My wife and I recently watched another remake of a popular mystery by Agatha Christie and found it very interesting in regard to how it addressed murder (it WAS an Agatha Christie mystery, after all), how it approached the mental processes that precipitated the murder, and even the morality of it, given its apparent justification. In the end, I am glad that it did not passively condone it (as a previous version did), but recognized the chain reaction of hurt that one evil act sets into motion unless healing comes in and liberates victims of grief, anger, and hatred. It was very thoughtfully done, I must say, even if I did not relish the handling of every aspect of the story line itself.
Mysteries on television, as I was growing up, however, tended to follow a certain formula and were prone to resolve in predictable ways. “We, the members of the jury, find the defendant not guilty.” And so would conclude another Perry Mason, Matlock, Murder She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder or Columbo movie. And every time, even as I turned off the television, I would reflect on the similarities between the “trial-of-the-month” in the movie and the spiritual life we enter into when we become children of God.
Movies and shows like the ones I mentioned, were at one time a part of our cultural psyche and mythology. Why did that genre of mystery appeal so much to us? Easy! Because we instinctively knew that things are not always what they seem and enjoyed trying to see through the tangled web of falsehoods until we finally came to the truth.
Such a movie would proceed in a typical way. Mr. Victim has been murdered and, according to a cursory look at the circumstances, it is apparent that the only one who could have done it is Mr. or Ms. Too-Obvious. A jaded police detective or obnoxious district attorney froths at the mouth, vehemently accusing the falsely accused while the real “ne’er-do-well” sneaks around in the background smiling pleasantly and looking innocent.
Finally, after various misadventures suffered in the name of truth and justice, the hero (suave defense attorney, disheveled police lieutenant, nosy doctor or busy-body author) pieces together clues so obscure that only Sherlock Holmes would be left unimpressed. It turns out that the obvious candidate for committing the crime did not do it. The only ones unhappy are the real culprit, who must face the music, and the DA who probably must face some music of his own and likely send out his résumé first thing Monday morning.
These sorts of scenarios often provoked a line of thinking in me as I considered the plight of those who were falsely accused: Doesn’t it often seem that God Himself is the victim of “circumstantial evidence” in our lives? We look at our circumstances, piece them together (putting square pegs into round holes), do some math (two plus two is three) and come to the wrong conclusion, or, at best, imagine several scenarios, all rather grim in their conclusion: “God must not love me”; “God must not care”; “God wants me to be miserable”; and so on and so on.
So why doesn’t God go out and hire a good defense attorney? Hmm. Just think of the brownie points Perry Mason could have earned in defending God (I am tempted to insert a lawyer joke here, but shall resist the temptation).
The bottom line though is that God isn’t interested in explaining Himself. Mary Poppins in the movie by that name announces at one point, “First of all, I should like to make one thing perfectly clear… (dramatic pause)… I never explain anything.” One never did find out what the “second of all” thing might have been.
Anyway, when God storms into Job’s consciousness at the end of Job’s ordeal, He never says why He allowed and even encouraged Job’s misfortunes. All He seems to say is “I shouldn’t have to explain Myself to you.” The Scriptures say explicitly that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6 ESV).
Living by faith in the every-day, practical sense is all about not jumping to conclusions about God by what is going on in your circumstances, ultimately despairing of the Lord’s compassion for you and His desire for you to turn to Him. In fact, God maintains that His plans and promises cancel out what our circumstances dictate. He expects us to simply believe that we are indeed His children when we come to Him by faith through Jesus Christ, and that He will not be less than our perfect, loving Father. As for me, it just seems to make sense to take God at His Word and believe that He loves even me.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 37-39 ESV).
Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 22 ½ years. He is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.