I had promised to share on what I term ‘God Abuse’. Yes, you read that perfectly, ‘God Abuse’. Now I can imagine some confusion. I know we are accustomed to child abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, elder abuse, sexual abuse and all the many sorts of abuses, and my thought is to share with us a slow bellied monster that is eating into us all so fast, we often do not even realise it.
Let us begin with the definition of ‘abuse’. This means to abnormally use; to use wrongly or improperly and to refuse the original use of a product, person or system and deploy it to something else. So, when a child who is supposed to be nurtured and nourished is left to the streets to fend for him/herself or is mistreated and used as a sex object, we say the child is being abused. This has nothing to do with the capacity of the product, so for instance, the fact that a child is able to bring in huge sales volumes does not make it right to make a child engage in road side sales.
Do you know we abuse God too? In the way we treat Him. In the way we pay him attention only when things go wrong and ignore him otherwise. In the way we sin in His face and cheekily think that we can always ask for forgiveness? For many of us, He is like our insurance policy, our back up plan. Oh, how we abuse this loving father and through His tears and grief, He wonders if He cannot just reap where He has sown. He invested in us through the death of His son, for if He did not spare His son, what more wouldn’t He give? Yet, again and again, we scorn Him…worst of all, for those of us who claim to be believers, we abuse him by our disobedience; we abuse him by our inconsistency; like He cannot see or reason. This has nothing to do with His capacity, He is more than able, but it does not permit us to treat Him as poorly as some of us do.
I have a picture in my mind of a loving father with two sons. Now, one of the sons spends quality time with their dad and just enjoys His company. Naturally, more wisdom is passed on between them because he gets to just share with his dad what he is going through and the son with time can almost anticipate His dad’s response. The other son says hello to dad out of duty, spends almost no personal time with his dad and besides bearing his dad’s last name has not much more in common with him. As a dutiful dad, their dad will pay bills for both of them, his name will likely open doors for both of them, so this is not about capacity but the first son will enjoy the best of the relationship, his father will go ‘all the way’ for him.
In the parable upon which today’s thought is based, in Matthew 21:33-44, the landowner made all the necessary preparations so that the vineyard would be successful. He “put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower” (vs. 33). Thus, the renters could not excuse their poor behavior by saying that it was they who did all the work to make the vineyard successful. No, it was the Lord, the landowner in the parable, who did the work that would guarantee prosperity for the vineyard. Isn’t that quite reflective of our lives? God gives us grace and all things we need to make a success of the vineyard which is our lives and He expects to reap fruit in season.
Like the parable says, the patience of God is (to put it coarsely) quite absurd, in that He gives us opportunity to repent far beyond what we deserve. His absurd patience is due to His great love for us, and His desire that none of us perish. But the actions of the tenants are also quite absurd, and that reflects us. Do we consider the consequences of our actions? Don’t we see that we are at risk? ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,’ they replied, ‘and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time’” (vs. 41).
Jesus says, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. We must be careful not to fall into the same trap. This is a call to us to obey the whole commandment of God, (Eccl 12:13) – to fear God and keep His commandments. We have stepped away from this duty and made God all sorts of things in our lives, neglecting what He really is. Can we just go back? Back to the feet of the cross, where we re-enact the relationship of children to their father and to build a relationship with Him likewise? Can we stop abusing Him day in and day out? Come to think of it, even human donors feel ‘donor fatigue’ after a while. Like I expressed in my last post, I just have a deep desire to attain a level of relationship with God where I anticipate His needs and meet them. Where He seeks what He will do for me vs. one where I just have a ‘give me, give me mentality’ viz an abusive relationship with Him and am seeking Him only for what He can do and offer me.
May God give us all the grace to do what brings Him pleasure.