21 Sep 2008

Want to Feel Like God? Have Kids!

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And no, I am not at all talking about being drunk with power. On the contrary, I have never felt so helpless and non-independent (which isn’t the same as dependent) as when I am being Daddy.

But, the positive side is that it is much easier for me to imagine what it must have been like for the LORD to raise the Israelites. In the very beginning He had to lay out and enforce through physical might a million and one rules. The same is true with really young kids. You literally can’t go five minutes without correcting them, especially if you are out in public. You can’t calmly explain why it’s in their interest not to touch the oven; no you have to strictly forbid it to avoid your wrath. And if you see them running into the street, you scream your head off for them to stop.

It’s only after the children internalize these habits and rules that you can explain to them their deeper purpose. Eventually, you don’t really enforce rules. You are always there to give counsel when your kids seek it, but you realize they need to live their own lives.

This is analogous to how the LORD has gotten more and more aloof from the human race. After sending Jesus, in a sense we are adults now (spiritually / morally). It would hinder our maturity if the LORD led us as a column of fire or smoke. For Him to still treat us like that, would be akin to a parent taking a 21-year-old by the hand into an office job.

It’s true that in a sense, human beings are the same today as they were in Shakespeare’s plays, or in Greek tragedies. But in many other respects, humans today are much more civilized. Think of it this way: Each generation typically avoids the worst excesses of the preceding one. As much as the United States’ military has done horrible things in Iraq, they are nothing compared to Viet Nam. And don’t all of us resolve to be better parents than our parents were to us? And yet, haven’t you heard stories of how crazy your grandparents were to your parents? (In my case, I can push it back one step further: My great-grandfather was a nutjob. He would tell my grandfather to go out in the shed and get a tool. If my grandfather came back without it, my great-grandfather would beat him. And then he would go out and check. If he found the tool, he would beat my grandfather again.)

So what’s my point? Well, if each generation typically avoids the worst excesses of the previous one, then that means in an important sense that humans get more and more barbaric, the further back in time you go. So when we read that the LORD ordered the Israelites to slaughter foreign cities, or that He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, keep in mind that those cultures may have been inconceivably abominable from our modern perspective. We know, for example, how depraved the ancient Greeks and Romans could be. Now reflect that those were the leading cultures of their times. E.g. the same Romans who arguably invented the rule of law also put on sick public displays in their coliseum.

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