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Class Discussion

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Click here to read Romans 9 on BibleGateway.com

“Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy,…But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?” – Romans 9:18-20

classroom-discussion-hand-raised-copyOften in classrooms, particularly at the University level, teachers welcome and encourage discussion.  It forces students to think and defend themselves, rather than just regurgitate information, which is a good thing as regurgitation in school is rarely positive.  By most accounts, one of the first to really do this was Socrates, who asked repeated questions of his students (and challengers) to force them to explain their answers. (At which point they asked if he would like to try regurgitating hemlock.  Some people don’t like critical thinking. )  The goal was not just to get answers, but to see if a student knew “why” answers were true, and if they could defend them.

But at the end of the day, does the student’s opinion matter? If he questions the teacher on, for example, the causes of the Revolutionary War,  and argues repeatedly that the real reason was that aliens replaced George Washington and Cornwallis, and they were fighting over the rights to hunt alligators in Maine. During class discussion, the teacher may allow the theory, and give convincing reasons why it’s not true, and generally “play along” in order to practice the reasoning skills.  But if the student tries to put that as answer on the test, what is likely to happen? Sooner or later, the teacher has the last word, and no amount of arguing or discussion is going to change it.


So it is with God. Because God has chosen to reveal Himself, and because He allows us access to His throne, we sometimes get the idea that we can argue with God in the same way we argue with our other acquaintances. “Why did this happen?” “Why don’t you do this?” “If you don’t do this, I won’t believe in you anymore.” We tend to mistake love and openness with weakness.

That is not the case. In the book of Job, God even half-mocks Job when he asks to explain his suffering: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!” God doesn’t really answer Job, He just says “you think you can understand my plan? You think you can tell me what to do? When you build your first mountain, then we can talk.”  God can choose to make Job suffer for no reason at all if He so chooses; who is Job to question it?


In our reading today, God says basically the same thing. We look around and say, “hey, it looks like things aren’t fair over here. It looks like God is being nicer to that person than He is to me.” God’s response? “I’ll have mercy on whom I’ll have mercy,” i.e. I can do whatever I want.  If you missed the point, He emphasizes “who are you to talk back to God?” Is God answerable to you?  Doesn’t that mean you are putting yourself over God?  If you say God cannot do a certain thing because “that’s not what God should do,” you are effectively overruling God, and putting yourself in His place.  That’s a fairly big no-no in the Bible.

Following Christ is about loving Him in a close intimate relationship; there’s no doubt about that. But sometimes in the rush of love and forgiveness, we forget that God is also Judge, and the Almighty Awesome Creator of the Universe. There is no appeal, no arguing, no threat you can make to force God to act. If He wants to bless your neighbor and curse you, He can do that. If He wants to give you no answer to your prayers, He can do that.  If He chooses to allow innocent people to suffer for His purposes, He can do that.  He owes us no explanations.  We should never let our joy at God’s grace blind us to the reality of His wrath.

He alone is God, and there is no other.

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