Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Holiness of God

In Iraq, the Chaldeans (Assyrian Christians) are heavily persecuted by their Iraqi neighbors and are requesting the U.S. to help them become self-governing much as the Kurds were. My initial observation is that this is what the U.S. did in the American Revolutionary War. My second observation is that this is the opposite of what the U.S. did in the Civil War.

Jump ahead in time to the Superbowl. I’m not much of a sports fan. I don’t understand the whole concept of backing one team over another. It’s one thing to support your school’s athletic teams. It’s even understandable to support one’s local pro teams. However, I know guys who have never been to college who support certain college teams. Why? I know some people who are proud to support teams even during times when they don’t play well. So I can conclude that team fanaticism is something other than supporting a team because of how they actually perform. Despite this, there is a level of familiarity or identification that produces uncertain hope in the success of that team to defeat other teams even against the odds.

I recently purchased a copy of “One Night With The King”, the movie that dramatically portrays the activities of Esther as recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures. I watched it last night for the first time. An aspect of the story that I had never considered, which was well illustrated in the presentation, was the willingness of King Xerxes to allow a breach of protocol in order to save the lives of the woman he loved and her people. Haman’s argument was that the people would not follow him if he allowed a breach in protocol. Xerxes’ thought was that he was king and should be able to do what he pleased.

A favorite of mine is “The Phantom of the Opera”. I’ve had the CD recording of the music by the original cast for years now, but recently obtained the DVD of the motion picture produced by Andrew Lloyd Weber himself. The whole plot pits the Phantom against Raoul as they vie for the heart of Christine. It culminates in a decision Christine must make between sparing the life of Raoul for a life as a captive of the Phantom and being free from the Phantom at the expense of the life of Raoul.

In Hebrews, I’ve been contemplating a passage that appears to make God constrained to protocol in order to defeat the devil who appears to have had a power that Christ did not. The key word is “appears”.

All that I have typed in this post to this point is interrelated to God’s holiness and how His holiness, understood rightly, is harmonious with righteous unity. Theology is a practice that involves much analysis, which takes God’s Truth and breaks it into concepts that are more easily understood. My gift here is to take some pieces and put them back together, much in the same way that all the pieces of a large jigsaw puzzle are scattered and one finds great joy in finding two that fit together.

To be “holy” literally means to be “set aside” or “separated” for a special use or purpose. How, then, can “holy” be associated with “unity”? The answer is that God’s holiness supercedes our understanding of holiness inasmuch as God is not constrained to mere temporal bivalence. That is to say that when I apply my will to a pen lying on a flat surface, it is easy for the pen to consider that I may push it in one direction or another, but not two directions at the same time. It knows, if a pen can know something, that if I push it from one direction, it can know that I intend for it to go in the other. What could I mean, then, if I were to push it from two sides? Under what circumstances would I do such a thing? This I would do if my intention were to pick the pen up. The pen may be confused, if it were so gifted to think at all, as to why I would pinch it and argue in itself as to whether I was pushing from one side or the other and what other force may be opposing me, all the while being astonished as to where the table went. Such is the state of our human minds when confronted with God’s apparent ambivalence. Such is our consideration of God’s holiness.

Inasmuch as God’s holiness is that He is altogether other than His creation, He desires unity with His creation. Inasmuch as the creation is fallen and susceptible to His righteousness, He must remain separate lest all of creation is destroyed. As we discussed in my Sunday School class today, God must remain shrouded from the world. As our minister of education discussed in his sermon this morning, NO ONE comes to the father but by Him and NO ONE can take us away from Him. Christ is God cloaked in creation. He gave us the clear truth we could handle in a messenger who was tempted in every way we are so that his power would be masked and so that we would be saved through the death He willingly submitted Himself to that our sin would be covered.

Therefore, God’s holiness is sacrificial. It’s easy to think that God would simply dominate us and make us do whatever He wants us to do. However, He willingly subjects Himself to our need – but this for His purpose, not ours.

So what does this have to do with the Chaldeans in Iraq and the issue of self-governance? The fact is, we are a fallen people and in sore need of accountability. The way that accountability works out is at the hands of yet more fallen people through protocols and laws devised by fallen people. In the Revolutionary War, the colonies won the right of self-governance, but to what end? Even the system of self-governance our forefathers created for us was abused during the time of the Civil War. Northern States imposed laws on Southern States that sought to bring them under economic subjection to the Northern States. In response, the Southern States turned to such things as slavery (which was the wrong thing to do) and exports. As the North became legislatively and militarily more aggressive toward the South, the South sought to become self-governing. The resulting War was necessary to preserve the Union. While there were some who fought to free the slaves, many in the North treated freed slaves no better than they had seen in the South. As it was the South sought dominance over other people in the act of slavery. The North sought dominance over the South.

In athletic events like the Superbowl, competitors seek to dominate other competitors. Fans desire their favorite teams to dominate over other teams. So great is this compulsion that fights and riots erupt over sporting events. Vicariously, the fans who support winning teams feel likewise victorious.

Xerxes, tempted to dominate over a people falsely accused of plotting against him, uses his power as King to refrain from using his power according to protocol. Instead, he puts Haman to death on the very gallows that Haman had constructed for his biggest Hebrew nemesis, Mordechai.

Christine chooses to sacrifice a life of freedom in order to give Raoul his life. While artsy, Raoul and the Phantom represent two sides of the same heavenly coin. If Christine were my proverbial pen, she would be picked up – that is, quickened by love to recognize the power of sacrifice. Her desire for unity compels her to submit to death to give life. In this movie version, the Phantom recognizes that she doesn’t freely love him and withholds the power that he has gained over her in submission to her need.

The devil had the power of death only temporarily (for the devil is merely a temporal creature) to separate God from creation in order to preserve creation from His righteousness. Christ didn’t dominate even the devil in order to defeat him, but submitted to him to purchase His bride. In so doing, the devil no longer has power.

In the end, then, submission to death for the sake of life is the separation of holiness for the sake of unity. Seek not to dominate, but seek the sacrifice of being set aside or separate for the purpose of giving freedom, unity and life.

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