God, You’re Embarrassing Me!

August 17, 2012

Remember when you were a kid?article-1307390615535-0C70465000000578-770945_636x1016-187x300

And your parents embarrassed you in public?

Maybe your dad wore his knee socks and birkenstocks to the mall, or your mom picked you up from school in her hair curlers, and from there on out, you insisted on being dropped off a half mile from your destination, just to keep them out of the sight of your peers. You were convinced they were holding you back. You were so humiliated to have them as parents.

“Mom, you’re embarrassing me! I swear, as soon as you are old enough, I’m putting you in a home.”

We whined and complained, and a few of us got our revenge as teenagers, as we generally took up the hobby of acting like clowns in public. The rest of you just unknowingly embarrassed your parents. Trust me, you embarrassed them at least a couple of times.

You know what the modern church’s problem is?

We go to church and sing songs and hear messages and worship God. But we just do that in church.

Outside of church, we are horrifyingly, mortifyingly embarrassed by God.

Just Stay Where My Friends Can’t See You

It was one thing to hang out with your family at home when we were teenagers. Home was a safe place, where even though you grumbled, you could play a board game with the lame old people and preserve your dignity with your friends.

Then, we saw our friends and complained about how lame our families were.

But once our parents got out, where our peers could see them, we had to cover. We had to shush them and get them back in the car as quickly as possible.  We dreaded the day when our families humiliated us in public.

It’s the same way with God.

God, You Have Lost Facebook Privileges

See, the modern church has an image to keep up. We need to be friendly and accepting and inviting and we’re so afraid of looking backwards or hateful or whatever turns “seekers” off.

But we have this God.

And when God says He is our “Father,” we have to remember that our fathers embarrassed us from time to time.

And sometimes, God doesn’t act the way we want Him to. People in the Bible weren’t ashamed to say it. When Jeremiah saw Jerusalem get sacked, and the temple was knocked down, and the people are so desperate that they’ve resorted to cannibalism, he said, “God did that.”

But Christians today have an unspoken rule, a conspiracy to cover up. Whenever God acts up, or lets bad things happen, we cover for Him. We tell people that God wasn’t responsible. Because God is always cheery and love and full of rainbows and He never gets mad or punishes people or lets terrible things happen.

I’m not saying Pat Robertson isn’t ridiculous. But when he suggests that a disaster is God’s retribution, it’s like the rest of us feel the absolute need to make sure no one believes that, because that’s heresy. The message is preached ever louder that God wants nothing but your absolute happiness, prosperity and self esteem, while taking a permanent marker to all the embarrassing crap that God’s actually said.

We spend an incredible amount of time being embarrassed of God, like He’s parading around in His holy bathrobe, just when we bring our friends over. We feel the need to apologize to people for God, explain Him away, cover for Him, anything but admit that God will do whatever He wants, even if we don’t like it.

Putting God In the Nursing Home

That’s why we put God a home, just as soon as we got the chance…sorry, assisted living center.

The church is like God’s nursing home. We can keep tabs on God there, because the doors are locked. Keep Him medicated and sedate, and wait for the clock to run out so we can collect our inheritance that we deserve for all the years of loving care we gave Him. We can’t have Him escaping, wandering the streets. He might do something to embarrass us, like strip naked on the street corner while loudly ranting about the voices in His head.

Sure, we’ll listen to God’s rambling, incoherent stories in the church / home once a week, so we feel like we’re putting in our time. Maybe we’ll even quietly contemplate the possibility that God meant what He said, that He allows bad things to happen for good reason. But we can’t let that message get out. What would people say?

And the whole time God’s rambling on, we almost never consider that maybe we embarrass Him just as much as He embarrasses us.

What do you think? Do we have a problem with being embarrassed by God? Have you ever been embarrassed by what God has said or done?

28 responses to God, You’re Embarrassing Me!

  1. Karen and Gerard August 17, 2012 at 5:55 am

    Interesting post–I really enjoyed it. It is so true that people’s view of God is often not the God of the Bible. I just finished reading the book of Jeremiah and was surprised to see that women actually ate their own children to survive! Funny, in all my years (58) of attending church regularly, I never heard about this. We really need to study the whole Bible for ourselves to get the full picture of God and know him better.

  2. Hi Matt,
    Your fourth paragraph from the end, “The church is like God’s nursing home.” really struck me.
    I have a hard time getting my mind around the concept that the Lord controls me instead of me controling Him. Why pray then? Isn’t that supposed to influence, even force, Him to act a certain way?
    This is all too deep for me. I think I’ll rock in my rocking chair and hum “Jesus Loves Me” till they bring my meds.
    PS: Blogged about My Unbiblical Marriage today.

    • John, the sovereignty of God is a mystery I think, and this fact makes prayer a mystery in itself. Whose benefit is it for? Both, but I think the primary purpose must not be to get God to act the way we want.

      • My current take on prayer is that God is waiting for us to get a clue and understand what His will is. But that’s a topic for another post….

        • God’s will for us is that we love Him, and our neighbors as ourselves.

          But we just (so often) flat out refuse to do it.

          But…He loves us anyway, and forgives us.

          What a God.

  3. I’ll just throw this out there. Isn’t defending genocide calling evil good? Aren’t we supposed to, you know, not do that? Most of us chalk it up to mystery, say something like “I’m sure He had His reasons” and focus on the stuff we should imitate, like unconditional love. Boasting about who deserved to get what they makes us uncomfortable because we know which part of our souls that kind of talk comes from, and it ain’t pretty. God can defend Himself, but I’m not going to go running my mouth about holy homicidal rage either. I don’t understand it, so I’ll move on.

    • That’s probably for the best. I’ve also come to the conclusion that God doesn’t have any explaining to do and he doesn’t need me to explain either.

    • I relate to your comments here. There’s stuff that seems like God either allowed to happen or actually caused to happen-bad stuff- I’m just not comfortable with. So I’m honest – I don’t understand. I also, don’t try to explain for God. I figure He’s God and I’m not and He doesn’t need my PR fix.

      • Yes, Tracy. That’s just it — we don’t have all the answers. How can we even begin to explain God (as if anyone has a right to demand an explanation)? If he did give one, would we even be able to comprehend it?

  4. —I’m not embarrassed by God. I am sometimes embarrassed by stuff that people who say they know Him (including myself) have done in His name.

    —Could the fact that we now know a *bit* more about meteorology, plate tectonics, and medicine than Jeremiah have something to do with the fact that we no longer chalk up every natural disaster up to “God’s will”?

  5. I’ve recently begun to question the actions of God in the bible- there’s a lot of stuff in there I don’t like, and now I’m not afraid to say it. (I’m confident that if Christianity is true and God is really who he says he is, then he can take my criticism.)

    For example, the 10 plagues of Egypt were actually really horrible- not silly jokes, like they’re portrayed in Sunday School or cartoons. I wrote about that on my blog: http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-plagues-of-egypt-ruined-everything.html

    I’ve decided I want to know what the bible REALLY says, not my little idea of what it says and who God is.

  6. This is your best post ever.

  7. Matt,
    This is so good and the analogy works the whole way through. Well done, friend. I loved reading it!

    I don’t personally get embarrassed by God, but I do get embarrassed by His people. His people are selfish, spiteful, prideful jerks sometimes of which I consider myself. I am just as guilty. I’m embarrassed that God uses me at all because I am so unworthy…

    …and He is so very good.

  8. This goes into your TCONP Hall of Fame. And yes, I’m embarrassed to admit that God embarrasses me sometimes.

    I think it’s pretty clear that sometimes God uses disasters (natural or otherwise) to get people’s attention. But on the other hand, Jesus pointed out (in Luke 13) that that isn’t always the case: “Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?”

    We need to exercise some discernment before we go proclaiming God’s judgement. I wonder if the events in the Old Testament weren’t a physical type for spiritual realities that are more clear in the New Testament?

  9. I agree that we have sometimes made God out to be a cute, senile, Santa in the sky. He doesn’t promise a sweet, easy life.

    However, I have no problem with people saying “God did not cause this disease” or “this rape.” It’s not that I am embarrassed of Him. It’s that I don’t believe Sovereignty means that “everything that happens is His will.” I recently wrote a piece about sovereignty and my son’s autism. There are cliche`s on both sides: “God wants you to have two Cadillacs” and “God never gives you anything you can’t handle.”

    So for me, this is mostly a theological issue. I realize our personal religious preferences can color our theology if we aren’t careful, but that happens in both camps.

    Anyway, I always love your stuff, Matt. Even when I don’t fully agree. :)

  10. Appreciate this post Matt. I frequently come back to that passage in John 6:66-68; Jesus had talked about stuff no one wanted to hear about him dying and His followers needing to eat his flesh, so a bunch of people left. When Jesus asked the disciples if they were gonna leave Peter asked Jesus where else would he go. I feel that way lot. There’ some stuff in the Bible, especially the “mean/bad” stuff I read about God doing in the OT, that I don’t like. There’s stuff that happens in life to me or others that I don’t like. But, I know that God is God, so I stay. I figure that I just don’t understand and choose to try to trust God anyway.

  11. I’m not embarrassed by things that God says (or said). I’m embarrassed –and sometimes even enraged– by things that human beings say God says (or said).

  12. Great analogy. Like teenagers, we tend to get more embarrassed when we start seeing God through the eyes of the world. We listen to the mocking and realize that other people don’t have the same trust and “blind” adoration. But they don’t know him like we do.

  13. Great thoughts. It’s the age old question, doe God let bad things happen to good people. My answer is yes.

    God always puts me out on a limb. The good news for me is that is where my faith comes into play, God’s uses me as imperfect as I am and I get to minister to another human in love.

    Street outreaches are the hardest on me, but it always goes well. We had a prayer and dream interpretation tent at local block party and the there was a line all day long. It was amazing!

  14. This is so incredibly true. It boils down to our worry not of “seekers” rejecting God, but of them rejecting us! And God does have a habit of being ostentatiously embarrassing sometimes. I find it endearing in private but sometimes in public, I get squirrelly.

  15. Wow. This is really convicting. Thanks.

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