Comedian W.C. Fields was reading the Bible one afternoon, when a friend asked him what he was doing. "Looking for loopholes," the actor responded wryly.
I wonder if somewhere within the intended humor of that statement, there lies a revealing glimpse of our often-ironic approach to God, and similar approach to truth itself. That is, there is something completely irrational about thinking of God as an entity that can be manipulated; there is something incredibly ridiculous about defining truth to suit oneself. And yet we recall the famous words of a former president—it all depends on what your definition of "is," is.
In fact, within the postmodern mindset truth is quite comfortably understood in terms of preference. And God is readily comprehended as the One who must prepare a defense for our own thunderous line of questioning. How did we arrive at this state of mind? Even as Christianity is discriminated against in the name of intolerance, do we not see the irony? Even as God is plucked out of schools, his name slandered in irreverence, have we not seen the staggering results of life without a higher law? Even as we live in anger with God for existing, angry at life for being unreasonable, do we not see our own contradictions?
Truly, the need for sound thinking is clear, the need for moral absolutes keenly felt, and our need for the God both holy and merciful—undeniable. It is significant to note that a similar burden was once carried by the prophet Malachi to the people of his day. And the manner in which God speaks through this final Old Testament prophet is fascinating. Through Malachi, we hear a series of distinctive questions and answers in a dialogical fashion, and we get an eye-opening glimpse of the often-cynical, often-illogical cries of humanity in light of the cries of God's heart to us.
Malachi's message came at the end of a thousand year period of God's revelation to his people and the next voice to be heard centuries later is that of John the Baptist preparing the way of Christ. And yet historically, the people of Malachi's day were standing in a period of almost eerie stillness—there was no looming threat to be addressed, no extraordinary prospering to be consumed by. And it was Malachi who pointedly voiced the irrationality of their half-hearted approach to God, the sheer irony of finding the almighty God wearisome.
The opening lines of that closing book read powerfully, "I have loved you, says the Lord. Yet you say, in what way have you loved us? …A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?" (Footnote 1: Malachi 1:2,6)
Can you hear God's cry to us? Truth is not relative but incredibly personal. "If then I am Father, where is the honor?" He is dissatisfied by empty worship, because He exists, because He lives, because He is present and active among us—because He has loved us. And those words, spoken in that perfect tense, signal present implications, past actions. Though you know not what you do, I have loved you, says the Lord. (Footnote 2: See e.g. 23:33-34)
How do you respond to this love? How do you approach God? There is a reason Jesus called it the greatest commandment: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Footnote 3: Mark 12:29-31) Dear friend, His name is great, beyond the borders of Israel, beyond the boxes we have drawn around Him. And He wants to be your one consuming desire. He has left no room for loopholes.