My husband, Clif, loves science fiction. It’s been an interest since he was a kid, which means he was a devoted fan of Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, 2001 A Space Odyssey, and attended multiple viewings of Star Wars, way back in 1977. (We make a great match because I like sci-fi too, by the way!) He also really enjoyed reading Douglas Adams’ book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and since I missed out on that one, he occasionally recounts a funny incident from the quirky comedy. Without going into the details of the bizarrely complicated story, there’s one character who takes on the singular purpose of insulting everyone in the universe… alphabetically. At one point, this alien drops in on the main character, Arthur Dent, (who was at that moment marooned in time on prehistoric earth). Instead of being a long awaited rescuer, this fellow steps off the ramp of his spaceship and without introduction or explanation, emphatically says, “You’re a jerk, Dent.” He then nonchalantly makes a check on his clipboard, reenters his space craft without rendering aid, and leaves the bewildered Arthur stranded and alone.
You know, in a way, this is the impression many people have of Jesus. They don’t really know about His love or acceptance. They don’t believe He can heal or restore. And they certainly don’t see him as a rescuer. From their perspective, they believe He just comes from ‘up there somewhere’ to point out their errors and tell them how much of a loser and a failure they are.
That’s unfortunately not just the attitude of unbelievers. Be honest. When you make a big mistake, how do you think Jesus responds? Do you think of Him as your encourager? Your rescuer? Ready to take you by the hand to pull you up and dust you off? Or do you imagine Him with folded arms and a disapproving look, just waiting to crush you with biggest load of negative consequences possible? Could it be that you believe your failures cause Christ to be disappointed in you most of the time?
That wrong assumption is what Jesus intended to correct when He identified Himself as “the Good Shepherd.” (John 10:11) While most of us today don’t have any interaction with any shepherds, (more on first century shepherding in the next post) probably a lot have heard at least one sermon or Sunday school lesson on the incredible waywardness of sheep and the loving attitude of Christ as their caretaker. But when bad things happen to us and life just doesn’t turn out our way, we still tend to doubt His faithfulness as our protector. Often you hear even committed Christians who are going through a rough time say something like, “If God was really good and loved me, then He wouldn’t have let ____ happen.” The truth is that getting what we want in life isn’t evidence of God’s favor. Oh, it’s really nice when wonderful things come our way, and we should certainly praise and thank Him when they do. But that isn’t the primary evidence of His goodness and devotion to our well-being.
Romans 5:8 says it clearly. “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” This verse states succintly, that Christ’s death is what proves God’s most basic attitude toward us. We don’t have to lean on some fuzzy, warm feeling, or our poor assessment of what we think is good for us. The cross is an outward, objective, concrete exhibition of the unwavering love of God.
So whenever you get the feeling that the Lord isn’t really being “good” to you… stop and take an objective assessment. Realize that everything necessary to demonstrate His goodness to you has already been done 2000 years ago on the cross. Don’t trust your shifting and changing feelings. Trust the truth. Remind yourself of what God did to demonstrate His love by rereading the last few chapters of any one of the Gospels. And then reject doubt, and say out loud, if necessary, “Oh, yes He does love me! Oh yes He does!”