Forgiving: God's job?
Neil Short

I sometimes suspect the way some of us relate to God is as if God is who he is because it is his job to be God. We ascribe to God certain duties that we expect him to do because it is his job.

Oh, I know that nobody would describe his theology in those terms; but sometimes we approach God with a posture suggesting just such a theology.

I first began thinking about this anomaly one day when I heard the words to a song by a band called Muse. The song is called Knights Of Cydonia.

Come ride with me
Through the veins of history
I'll show you why God
Falls asleep on the job

What does the lyricist mean by God falling asleep on the job? What does he mean by God having a job?

We sometimes expect God to confine himself to some kind of job description. Many in the world have expectations of God. Unfortunately, in our world, we see atrocities. Some see atrocities as evidence of a weak God who cannot do anything about evil in the world. Others see those atrocities as evidence that there is no such thing as a perfectly righteous God. The problem here is not that God does not exist or that he is weak or that he is not morally perfect. The problem is that we think that being God is a job--and we know the job description. God is supposed to prevent atrocities. Right? Talk about putting God in a box!

God has freedom too; and he has character. It is not in God's character to overrule anybody's freedom to choose, no matter how evil those choices. I want to focus on one case example; but there are many.

Some people relate to God as if it is God's job to forgive. Some people go on with life doing whatever they want and they fully intend to ask God to forgive. And they expect God to forgive because that's his job (contra Hebrews 10:26; Jeremiah 4:14; Zechariah 1:3; Malachi 3:7).

Treating God like he is amenable to some human expectations is nothing short of sorcery. Sorcery is a craft that assumes God (or, the gods) are subject to certain human actions or words.

Expecting God to respond in a certain way based on a rule or a concept of God's job is simplifying God to something as predictable as an insect. Poke an ant with a stick and the ant will get mad. Every time.

God's forgiveness does not come down from a job description. It comes down from his character. There are certain features of God's character that are consistent. One of those character traits is loyalty to a loving relationship (John 3:16). He has always provided a way by which sinful humans can enter into loving relationship with him. One of those ways is through God's forgiveness. Christ was provided by God because of God's character, not because of God's prescribed duty.

People prefer to relate to a predictable god. It makes us comfortable. Worshiping a predictable god is the sin of idolatry. We like a deity who has a job description.

The God of the Bible is free. He is consistent in character. He keeps his promises. He is a forgiving God. He is also free to respond as he sees fit to the actions of other free agents--even human beings.