“‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed . . . with blood.”
If you’re like me, those words jump out of our text for the day,, and in fear, you assume that you comprehend the meaning—something like: “If you call him ‘Father,’ be afraid, for if you don’t call him ‘Father,’ and are not holy as he is holy, then he’s not your father. And the only way that he could ever be your father is to make someone else bleed instead of you.”
It’s ironic, but most American Christians think that the Bible is all about “Family Values.” And so: 1) Your family should look like a Norman Rockwell painting, 2) we should be at war with anything that would threaten that picture, and 3) if we threaten that picture, we will be exiled and endlessly tortured for the sake of that picture. And so, most of the world thinks we are a terribly dysfunctional family, for we all sit at the table smiling on the outside while terrified on the inside, for we believe that our father has his finger on a red button connected to ejector seats that may fling us into the fiery furnace directly below. In other words, we smile and say, “God is Love,” while we actually believe he’s Dr. Evil.
Maybe we should fear God? He is all about “family values.” Let’s “focus on the family.”
Can you imagine Jesus interviewed on Focus on the Family Radio (“If anyone does not come to me and hate his own father…”)? Jesus had some strange family values and when he focused on the family, it always seemed to be the wrong family.
The Bible is all about family, but it’s hard to find any family in the Bible that looks like a Norman Rockwell painting: Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and Seth. How about Abraham, his two wives, and two sons: Isaac, and Ishmael? Or…Isaac, Jacob (Israel), and Esau? Or… Jacob, his four wives, and twelve sons? Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and especially David—would be the last of all fathers to be interviewed on Focus on the Family Radio. And yet God identifies himself as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” And he identifies David as “the man after his own heart.” Did he see something in them that he saw in himself?
It’s fascinating but none of those men gave up on any of their sons. And the sons are all united in the death of the father (Genesis 25:9, 35:29, 50:13). Even the sons of David will be reunited in the death of the Son of David, from the bosom of the Father, the Promised Seed, the “Last (eschatos) Adam.”
According to Oscar Cullmann, all of history takes the shape of an hourglass on its side. In the beginning, humanity was blown apart at a tree in a garden. Then God began dealing with nations, then tribes, then families, and then a “root” that is the Promised Seed. At a tree in a garden, we all took his Life and he gave his Life (The Life is in the blood). His twelve disciples formed a new family, then all the tribes came together at Pentecost, and the nations came together at the house of Cornelius. In the End, there is a tree in a garden and “its leaves are for the healing of the nations.” It is the Tree of Life and the revelation of the Good.
“As in Adam all die so in Christ will all be made alive…” wrote Paul. “The first Adam became a living soul; that last Adam became a life-giving Spirit… This perishable nature must put on the imperishable.” “The Adam” is humanity, and the Adam is Jesus, and we are the Adam’s Family. What if we read the Bible with the Adam’s family values, rather than our own traditional American family values?
In 1:13-16 Peter calls for a paradigm shift for God has said: “You will be holy as I am holy.” That’s not simply a wish or a command. It’s a statement of fact. It’s the judgment of God, the Creator. And what is the Holiness of God? It is revealed between the Cherubim on top of the Ark in the Holy of Holies: when we take his Life in an attempt to make ourselves good, he gives his Life and that is the Good—God is Love.
In 1:17 Peter reminds us that “Father… judges impartially according to each one’s deeds.” Faith is trust. And every father knows that trust without deeds is simply a lie. As David writes, “To you, O Lord belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work.” What will he render? Steadfast Love (Discipline is Steadfast Love that burns). And what does he require? Steadfast Love. And who is he? Steadfast Love. And he’s making us in his image with what? Himself.
In 1:18-19 Peter reminds us that we were “ransomed from the futile ways inherited from [our] forefathers… with the precious blood of Christ.” To whom is the ransom paid? Some say the devil. Some say God himself, as if the evil god, our father, demanded blood from the good god, his son, in order to feel better about you. But Peter claims that we were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from our fathers. Those futile ways are how we each construct a prison of flesh, the “soulish” body, in which each of us languishes alone—”alone:” the first thing declared “not good,” and that even before the fall.
The One on the throne is from “the bosom of the father,” the heart of the father, who pumps blood through all the members of the body of the Adam. At every worship service, we surrender “our life” and drink “his blood.” We drink the ransom, the Life of God.
Life is not the survival of the fittest (that’s death); Life is the sacrifice of the fittest for all; He is the Judgment of God, the Good Will of God, the Freedom of God—given to us at the tree in the garden in the depths of the temple that is the soul. Look at what “Our Father in Heaven” has prepared for our family dinner: himself.
1. Fear God because He will never stop loving you.
2. Fear God because He is Love and we don’t love Love.
3. Fear God because His Judgment is inviolable eternal fact.
4. Fear God because He judges impartially according to each one’s deeds.
5. Fear God because He has ransomed you with blood—His blood.
6. Fear God because He is the Father of all.
7. Fear God, and only God, until Perfect Love who is your Father casts out fear.
Then . . . Fear Not. “There is no fear in Love (1 John 4:18).”
The biggest threat to the family of Adam is not another family, for there is none.
The biggest threat to the family of Adam is the lie that our Father is not good, and so cannot be trusted, and so some of us don’t belong at his table.