“What kind of Christian are you?” the man spat at me as he angrily pushed his finger into my chest and added a few expletives. “This is not loving at all. You Christians are so hateful”, he added as he huffed and puffed his way out of the church and proceeded to yell at everyone in sight. My crime? We were renting a church space that was part of a larger structure and the landlord limited our access to what we were actually paying for, the madman. This fellow had come in after our service and was attempting to wander around the larger structures without asking permission of anyone involved. Since I did not have authority to grant such permission and it was my job to oversee the church, I had the temerity to politely ask the gentleman to leave and talk with the landlord and let me know if he was allowed in or not. Sounds simple, right?
Well, not so fast. It seems that I was being a hate-filled donut who was a bad example to boot. To respect the wishes of our landlord and ask the gentleman to stay out of parts of the campus that we, the church, did not pay money to rent was something that you JUST DON”T DO…I know, I am terrible, just a monster.
This restriction on the wandering man conflicted with what he wanted to do and he really, really wanted to do it therefore someone had to be wrong. That anger had to go somewhere! Since it was not going to be directed at himself and I was the one trying to be faithful and passing on the message I had received from the landlord, I was nominated as hateful Christian. It was an interesting experience. Sometimes the messenger gets beaten up by the hearer just for delivering the message.
I was reminded of it and other interesting moments in my Christian life today while reading the account of Gideon’s calling by God in the Book of Judges. If you are familiar with Judges you know that it was a rough time in the history of the Nation of Israel. Each person did what was right in their own eyes, not God’s, and as a result sin and idolatry ran rampant. Each time the Nation was brought low by the result of their sin, God sent a Judge to save them from oppression and give them the opportunity to come back to Him. The judges are kind of like a mixture of a general, prophet and civil magistrate. Gideon was one of these judges and when we start off his story we find him hiding from the oppressors of Israel, the Midianites.
Mr. SuperBrave Warrior is showing how super and brave he is by hiding from the bad guys. When God calls Gideon to be the leader of Israel and fight the bad guys, he is hiding in fear from the bad guys — impressive.
When God lays out His plan for Gideon, he responds to the Angel of the Lord who appears and chooses him by repeatedly correctly questions God’s calling — your sure you are talking about me God? How about the other Gideon down the road? – questioning God’s judgment in the process. Ever been here? Yeah, me too. God’s plan conflict with my expectations and judgment therefore God must be wrong. God is so patient with us!
What brought to mind the roamer from church though was what happens after Gideon accepts initially that God is indeed talking to him. Gideon is told to go to his family’s house and tear down the altar to the false god Baal and the pole dedicated to the false goddess Ashtaroth that are in his family’s house and replace them with an altar to God. Did you catch the fact that our hero who is chosen by God has an idolatrous altar in his house when God calls him. It is a terrible starting point, but again, have we all been there? God calls us out of darkness not out of light.
After destroying the altar, Gideon is to sacrifice a bull on the newly built altar to God. Clear simple directions but think about what God is doing. To be who God wants him to be, Gideon as a leader of the people of God must clear out the filth and compromise from his own house first before he can be of any use to the people. As it says in the New Testament, leaders must be blameless or above reproach — they must have nothing which people can point to and use as fodder for their sin. An altar to false gods in your house is pretty clearly problematic.
So returning to our hero, Gideon takes this order directly from God and immediately goes and does it? Yay!!! Well, No, that is not what he does……….that would be too simple and too brave for Gideon.
Instead, he waits until nightfall and does his altar demolition and construction when his town is asleep. Seems that hearing from God in person is not enough to drive away all the fears in poor human limited Gideon. Ever feel like Gideon, BTW, you know exactly what God has asked you to do but are really afraid of doing it? Doesn’t at all make sense, God is telling you to do something – GOD – but me too, I have been there many times.
Gideon does what he is told and in the morning when the townsfolk wake up and see the altar to Baal destroyed and the pole chopped down they are outraged. Who would do such a thing? When Gideon is quickly discovered, lot of good hiding did, they want to get together and stone him to death. What?
For those following at home, these townspeople are Israelites, Jews, who are supposed to worship God alone and for whom the crime of worshipping a false god like Baal was supposed to be stoning. They are so lost at this point that instead of worshipping God alone, they are defending an altar to Baal that was not even theirs. They were not just worshipping Baal alongside of Yahweh, by their response they were clearly serving and fighting for Baal over Yahweh — challenging Baal lead them to want to murder Gideon. It is a shocking picture, isn’t it?
Gideon is just trying to clean out his house from the corruption of the world and follow God. The Israelites who should be applauding want him stopped and want to kill him. They want to serve their idol, they really, really want to serve Baal. Gideon, just the messenger, was getting in the way of serving their sin. Therefore he was the recipient of their anger – the hate filled donut of his day.
Christian man or woman — the world is in the grips of all sorts of idol worship and rebellion these days. At heart these idols are really no different from the Baal worship or Ashtaroth poles of the time of Gideon. Baal was the god of prosperity. Ashtaroth was associated with sexuality and was worshipped through sexual behavior. No parallels between today’s world, right? When God calls us like He did with Gideon, we are going to be asked to first clear out our own household idols before doing God’s work in the world. The world is not going to like it and will turn on us just like they did with Gideon and that is just part of the cost. With God with us, though, who can stand against us.
surprisingly, Gideon’s father whose idols Gideon tore down is the rescuer of Gideon in the account. He argues with those who want to kill Gideon that if Baal is really offended by what Gideon did then Baal should do something to him. As Baal is not real, just a carved stone or block of wood, obviously nothing happens. When we also take stands for the Lord, we may find we have also have unexpected allies.