Five Minute Friday: Excuse

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Most of the time, I eat healthy.

Sometimes, I get very anxious and eat an unspecified number of Cheez Its.

Ah, humanness.

No wonder that an element of Spirit Fruit is self-control. We just can’t muster that stuff up on our own. Oh, we might do well for awhile. But the urge to run wild is always there, simmering just beneath the surface.

Kate says: excuse.

Go.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse…

– Romans 1:20 (NKJV)

Some Bible verses make us deeply uncomfortable. This has to be one of them. Even though we who believe know, down in the core of ourselves, that God alone can save us and set us free, and even though we want everyone we love to possess that same knowing, the idea that those who turn away from God are without excuse is…striking, to say the least.

Anapológētos: without defense or excuse; that which cannot be defended; inexcusable.

I really don’t have any desire to look at people who don’t believe and say, “Your position is indefensible. At the end of the day, no matter what you come up with, the plain fact, the unavoidable truth, is that God is real and His made His presence known in every sunset, in the first snow of the year, in the scent of hibiscus blooms.”

…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

– 1:21 (NKJV)

Paul bluntly tells his readers that those who shun God have to actively suppress the truth within themselves. It is a choice. They already have ginṓskō (to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel) but instead of diving deeper into wisdom, they become mataióō (to make empty, vain, foolish) and asýnetos (unintelligent, without understanding, stupid).

Professing to be wise, they became fools…

– 1:22 (NKJV)

Paul’s really good at twisting the knife, isn’t he?

We all know that things often get worse before they get better. So it is with reading the Bible. We can’t get to the good stuff – how God loves us, how we’re made with care, how we have a unique mission – until we look at the bad stuff. We have to acknowledge just how willfully stupid we and the world systems around us are.

Which means acknowledging that anyone who says “there is no God” is willfully stupid.

Ugh.

I don’t want to approach anyone from that standpoint. I doubt you do, either. We’d all like to believe in the basic goodness of humanity, no matter how many Sunday School lessons we’ve heard about our utter wretchedness. We’d really, really like universalism to be true. But we don’t have a leg to stand on with that. Scripture just doesn’t give us permission to sugarcoat, water down, or beat around any bushes. We have to speak plainly. We have to speak boldly.

We have to because we don’t want anyone to walk around in darkness. We don’t want them to make the wrong choice. We don’t want them to think they have lots of good reasons and excuses.

We want them up in the lifeboat, next to us.

So why is this so hard? Why is it so incredibly difficult, for me at least, to open up and say the words? Why do we care more about people liking us and not offending anyone than doing all that we can to help them to bend their knees and cry out to Jesus?

Why do we – I – so often let fear rule the day?

Is God really our – my – God? Have we – I – exchanged

…the glory of the incorruptible God (for an) image made like corruptible man…

– 1:23 (NKJV)

Stop.

Signature

Addendum, 11/20/17: We FMF people are not really supposed to go back and edit these things. However, I do feel the need to say that “stupid” wasn’t the best choice of words, nor does it precisely convey what I was attempting to wrestle with in this post. Honestly, I can’t find the right word. That happens sometimes. I know what I want to get across to you, but I can’t quite express it.

The inescapable fact is that the passage I pondered here does make the claim that those who shun God do so out of a willful suppression of the truth. I realize that some (or even many) find this deeply and personally offensive. This is “line in the sand” sort of talk. If I am going to stake my life on the claims of Scripture, then I have to figure out how this uncomfortable passage fits into my worldview.

And it is uncomfortable. I know you can’t see me or hear my tone of voice (if I were speaking this aloud) but I genuinely do want everyone I know in the boat next to me. I truly do get frustrated and upset when people I love choose to keep their backs turned – not because I want to prove that I’m right or feel superior, but because I want them to have what’s best. I believe that best is Jesus.

In our world, relativism and pluralism are the norms. To make exclusive truth claims is to immediately set yourself against the tide. It’s to put a mark on your back. Well, I can’t not make exclusive truth claims and remain faithful to Christ. Yet I also do not wish to be deliberately or obtusely offensive. So, please, forgive me for not finding the right words in this moment.

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14 thoughts on “Five Minute Friday: Excuse

  1. You speak truth, Marie. I recently watched a video clip with an athiest (a famous one, althoug his name alludes me), say something along the lines of, ‘If you Christians really believe that God is the only one who can save you from destruction, how much you must hate to rest of the world to not be out there telling everyone you know.” That knife is still twisting and and I’m still pondering what it means for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Convicting post, Marie. So much truth in it. Too often, I’ve let fear rule me. I’ve let it determine whether or not I will share the truth about Jesus with people. I’m thinking of a couple people I’ll see over the holidays who I need to be more upfront with. They know I’m a believer, but I haven’t bee intentional about sharing what I believe with them.

    Those of us who are believers are also without excuse. Great post!

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    1. I will never forget the time an atheist coworker asked what I was studying when I went back to college. I mumbled something about not having chosen a major yet. While technically true, I knew that I was going to pursue a theology degree. I had to go back to him a few days later and apologize for not being completely honest with him. That one is going to stick with me for a long time.

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  3. I don’t mind calling someone willfully stupid…but it’s not generally effective. There are better ways.
    I like the lifeboat analogy; before someone can be pulled in, he has to be calmed down, either by a rescue swimmer, or by the simpler expedient of an oar upside the head, after which he may be ‘organized’ into the boat. It’s a several-step process…and so is curing willful stupidity.
    The best way to start is with baby steps that lead to the grudging admission of a created universe. One effective way is to look at the formation of RNA from its basic nucleotides, of which there are four varieties.
    To be viable (that is, self-replicating), the nucleotides have to be arranged in the correct sequence, and a typical strand of RNA might be, say 300 nucleotides in length. The chances against a random arrangement are therefor 4 to the 300th power, which is a four followed by 300 zeros.
    That’s a very big number, and the odds of that happening within the age of the universe, assuming the currently accepted range, are astronomically low.
    And this is only a strand of RNA. The nucleotides would have to have formed first, and thereafter life would have had to ‘somehow’ arise, in a stable enough environment and without mutations that would have resulted in sterility and the end of that particular development.
    The inherent complexity of Creation, and the statistical validation of the ‘unlikelihood’ of random arising, will bend most minds toward the possibility of a Creator, because there’s no other viable explanation.
    We’re a long way from Jesus still, but it’s a start, and with the door open a crack, the Light can seep through.

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    1. I don’t think I’d ever actually call someone willfully stupid (depends on how angry I was). I just hate that there comes a point in conversation with some people where you have to mentally assent to the fact that they are, as Scripture says, actively suppressing what they know to be true. Pessimistic though I am, a large part of me really wants to believe that if they were just presented with the right words, the right argument, they would see and understand.

      “The inherent complexity of Creation…”

      Gets me every time, man. The beauty that is all around…just gets me every time.

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  4. This is so challenging! Finding the balance between truth and love is hard, and I definitely hold back at times because I worry about offending people or want them to like me.

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  5. Reblogged this on Averagechristiannet and commented:
    Short, thoughtful article on Paul’s statement in Romans that nonbelievers are without excuse for choosing not to recognize evidence of His handiwork all around us.
    Reposted from “Along the Way”

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  6. I love that even though I am 3 days late to the #fmf linkup Holy Spirit highlighted the same scripture to both you and me with the word prompt {excuse}. Thank you for challenging me to ask better questions, to read God’s word more than I already do, and take action – without excuse!
    Bless you, friend!

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  7. It’s not harsh, Marie. I agree. And whether I like it or not, God may be calling me to speak out against deception in the church, of which there’s a lot. The narrow way can be lonely. Be truly awake can be lonely. Yet, He loves us and, in the end, we stand before Him.

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