Sunday, August 2, 2015

Societal Norms

A few days ago a man began telling me about his fiancée. His only reason for being where he is rather than where he wants to be is that he is waiting for his visa to come through, so that he can go to her.
In our conversation I learned that he is 50 years old, and that he has known her since before she attained majority, a period of 6 years. I could have reacted as others have toward me when they hear things from me that they do not want to hear. Instead I reminded him that a very long time ago a child was born—a very special child. In fact, this child was quite different.
In most relationships the parents do not choose their children—and the children certainly do not choose their parents. Such a thing would be unheard of. Why, it would violate societal norms! Such a thing just is not done! This child, though, was different. This child chose the parents to whom He would be born. This child is the one in command.
How, though, did He choose? Did He follow comfortable expectations? Did He adhere to societal norms? Hardly. He chose to put his own mother in danger of divorce, public ridicule (which still reigns to this day, by the way), destitution, and even death by stoning.
How is that for societal norms? The societal norms, comfortable expectations, and indeed, the Law, was that girls would marry as virgins. To do else was a stoning offense. This child, though, made His own mother be with child before marriage.
Societal norms? Really?
Do you really want to speak of societal norms and argue that God will adhere to them?
OK, then. Let’s talk about societal norms. Shall we?
What is the one ubiquitous common denominator of all human societies? Can you name it? Because I can: it is sinfilthy, disgusting, stinking sin. That is the one and only common denominator as regards human relationship, both to each other and to God.
Societal norms.
People have a tendency, I think, to believe that the way they live is how God wants them to live. It is the “I’m OK, You’re OK” view of reality. That view of reality, though, is seriously flawed, because not one of us lives the way God wants us to live, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” i And when you multiply that effect on a global scale, it truly turns the Divine Stomach.
There is no right society on earth, and there never has been. The very idea that God should adhere to the norms and expectations of a society that cost Him His one and only Son is the very height, breadth and depth of sinful, filthy, human hubrisand nothing more.
Oh! Now you want to speak of avoiding the very appearance of sin! Was Mary allowed to avoid the very appearance of sin, or did God bathe her in that appearance? In that society, women were stoned for less!
Again, people have a most unfortunate tendency to think that their way is the righteous way. The problem there is that, “there is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks after God; all have turned to their own way and together become useless; there is no one who executes righteousnessnot even one.” ii
Those who think they are living well and good think they know more than God, think themselves better than God, and in fact, could not be further away from God than where they really are.
God is not obligated to seek approval from them before He acts in this world, nor is He obligated to adhere to their expectations. God is only obligated to be God.
For unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace.” iii
Mighty God.
Mighty God!
Mighty God!
Isaiah saw it. How is it that, even after the fact, you do not?
God chose His parents for His sojourn in this worldand He did not follow societal norms when He came. Joseph is said to have been a righteous man. Even he would have divorced her quietly, to avoid the scandal that he thought she deserved. Even her own family largely did not stand by her. Indeed the only family that did stand by her was the only family who was herself pregnant by a miracle of God, that being her elderly cousin Elizabeth. Everyone else thought scandalously about her. That is what God brought upon her by His divine choice of how to enter this world.
Is God evil?
Societal norms.
Either societal norms are good, or God is good. You cannot have it both ways.
Societal norms shoehorn people into comfortable rebellion against God—and all while being so convinced that they are living righteously. Don’t you see that God is so pleased with them? Indeed, so pleased is He that He sends fires, earthquakes, floods, storms, mass shootings; disaster after disaster He sends, and all the while they sit back in their comfort and say, “It’s not because of me! I follow societal norms!
Societal norms!
Don’t you see that it was societal norms that drove Jesus Christ to the cross?
Don’t you see that it was societal norms that caused God to commit suicide on our behalf?
You don’t like hearing that, do you?
Explain to me, then, how laying oneself upon the cross, knowing what was to come was not suicide!
God committed suicide so that He would not have to execute you in your societal norms!
Societal norms, indeed!
Do you want God dead?
Or do you want Him alive and well, and beckoning you into His arms?
Take up your cross and follow me!” iv
That is the command. “Take up your rights”? No. “Take up your comforts”? No. Take up your societal norms”? NO! NO! NO!
Take up your own execution! Take up your cross!
And follow Him.
Expect persecution. Expect vilification. Expect lies. Expect false accusations. Expect slander. Expect betrayal from those whom you thought your friends. Expect martyrdom.
Expect death.
Expect the cross. Expect the cross to loom large and undeniable in your life. And then
Expect Jesus Christ!

Why would I receive a gift so fine,
A treasure beyond worth?
Why would such a wretch as I have been
Be treasured upon the earth?
Am I only imagining?
Or am I hearing clear,
That the Creator of all would give
To me a gift so dear?

I’ll take Jesus, thank you very much!
You may keep your societal norms!

iRomans 3:23
iiRomans 3:10-12
iiiIsaiah 9:6
ivLuke 9:23

A Tri-fold PDF of this article can be downloaded here.