God, Brokenhearted

Being God is an unenviable job.

As George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and many more are murdered for the color of their skin, as systemic racism abounds in a country that purports to offer liberty and justice for all, as hundreds of thousands die from COVID-19, and as countless others suffer financial hardship as a direct result of the pandemic, our hearts break for the injustice and suffering around us. As each of our hearts break, God's heart breaks, too. Eight billion times.

Don’t get me wrong: there is joy in being God. Joy in the beauty of a hopeless person who finds hope again. Joy in turning our evil into good, our wrongs into rights. Joy in entering into a relationship with those he has created. Joy in knowing that someday every tear will dry, every broken heart will be mended.

Yet, there is an immeasurable sadness. Sadness in the pain, suffering, discrimination, and death so many of his children must face. Sadness at the evil he must allow in the name of giving us freedom of choice, freedom of will. Sadness when we so often blame the very one who died to make things right.

No wonder Jesus was called the Man of Sorrows.

Jesus wept. He wept at death when his good friend Lazarus passed away. He wept over Jerusalem’s imminent destruction, because its people failed to choose the path of peace. He preached about injustice, inequality, and servitude. He spoke out against violence, even while his own life was being sold for thirty pieces of silver.

God is the God of the broken heart. His heart breaks when we choose power over peace. It breaks when we choose violence over love. Discrimination over acceptance. Anger over forgiveness.

Does what breaks God's heart break ours?

A little over a week ago, I attended a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in The Dalles, Oregon, a town not known for its particularly progressive views. Before we marched down to the police station, we assembled in a park while several African American members of the community spoke over a PA system about their experiences, their fears, and their hope for change.

After being moved by their message, I was surprised to see a white man, dressed in a suit and tie and holding a Bible, walk up and grab the microphone. I held my breath as he began to speak. “If you would have told me four years ago that I would be speaking at a Black Lives Matter protest, I would have laughed at you,” he said. “I’m a conservative Christian, a Republican, and the last thing I wanted was to be aligned with a bleeding-heart liberal cause.”

He didn’t stop there, thankfully. This Lutheran minister, from a small church in a small town, got it. His heart had been broken by the things that break God’s heart.

“I have come to realize that this isn’t about politics. It’s about human lives, about my brothers and sisters of color. It’s about caring about the things Jesus would have cared about,” he continued. “And so, I’m here to stand with you, here to help bring about change for some of God’s children who are being oppressed.”

Does what breaks God’s heart break ours?

If it does, our hearts will break when we see injustice. Racism. Discrimination. Misogyny.

If it does, our hearts will break when we see anyone who is created in his image being treated like anything less than the sons and daughters of God that they are.

If what breaks God’s heart breaks our hearts, we will work tirelessly to enact the change that he, and we, want to see.

Yes, we have free will to do evil, to cause pain, to show prejudice. However, the flip side of the free will coin is that we also have the freedom to do good. To love everyone, regardless of the cost. To protest peacefully. To petition lawmakers. To give of our time and money to causes that champion those who are being oppressed.

I pray that your heart, and my heart, are broken by what breaks God’s heart, and that out of this brokenness comes the resolve to bring about lasting change.

If you find your heart being broken, though, by things that don’t break the heart of Jesus, I would like to gently suggest that you head back to the Gospels to read and re-read the words of the Son of God. If the sign that you bring to a protest is one of hate, one of judgment, or one of condemnation, I hope you can ask yourself if the Jesus who knelt and washed his disciples’ feet, who touched and healed lepers, who hung out with a Samaritan woman, and who partied with sinners would be seen carrying the same sign.

Jesus was a Middle Eastern refugee, belonging to a group of people that far too many of his followers so easily turn their backs on today.

Jesus didn’t judge a prostitute who others were ready to stone to death. He attended dinner parties with everyone from dirty fishermen to despised government officials. He told parables extolling the virtues of Samaritans, hated by the Jews for their ethnicity and their religion. He treated women like the equals they are, not possessions like those around him did. He praised the less fortunate, the weak, the child, the outsider. He said the last shall be first.

The only people Jesus judged while on earth? The Jewish religious leaders. Pharisees and Sadducees who would rob the poor. Who would make money off of religion. Who would discriminate based on someone’s ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic class. Who were far more concerned with religious rules than with loving their neighbor. Who wanted nothing to do with change if it meant losing power, losing control.

Read Jesus’ words, and then tell me if you can really picture the God who fed five thousand hungry people, who refused to condemn a whore, who told us do good to those who hate us and pray for those who mistreat us — can you see this God angrily counter-protesting at a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally? Refusing to bake a cake for an LGBTQ couple? Upset about Confederate flags and statues being taken down?

As Paul says in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Knowing this, why aren’t more Christians at the forefront of movements that fight for the oppressed? That champion human rights? Equality? An end to violence and police brutality?

These causes, so important to Jesus, are sadly not worth the time of many of his purported followers.

Yes, God’s heart breaks when we fall short, when we sin, when we fail. His heart breaks not because we have somehow broken his draconian, capricious commands, but rather because he knows that when we sin, we are only hurting ourselves, hurting others. Jesus put it best when confronted by a Jewish teacher of the law about which commandment was most important. The Son of God, the Author of laws but also of life, succinctly summed up his commands thus: Love God, love people. Mic drop.

When we love God and love people, God is happy, because we are happy. When we turn our backs on God and mistreat people made in his image, it breaks God’s heart, because he knows it will ultimately break ours, break each other’s.

Shortly before his death, the Man of Sorrows told a hauntingly prescient story about two ubiquitous farm animals. Jesus, foretelling his second coming, foretelling the day when no heart shall break again, said that when he returns, all the nations will be arranged before him. He will then sort people into two categories: sheep and goats.

What are the criteria for attaining sheep status, you ask?

Simple.

Jesus, in Matthew 25:34-40, sums up the entirety of what our lives as his followers should be about:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,

I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,

I was homeless and you gave me a room,

I was shivering and you gave me clothes,

I was sick and you stopped to visit,

I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me — you did it to me.’”

Love others. Love them regardless of their race. Regardless of their gender. Regardless of their sexual orientation. Regardless of whether they’re rich, poor, homeless, infirm, incarcerated. This is how you become a sheep.

Want to know how to become a goat? Do the opposite. Judge. Discriminate. Oppress. Stand idly by when injustice is taking place. Worry only about yourself, your rights, your beliefs, your 401K.

I leave you with a warning, though: things don’t work out too well for goats in the end.

Don’t be a goat.

Let your heart be broken by the things that break God’s.

 

Notes & References:

All cited Scripture is taken from Peterson, Eugene H. The Message. Bible Gateway.

 

Jon Davidson is a writer, musician, and travel coach from Portland, Oregon. He is the author of one published book, Of Bombs and Blackberries. A graduate of Andrews University and a former worship pastor, Jon has recorded seven albums, and has performed in 45 US states and 6 countries. His honest, faith-informed music has appeared on E! and MTV, and in Entertainment Weekly

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

 

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10560
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Sorry, Jon Davidson,
I have to strongly disagree with your premise.

If God’s heart is truly broken, nothing should have broken it more than the HOLOCAUST.
I have many Jewish friends, many of them my closest friends, and I cannot watch a Holocaust movie or anything related, without crying.

If God’s heart was truly broken, how could He stand the horrors of trench warfare ( World War One ) the London Blitz, Hiroshima, Nagasaki I ( World War Two ) Stalin’s Gulag, (killing millions), the genocides of the 20th Century — Armenian, Holocaust, Pol Pot, Rwandan, Bosnian ??.

God allegedly has fore knowledge of events and if His heart was truly broken, He would have eliminated / forestalled / prevented these atrocities by FAST FORWARDING the SECOND COMING.

The fact that He did not, when in a heartbeat, He could have, tells me intuitively that His compassion is severely limited, if not non existent.

Christ cried out on Calvary IT IS FINISHED — meaning the atonement was completed, and the world order could end.

More than two millennia later, with much human MISERY in that period, and still no closure, is unconscionable.

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In my opinion…the closest thing that we can understand about “God” is “Jesus”. If we would simply serve as He did- then we are doing the work of the Creator God. Nothing else matters. Nothing.

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Hello Robin,

A number of years ago, I heard something which really clicked with me (I’m probably going to butcher it, but here it goes): During WW2 a young Frenchman decided he wanted to join The Resistance. He eventually found who he was looking for - the leader of the Movement. This leader told him that he first needed to understand some things before he would accept him. And one of those things was this: At times it would look as though this leader is standing around doing nothing, and at other times as though he’s helping the Nazis! And that those like the young man wanting to join would be given no explanation, and would have to by faith believe that what he’s doing is the right thing. Then this leader asked the young man, If this is something he could accept?

This next part is my addition:

Now if I was to tell you that after a number of years in the Resistance, this young man had had enough, and wanted to know why their leader was doing some of the things he was, and was no longer satisfied with “have faith.” His leader now has some options. One would be to tell the young man everything he wanted to know - knowing this could risk the whole Movement, and potentially cost millions of lives. Or another option would be to remind him of all the sacrifices he had made in the past; and when overwhelmed by all that’s taking place around him, to remind himself of those sacrifices.

Please, don’t misunderstand me, Robin. I would never imply that it’s easy.

Thanks,

Tony

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We also could consider that in 1800s infant mortality rate was around 40%. So, 4 out of 10 children would not survive past the age of 5. That rate gets higher when we move backwards.

If God would be brokenhearted about anything… I think 3 out of 5 children dying because people didn’t know about basic hygiene and sterilization, I would say that would be it. Consider half of the global population gone right now, since they didn’t survive infancy. Well… It was very much like that for most of human history.

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Tony,
Yes it is heart rending to watch the scourging and crucifixion of Christ —God seems to have an almost sadistic interest in watching His Son suffer to the max.

And that CHRIST was INNOCENT is even more mortifying.

Our religion is mired in punishment / retribution / paying the penalty— sadism!

However, how many INNOCENT humans have been murdered / incarcerated / wrongly accused in the two millennia since Christ proclaimed IT IS FINISHED ?? Even some black men right here in our recent current era !!

That one innocent man ( Christ ) suffered horribly, should not justify the ongoing suffering of billions.

The mountain of human MISERY in the millennia since the crucifixion has clearly had minimal impact on God, otherwise with the atonement COMPLETE at crucifixion, in a heartbeat, in the intervening centuries, he could have ended it all with the Second Coming — which the disciples had clearly anticipated to happen in the FIRST CENTURY.

Why were the disciples so abysmally, appallingly wrong ?

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ARKDREY
Thank you for your POTENT observation !

If the suffering of children does not tug on the heartstrings, what will?

I am an ardent Francophile and love France.
The castles of the French aristocracy built years ago in the Loire Valley —— dozens of them —- are architectural gems which inspire awe in the tourists who visit them.

I overheard a tour guide, telling her group, that these splendid palaces,
with no central heating, no flush toilets, no running water, were cold, miserable, and over run with rodents and insects —- fleas, bedbugs, lice and other vermin.

Even the king’s bed, infested with itchy insects !

The huge high ceilings, even with large fireplaces, made heating difficult. The reason for tapestries on the walls —— to keep out the damp!

With no sewage system, the odors were horrific.
No hot showers made for body odor — hence the French perfume industry !

When processing the apparent misery of the aristocrats,
surrounded by opulence and luxury in their castles,
I wondered how the
PEASANTS
survived in their unheated huts ?.

Yes, indeed the human race, even the rich, have suffered horribly.

How do the alleged “ guardian angels “ watch their child protégés suffer and die, with such equanimity ?? Why are the Angels, confronted with this MISERY, not clamoring to God to end the human carnage?

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Christ is God, Robin. Your reply seems, and forgive me if I’m wrong, to suggest that the Father is different to the Son. He and the Father are One. If you have seen Christ, you have seen the Father. Also it was Jesus’ choice to lay down His life:

“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.” (John 10:14-18)

Oh come on man, not you too Arkdrey lol. Hey BTW, I’ve been meaning to share something with you. Every Sabbath I like to visit my favourite Jewish/Christian YouTube channel, and see if they have added any new testimonies. The site is called One for Israel Ministry. Best testimonies, ever! I’ll share just one with you; hard to choose though, there’s so many good ones. Check out the site if you ever get a chance.

The part about God reaching him through that baseball player, and having put Himself out of the picture, always chokes me up. I’ve watched this, and other ones, countless times. Priceless.

Enjoy.

Edit: @ezbord if you wouldn’t mind, watch that testimony too, only 13 mins. I’d also be interested in what you think.

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Thank you, Jon. You remind us that we do have free will and that God respects that. And that Jesus was not God’s “pound of flesh,” but God-with-Us, then and now, through suffering, death, and new life. Faith that endures and sacrifices with our fellow human beings is what is called for now.

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God of the Bible is the creator of the “Big Bang”, time space is the mind of God in creation.
In response to all our human questions we have this answer from our Creator: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? (Job 38:4)
Our theologians would do well to educate themselves with Martin Luther’s book “Bondage of the will”, available as audio-book for free download at Librivox.org

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Great words, Jon!

The only thing I would add is those who have, for decades and generations, been cast out of the church as goats should count it as a badge. Deciding who are sheep and who are goats is a job specifically allotted to God—i.e., judgement—so I find it more appropriate to stay away from such vocabulary. We run the risk using shame and fear in the same way it’s been used against those in the LGBTQ+ and other oft-oppressed communities.

Still, a seriously great appeal of which many in our church should take note.

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If the Second Coming had taken place during the time of the Apostles then you and I would never have been born. And billions of others would never have born since AD 100. Would that have been a good decision for our Loving Heavenly Father to make, to deny billions of us to never enjoy the eternal pleasures of Heaven?

As for all the children in the past who died between the ages of 1 to 10, I am convinced they will be welcomed into Heaven. And if that’s so, I doubt they would be upset that God allowed their lives to be mercifully cut short on this writhing mess of a sin-damaged planet that we live on. I’m 66 years old and as I look back over my life and the wide variety of sufferings I’ve had to endure, I would with great enthusiasm have asked God to cut my own life short at the age of 1 or 2.

I’ve actually had a similar experience in a Russian museum. A lot of Russian period royalty culture was French, which was fashionable then. Of course a lot of museum visitors are fascinated by the bucket which royalty would use, most of the time without taking off their elaborate attire. That attire was a lot of times made out of combination of material which couldn’t be washed, and was practical sawn on to these men and women.

Body lice was a big issue. So, there was an interesting instrument , looked like a pipe encrusted with jewels, with on end closed and had a cap on the other end. But it was to catch lice from your head or skin.

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Wait, what? The assumption made here makes the claim that “I knew you before you were born” null and void.

I’d far prefer to assume that billions of us would have been born in a sin-free world instead.

The other assumption-that God places a moratorium on (ongoing) births after his return opens the door to consider that human behavior has twisted the arm of God.

Since you bring that up-a God who creates, who loves to create, who loves what he creates, who has an unending space and time to fill with his creation, a God who generously shares his (pro)creative love with humanity might in fact place a moratorium on creation -AFTER SINFECTION-in order to limit the potential for transmission to untold universe.

I suggest that this world is the exception, and (pro)creation continues ONLY here and now, until the return. All creation groans-all the while God is broken hearted at the many ways we kill each other, not the least of which is the termination of 43 million innocent unborn last year-worldwide.

God grieved over the thief on the cross as much as cain-and his own son.
Do we question that God grieved his first prodigal son, Lucifer?

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Virtue signaling on highest order, here.

News break-it’s not about the hate of a different race-it’s about signaling our virtue in order to hide our liberal and collective and mal-adaptive love of self.

Hi, Timo. I was responding to Robin’s comment as to why Jesus had not returned during the lifetime of the Apostles, and thereby ending the 2,000+ years of human suffering that has unfolded since that time.

Didn’t intend to buttonhole you-but did address my comment directly to your assumption responding to Ezbord.

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