you are quite well-practiced in the activity."

I think that I don't judge people, but I do it all the time. This describes me. Ouch!

I echo Mack when he says, "I don't want to be a judge anymore. I really do want to trust Papa....but I'll need your help."

Maybe I can begin the journey home as well!


Rebel4Reality said...

Again, you have shared some really good thoughts. I enjoy and benefit from your comments. Thanks. You encourage me to think through some things and often you have a different perspective. Again, I really think that's the way the early church was set up, in homes and believers came together to share what was happening in their lives and how God and HIs Word were being interpreted and received. I wonder if blogs (some, that is) are closer to what the early church was than the buildings and the types of fellowships we engage in today and think we've been "in church." Hmmm...I wonder.

Mel, As usual you pull so much from what you read or what you sense. I love your sharing. I learn so much. Your perspective is very different from mine. When you write or speak, I often feel that swoosh of sweetness or freshness that's probably wisdom which comes from a different perspective or another's life. Sharing that encourages and enriches! It's wonderful!

greg.w.h said...


You contemplated:

I wonder if blogs (some, that is) are closer to what the early church was than the buildings and the types of fellowships we engage in today and think we've been "in church." Hmmm...I wonder.

I fully agree. I was an early adopter of the Internet in part because I worked with a government contractor during the (later) early days in the early 90s. I've had a special interest in online communities and know from interacting in many of them that some very interesting dynamics can occur online that often fail to occur offline.

One is that since people meet each other with their thoughts and conversations BEFORE demonstrating a true physical presence, very strong friendships can form without an awareness of physical shape, skin color, deformity/disability, or even gender.

If I were to translate that into faith terms, when we're "online" to a certain extent we meet the spirit of the person before we meet his or her body. If churches could meet "spirit first" and body/class/gender second, perhaps we'd be more honest with each other .

I'm not entirely optimistic of that, though, because--as you've noted--not all conversations work well when anonymity is involved. Within communities of faith,--both online and offline--though, we can hope that such a spirit can be driven out with much prayer and fasting, can't we?? Because surely Jesus wasn't intimating that difficult evil spirits were impervious, just that we had to take seriously addressing them?

Here's a picture for you:

How better to imagine prayer than being like one friend talking to another on the Internet? Sometimes it will take time for the other friend to respond, but the Instant Messaging window is always open!!

Greg Harvey

P.S. My phrase "Are lack of omniscience alone" obviously was intended to be "Our lack of..." in the original comment.

bertha said...

I had to go back and reread this chapter and so many more things seemed to jump out that didn't before (maybe it was because I took more time to read and absorb more of what was being said). So here are my thoughts about this chapter. I agree, Mary, I realy liked the way wisdom was protrayed. I liked the way she asked questions and how she kept bringing Mackenzie back to the question at hand. I know for myself that someone asking questions helps me dig deeper for what I am actually trying to express or in trying to get the truth. I liked the explanation too that God does not need evil to accomplish His good purposes. I know that He does use the evil, but I never really thought that that is His way. I was brought face to face with my own thoughts like Mackinzie was asking and answering. "Give up your independence and being God's judge and know Him for who He is. Some many times I am looking at God through my beliefs and false truths. I never realized that I was judging God and His actions. But, when I think about it, realy think about it, I have for a long time. Again,it comes back to trust. Who or what am I going to trust. Will I continue to trust and believe my lies, thereby staying safe, or will I begin to embrace truth and give God, Papa, the freedom to come closer to where I am. I also realized in this chapter that part of my reason for judging God is because of this, that "God says that he will not leave, that for me equals that He will (or is supposed) to also rescue me and why did He not? I am seeing that this is not true. That He can be close and just because He is near does not mean that he is "supposed to" or "has to rescue me." I know that if my picture of Papa can change from one who just stood, no emotions, etc. to one who was standing and comforting with his facial expressions, with His eyes that that would make such a difference. Instead of wanting to keep Him at a distance, I find my heart wanting Him to come closer. I also liked the thoughts about moving from your parents inability to love and that it was not on my own that I was able to move, but that it was God and me who together changed how I loved my girls, and others. I liked too the way Sophia also guides Mackinzie to think that if the man who killed his daughter needs to be judged, then what about that persons, parents, and on down. Where does it stop? I had not thought about that. I have the same question Mackinzie has that if He knew what would happen one day to me, then why still create me?? If I continue to hold onto my lies about this, it am just drawn deeper into the pit. But,again I thought if it were me, I would storm in there and take me out. The verse came to my mind reading this chapter of my thoughts are not God's thoughts and my ways are not necesarily His ways. My way would be running away from the problem, fix it, make it go away. God hit the problem head on - Jesus paying the price for the sin. I had to stop a moment and think how would things be different if God had not faced sin head on? I would not have a way to face what happened to me or to have someone who knew and istened to my questions and comforted me - instead I would have a response that they gave - they came in and abused and then when finished, walked away out the door and left me each time sitting - alone...I really was not alone. I think I am beginning look at this differently, even if I am not able to explain it. I liked it too that by giving up judging God and knowing Him that it is then that I am able to embrace His love in the midst of my pain instead of pushing Him away, which is what I usually do. I really would like to stop my perception of how the universe should be and just learn how to trust God in the universe. Trusting Him, knowing He loves and is not going to leave me, period. That's it. Those are two truths that I want to just permeate my whole mind and being. I would like to be at the point where more often even though I don't understand what is happening that I would trust Him. I want to understand everything before I trust. What I learned from this chapter was just the opposite. I also liked where I had read previoiusly that God isn't there to justify what happens, but that He is there redeeming what happened. Yes, He did not override people's choices of things they chose to do in my life, but now and since that time He wants to redeem it. That, I think for me is caring. He is redeeming what happened becase He loves me and cares deeply about me. I too, want to no longer judge. I want to be able to trust

Rex Ray said...

With a quick glance, I misread your title, “Judging and The Judge” to ‘Judging The Judge’.

My mind did a quick reflection of myself judging the judge of the man who said, “And so my judgment is…” (Acts 15:19 NLT)

I would think: ‘With the knowledge and wisdom of the Apostles, and the man who wrote half the books in the NT, who in the world made this man the Judge over them?’

This man was a scoffer and missed three years of ‘college’ with Jesus. This man was an expert on Jewish law. His life-long job of praying for the sins of the people, on his knees in the Holy Place, gave him such a spotless reputation he was named ‘The Just’. He was hero of the Parsees who said, “We and all the people should obey thee.”

How did his ‘works’ reveal his faith when he kept his Christian identity hidden from the people he rubbed elbows with every day…the elbows that killed his brother?

His book which mentions God seventy seven times and his brother only nine, reveals the life he led so much that Martin Luther called it a book of straw.
I can’t argue with him, because I believe without him the roots of Catholics would have never started.

Mary, I know this doesn’t fit your topic, but maybe it does on your last post of “Fortress of Lies.”