Gospel Reflection: Why Won’t God Do What We Expect? 14

People today are no different than they were 2,000 years ago.  We naturally want things to be verified before we assent to them. This natural human disposition even applies to what we expect from God. After all, “God is all powerful and all knowing, so why does he not reveal himself to us clearly, when he obviously could?”

“If you truly are God, save yourself and come down from that cross!” — God’s ways do not always correspond to human expectations

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals that he knows our thoughts: “Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.”God apparently knows our expectations. So why does he not go the extra step and perform the type of miracle that would make believers of all people?

The answer is that he respects our freedom.

What should we expect of God?

If God made us free – free to believe – then doesn’t it make sense that he would give us the opportunity to exercise our freedom?

Human beings are not absolutely free. We are not free to believe certain things, like the fact that the earth is solid and water is wet. If Jesus Christ were to make himself obviously known to everyone as the all-powerful God who created the universe, by performing some miracle that would force everyone to believe, where would the freedom be? Where would the love be?

Rather than expecting God to impose himself on us, we ought to expect him to give us the opportunity to choose to believe in him, so as to love him freely.

What should God expect of us?

On further consideration, this could be an opportunity for us to examine our own attitude and expectations regarding God, and then ask, “What does God expect from us?”

This is apparently they type of reflection he wants from the people in his home town of Nazareth. In terms of our fundamental humanity, we Post-Modern, 21 Century humans are really not much different from the men of those times, so it is probably safe to assume that he wants the same from us.

The God who gave us the gift of life and made us free does not simply want us to exercise our freedom; he expects us to use it wisely.

To be sure, we did not make ourselves, nor did we make ourselves free. Freedom is a gift. The choice is always yours on how to use it. Jesus presents himself before each one of us in today’s reading as God made man and asks us to exercise our faith.

Your response — to believe or to ask for more signs before you can accept him — is a free choice.

Why don’t we do what God expects of us?

What should we expect of a friend? When a friend comes knocking at your door, do you ignore him? Tell him to go away?

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

Today, Jesus is knocking at the door of your life. How do you answer? The people of Nazareth answered by trying to throw Jesus off a cliff. They expect God to meet their expectations, yet are unwilling to do what God ought to expect of them. Is that reasonable?

If we truly were reasonable we would realize, quite easily, that God’s reasoning is naturally above human reasoning. Yet we so often tend to put our reasons above God’s. Faith requires that we sometimes humble our minds and place God’s reasoning, which we do not always understand, above our own. So what is faith? In practice, faith is nothing other than freely choosing to do the most rational thing — to believe and trust in God. This is clearly what God expects from us.

14 comments

  1. I had to read this a couple of times before I got it. (OK, I’m both stubborn AND slow). Excellent post. thank you for showing me a different way to look at this story–and a different point of emphasis.

    I always wondered more about the end part of the story: how they wanted to fling Him off of a cliff but He just slipped away through the midst of them. I wondered just how He managed that–one man, a familiar face to all, just slipping through an angry mob of men in a tiny little town and disappearing–and if perhaps how He did that successfully wasn’t actually granting them the sign they had asked for, after all.

    • That last insight you shared is very powerful. They had all the signs they needed, but because they could not raise their eyes above the ordinary, they could not even see the extraordinary and bear witness to the great wonder the signs were pointing at.

      Thanks for sharing your insight, Reinkat!

  2. There have been quite a few instances where I know that God has put certain people in my life for certain purposes. I have to say the fact that I had to have a hysterectomy without having any kids tested my faith, a lot, but instead of my faith weakening it has been strengthened. This happening actually surprised me. That isn’t to say that I don’t struggle at all with this struggle in my life or don’t ask “why” but I have come ultimately to trust in the Lord’s will for me.

    Great post!

    • God is good, Teresa. I have become a strong believer in Providence through my experiences in life, and it seems that my faith in God’s Providence grows stronger with every trial. Of course, there have been many unforeseen and unmerited blessings, which confirmed my faith in Providence. But that I can see the blessings as such and that I continue to growth in faith is for me the greater blessing.

      I think it is more than just natural to ask why when life deals struggles that are hard to endure. This is mysterious, but I believe that as a Father it is what God expects and even wants from us. The whys don’t need to abate or eliminate our trust. When we expect that there eventually will be an answer, that is where we start to grow in trust.

      Thank you for sharing this with us here, Teresa. And God bless you!

  3. Thank you for your post and insights. It gave me a different perspective on this verse.

    Romans 14:4 Good News Translation (GNT)

    4 Who are you to judge the servants of someone else? It is their own Master who will decide whether they succeed or fail. And they will succeed, because the Lord is able to make them succeed.

    When the Bible is not clear, it is not our place to judge other Christians. God just expects each of us to seek Him and love Him as best we can. And if we ask, He will give us the power to find Him.

    • Thanks, Citizen Tom. Each person’s relationship with Christ is a personal walk of faith. Like the Samaritan woman at the well, everyone is unique and Christ meets us where we are at, asking us to accept and to give what we can possibly give at that one particular moment in our lives — nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.

  4. “Rather than expecting God to impose himself on us, we ought to expect him to give us the opportunity to choose to believe in him, so as to love him freely.”
    Choosing freely makes it so much more meaningful and valuable! Love this post.

    • Where would the love be if God did not make us free. Conversely, Love abounds, because we are free to love and because God made us this way. The only way to respond, if we choose wisely, is with love.

      Thanks, Gracie!

    • Thanks, Jim (do I by chance know you?). Thanks for asking.

      I should first explain something I left unexplained in this post. On Sundays I usually post a gospel reflection, based on the Sunday readings in the Catholic liturgy. I’m assuming you are not Catholic so I’ll add that there are four scriptural readings in our Sunday liturgy, which usually consist of an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, an Epistle from the New Testament (or a reading from The Acts or the Book of Revelation/Apocolypse), and a Gospel reading. After the liturgy, the priest usually preaches a homily, which is normally based on that day’s Gospel reading. My Sunday Gospel reflections are not homilies, just reflections. I like to focus them more on spirituality more than on Scripture study, which could be another option. That said, I sometimes bring in other Scripture verses as points of reflection, but not in support of an argument. I’m really not making an “argument” in the strict sense here — though there may be some supporting logic to it, but that’s just a matter of style.

      So, that’s my mode and objective here. Just so you know.

      You asked me to support my point of view in this post with some scripture verses. That’s reasonable. I basically put fourth two main points that could be broken down in to sub-points. First, Jesus asks for our faith. Well, how many verses could we call on in support of that view? Quite a plethora. I don’t think I need to reference verse numbers in order for us to recall the times where he did not perform miracles for lack of faith, or chided the Pharisees for not believing without a sign, or praising people for their faith, e.g., “Your faith has healed you,” or the account of the Roman Centurion whose servant Jesus healed. There’s so much in support of that thesis, that it hardly needs to be made more emphatic with scripture verses, at least for those who read the Bible frequently.

      The other position that might be questioned concerns faith and freewill. I’m very aware of the longstanding debate over this topic, and it is a thorny one. Now, I’m assuming here that most of my readers don’t question the phenomenon of freewill — that it is a reality, not an illusion. On the other hand, we face the problem that if God is all knowing and all powerful and creator of literally all things, then he must determine literally everything and he must have done so from eternity. There are plenty of scriptural verses in support of that thesis, but…

      I’m not of that view, nor are most Catholics, Orthodox, and some other mainline Protestant Christians — of course these views don’t make an argument (vox populi…), but our doctrine is has it’s scriptural basis. For instance, take the verse I quoted above:

      “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

      He doesn’t say, “I’m bustin’ down the door!” Or “Hey, I’m not even knocking on your door.” Nor does he say, “I’m going to knock, but it’s already been determined that you won’t answer.” Rather, it says my prerogative is to knock, yours is to answer (that’s at least a favorable interpretation, in my opinion). This is a beautiful when you think that Jesus takes the initiative, then gives us the freedom to reciprocate, and then when these two conditions are met, he joins us. I take this to mean we really are capable of love, not just because Jesus made us with the capacity to love, and love him above all things, but also because he let’s us love. Give us all the space in the world, out of all creatures in his creation, to reciprocate love freely. And of course, the correlative possible outcome is that we choose to be selfish and not love in return.

      The evidence of human freedom to believe and love, and well, do pretty much anything within human capacity, is supported by practically every line in the Gospel, in my view. It seems to me that when he interacts with the Pharisees in various ways in the Gospel, he does so encouraging them to rethink and change their ways (which some of them do) while leaving them with the freedom not to do so. Again, as I said above, he could have made them believe. When they see him on “The Last Day,” they will believe (“Every knee shall bend, every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord,” Phil. 2).

      Like I said, there are problematic instances in the Gospel — Jesus knew who would betray him, yet Whoa to that man! Better had he never been born. And all to fulfill the scriptures.

      I distinguish between God’s eternal foreknowledge and providence on the one hand, i.e., knowing what we will do with our freedom and allowing that to happen, and creating individuals who are created to be condemned (or saved), on the other. I don’t think there’s a verse that fully supports that later view and not the former. But if you have any verse in mind to contest that, please share it with me.

      Thanks for your comment!

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