If you sin, how does that affect him?
If your sins are many, what does that do to him?
Job 35:6 (NIV)
Elihu, the fourth and youngest of Job’s so-called friends, continues his pent-up diatribe in today’s chapter. His point seems to be that God’s lofty omnipotence places the Creator above the affectations of humanity. Eli calls into question whether our sins or wickedness have any affect on the Almighty, and I find the question fascinating.
A few summers ago I read the book Holy Sh*t by Melissa Mohr who explores the history of swearing and profanity. I learned therein that throughout the middle ages Western culture would have answered Eli’s question emphatically. The really bad swearing of the day was to swear by Jesus’ blood or Jesus’ wounds. For example, in the opening scenes of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1, the bawdy Jack Falstaff utters profanity in saying “‘sblood” (contraction of swearing “by His blood”) and “‘Zounds” (contraction of swearing “by His wounds”). The culture of that day held that swearing by the body, blood, or wounds of Christ was so profane that swearing in such a manner resulted in further bodily injury to Jesus. If you swore you were perpetrating actual physical harm to the Savior in heaven. Wow.
This morning I am once again finding truth at the point of tension between the two extremes. Elihu’s projection of God who is above being affected by humanity is inconsistent with the entire story of God’s Message, in which God intimately cares for His fallen creation and loves us sacrificially in order to redeem us. The believers of the middle-ages, however, took that intimacy to an opposite extreme in thinking that when my momentary frustration leads to an inappropriate utterance, I have Jesus crying “ouch” in heaven’s throne room. That idea of that, in fact, seems more than a little bit twisted.
My long sojourn through God’s Message and my experiences in this life lead me to believe that God does care about us. I believe that God cares about what we think, say, and do. I believe that God is grieved at our penchant for doing the things we know we shouldn’t and choosing out of the things we should say and do. Let’s not forget that at the beginning of Job’s story God actually expresses His pride and deep appreciation for Job’s righteousness. God could be above it all, as Elihu suggests, but that’s the beauty of the Christmas story which we just celebrated last week. God cared. God sent His Son as a gift to make a way for salvation, and He made a point by sending His Son to be born of a seemingly insignificant peasant girl, arriving in squalor, worshipped by poor shepherds. That doesn’t sound like an aloof God unaffected by humanity. It seems to me that this is a story of God’s affections for even the least of us.