“God, I forgive you”: Confessions of a Four-Year-Old Theologian

God, you made the dark and light. You made the trees and plants, and you made the living creatures. Thank you for being strong and for dying on the cross and forgiving us from our sins. And God…also…I forgive you. And I know you know what’s best…

Wait a second, baby, did you just say you forgive God?

Yes.

For what?

For knocking down all the people’s things.

Well it turns out she was talking about the story of Jesus knocking over the money changers tables in the temple. And it got me thinking. To her mind, knocking over tables like that would be mean. It would be something she would get in trouble for. It was wrong of Him to do that. She was offended by Jesus.

Are you?

Honestly, God has been knocking down our stuff for a long time. He knocked down the tower of Babel, the Jericho wall, the temple. If God is good, why would He do and allow such terrible things? Are you offended by God?

Jesus said, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:6, Luke 7:23)

Jesus did not speak words of affirmation all the time. He mostly spoke words of correction and teaching. He knew that the most loving thing was to speak the truth, not comfort someone in their delusions of religion. Jesus actually offended EVERYONE. He offended the religious leaders, the Romans, the zealots, the politicians, the money lovers, the adulterers, the business men, the ordinary people who just trying to fish for a living! In Greek, the word “offense” comes from the word skandalon, which was a trigger on a trap, or a rock that would stick up out of the ground and cause people to trip. And many were offended and tripped over the rock of Christ.

See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and honored cornerstone, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame. So honor will come to you who believe; but for the unbelieving, The stone that the builders rejected—this one has become the cornerstone, and A stone to stumble over, and a rock to trip over. 1 Peter 2:6-8

Now if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. If you did not warn him, he will die in his sin, and the righteous acts he did will not be remembered. And I will hold you responsible for his blood. Ezekiel 3:20

See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame. Romans 9:33 (quoting Isaiah 8:13-14 and Isaiah 28: 13)

You will at some point be offended by God. Unless. Unless you chose to be corrected in your offense and follow Him-to bow to Him as the definition of goodness. It is a return from the knowledge of good and evil back to life (remember the two trees in the garden?). The only thing that keeps us from being offended by God is refusing to judge Him (because we are human and can’t know His ways), insisting on His goodness and our love for Him. However all of our praises will be empty and numb if we are harboring an offense toward Him.

Parents know this. When I correct or discipline my child or when they don’t get their way, sometimes they become offended. They are angry at me. I have done nothing wrong, but in their eyes, I have been unjust or unkind. Their hearts become hard. If I tell them I love them at that point while they are offended, my love just bounces off their hard hearts.

Last week, I wouldn’t let my children have candy five minutes before dinner. I don’t have to explain to them why I decided what I did. I am a good parent. These easy choices I make for them at this young age are definitely in their best interest (I make them eat broccoli instead of candy–easy one). But instead of a question for an explanation, I had two children simultaneously stomp off and complain/cry and I had to discipline them. That made them angrier. When my children don’t get their way, they get offended. If they act out in anger and rebellion toward me from that place of offense, I have to correct them again.

But if they soften up and return to me contrite and ask me from a soft heart to explain things to them, I love doing that! I love helping them understand how to look at things from my perspective. If I as a fallible human would never give them a snake or scorpion if they asked for food, how much more will God give His Holy Spirit to all who ask Him! The Holy Spirit shows us the deep things of our hearts and the deep things of God’s hearts, and He mediates between us so we do not need to carry resentment and bitterness for not understanding God. He wants to be known by us.

Forgiveness: to cease to feel resentment against an offender.

Merriam-Webster

So what about the idea of “forgiving God.” Is that even something we should allow for in our theology? Obviously we know God has not done anything wrong. We believe that. But can I just ask your heart of hearts one question?

Has God offended you? You know the feeling. You’re doing great and then something happens and boom!! God, why did that have to happen!? Why did you not give me that “good” thing? Why are you not guiding my life into success? Why are you asking me to go through this valley? Why did they die? What does that scripture mean? Sometimes the way you appear in scripture makes you seem so mean! Why would you give the spiritual gift I desire to that person and not to me?

I’ll ask again now. Has God offended you?

Not sure? See our religious selves would balk at that question because to be mad at God or resentful would make us rebellious and sinful. Well, yes. But hiding resentment doesn’t mean you have not been offended. In fact, we know that we are already stubborn and sinful, so we might as well get it out in the open! What I am asking is this. Is your heart feeling hard?

Have you been thinking of God as cruel, unkind, unjust, abusive, withholding in love, or anything else out of a place of hurt or loss? Are you sitting in judgement of Him? Even secretly? Do you have vague misgivings about whether or not He is actually taking care of you, covering you, seeing you? Or do you feel exposed, rejected, neglected, forgotten by Him. What is actually in your heart or in your head? Maybe nothing is coming to mind, but you feel numb, distanced, cold or unexplainably angry, or incapable of hearing from God. Maybe you are offended?

The Bible says that God intentionally puts stumbling blocks (offenses) in our paths (Romans 9:33, quoting Isaiah 8:13-14 and Isaiah 28: 13). What kind of God does that? Isn’t that cruel? Well…is it cruel for a coach to put a hurdle in front of an athlete? No! It is a chance for victory. What if our ability to be victorious in our Christian life and love for God is based in a decision that by the help of the Holy Spirit, we will not be able to be offended by God.

Yeah! Perfect. Sign me up!

Not so fast…That’s what Peter said too! He fearlessly declared Jesus, the Messiah. He refused to leave when others did, saying, “where else would we go? You have the words of life.” But then Jesus said “get behind me Satan” and then Jesus shut him down when he was just trying to defend his Master in the garden. And Peter was offended. We are human. The truth is we do get offended. When a loved one dies. When a prayer is “unanswered.” When the healing is not given. Now. In that place. We can be honest.

Because here’s the thing. God actually already sees the resentment and anger. You hiding it, or ignoring it, or just singing about His goodness to try to cover it up is not helping your relationship with Him. Harboring anger at God can make us feel bitter, distanced, angry, numb, shameful, depressed. But you can walk out of that in a single day. Unlike human parents, His judgement is never “off” or mistaken. He sees everything, even motivations. So when He disciplines, it is good. When He brings trials or stumbling stones, they are meant for our victory. When He injures us, it is for our rescue and return to Him.

Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed. Luke 20:18

You can return to trust. It might just mean a little breaking our hearts wide open and asking God to soften our hard heart. You can fall on the rock of Christ or you can be crushed by your need to maintain death-grip control your own life and your sin of sitting in judgment of Almighty God.

For a four year old it is as simple as saying “God I forgive you for knocking their things over”

For us less spiritually mature people it might be praying and journaling through something like this (if it’s hard for you to do it yourself, grab a friend to ask you the questions and help you stay focused while you listen to the Lord):

Father, I have felt feelings of resentment/anger/coldness/numbness with you. Is it because I have lost sight of your goodness somehow? Can you show me my heart and explain the root of it to me?

  • What do I actually think about you? Just between you and me, are there things hiding that I have been feeling upset about but too scared to admit to you?
  • Am I confused about scripture and why you allowed or did certain things? Can you explain those things to me?
  • Am I confused about my life and why you allowed or did certain things?

Father, I want you to be my definition of goodness and I release you from my judgment of you based on what seems right to me. I am sorry for secretly accusing you or thinking you do not have my best interest in mind. I return to a place of trust with you, where I release my own knowledge of good and evil. I want to return to abundant life through Jesus, to a place where I am listening, trusting, and obeying you. I want to live from a place of love and hope in the fact that you bought me with a price, my name is written in your book, and you are returning for me. Will you help me to view your love for me and the world accurately and let trust be the lens through which I see scripture, my life, and the people around me?

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