Tag Archives: debate

Dr. Michael Brown Wasted Tim Hegg’s Time and Mine

I hadn’t intended to, especially since Keith had already done such a good job of it, but I ended up listening to the Line of Fire debate between Dr. Michael Brown and Tim Hegg on Does God Require All Believers to Observe the Torah with the intention of writing a review. Different sources continued to urge me to listen to the podcast and so I finally found myself one evening clicking the link.

I wish I hadn’t but maybe not for the reasons you think. I knew that Dr. Brown often took on controversial subjects in his interviews and debates on his radio show, but I’d forgotten how adversarial and contentious these dialogues could be. Dr. Brown obviously had an agenda from the start and I believe it was a mistake for Mr. Hegg to agree to debate him. After listening to less than thirty minutes of the exchange between them, I decided I never wanted to go within a mile of Dr. Brown or, given the current state of telecommunications, have any sort of direct link to him regardless of our relative geographical locations.

Let me explain.

Keith’s review, which I cited above, is absolutely correct in saying that Mr. Hegg, who is probably the leading proponent of the One Law/One Torah position for Gentile believers, seemed not to be able to communicate his viewpoint in a clear, straightforward manner. I listened to Hegg fumble with answers, not be able to focus on responding to a very specific, direct question, and wander all over the Bible, almost rambling, in an attempt to answer each of Dr. Brown’s queries.

I’ve met Hegg on a number of occasions and have found him to be a generally well-educated, intelligently spoken, knowledgable, organized individual. I don’t agree with his basic interpretation of the Bible, but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect where he’s coming from.

However, when on Dr. Brown’s radio show, Hegg seemed totally out of his depth, as if he were a first year theology student suddenly thrown into a debate with the heads of his department and asked to defend doctrinal positions which he barely comprehended. Hegg was a mess.

Tim Hegg
Tim Hegg

To be fair though, it was abundantly clear that Brown was using all of the standard tactics to put Hegg off from the second the show went on the air. Brown defined the parameters of the debate, he asked leading and misleading questions, he verbally painted Hegg in a corner, he talked over him, and repeatedly interrupted him, even when Brown said he would give Hegg full rein to state his position. Invariably, Brown would interrupt Hegg in mid-sentence, saying yet another station break was coming up and that he was only seeking clarification for the sake of his listeners.

I have a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology with fifteen years of post-graduate experience before changing careers and in my current employment, I report directly to the Vice President of Marketing. I know when someone’s trying to pull a fast one and manipulate not only the “interviewee” but the audience.

If I had been Hegg, I would have been deeply frustrated and embarrassed. He never had a chance to have a fair hearing regarding his beliefs. That may have been part of the reason that Hegg seemed so confused. He could never finish a complete thought.

To be fair in the other direction, Hegg, even at the beginning when there wasn’t as much pressure, didn’t seem to know how to form a short, simple, complete answer. I don’t know. Maybe he wasn’t used to a radio interview format. On the other hand (again), while Brown said this was supposed to be a “friendly” conversation rather than a debate, the way Brown went after Hegg was anything but friendly. Brown didn’t seem to be interested in finding out what Hegg believed, he seemed, like many entertainers, to want to produce the maximum drama for his radio audience. I don’t care if he does have the word “doctor” in front of his name.

Conclusion: The debate was a waste of time. Listening to it was a waste of my time and participating in it was a waste of Hegg’s time and probably his peace of mind. Like I said, I don’t agree with Hegg, but I certainly didn’t agree with Brown’s tactics, either. And from what little theological information Brown produced on his end, I had to conclude that he misunderstood the nature of the New Covenant and sadly has a classically Evangelical misunderstanding of what “fulfillment” is actually about (from my point of view).

Nothing in this “interview” changed my mind about Tim Hegg one way or the other but although I’ve had a sort of respect for Dr. Brown over the years based those few things I’ve heard of him, my estimation of the man sank to new depths based on this one hearing of his radio program. I can only imagine that Brown’s audience listens to his show for the same reasons the fans of Rush Limbaugh listen to his.

Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh

It isn’t about learning or education and it isn’t about trying to get to the truth on the so-called “Line of Fire” show. It’s all for the sake of entertainment and ratings, usually at the expense of the dignity of another human being. If Dr. Brown had bothered to take to heart the teachings of the Rabbis who speak of upholding the dignity of others, even if you believe your opponent is guilty of a terrible error, he probably would have conducted a very different interview. But then, he’d probably be out of a job if what his employer and his listeners want is to embarrass someone week after week. It’s about (metaphorically speaking) drawing first blood.

But the difference between Brown and Limbaugh is that Limbaugh doesn’t claim to serve Jesus Christ, the Savior of humanity, the one who gave his life for the redemption of many, even while we were still enemies. Limbaugh doesn’t claim to be a disciple of the Prince of Peace and the King of the Jews. Dr. Brown says he does.

More’s the pity.

But then again, behaving like a Christian and upholding such ideals wouldn’t make for a good radio show.

Addendum: I suspected that Tim Hegg wouldn’t just walk away from Dr. Brown’s radio show without some sort of subsequent response. Turns out Hegg has a radio show of his own and on the Rob and Caleb Show, presumably because ”several people asked if Tim (could) expand on some of the ideas he was posing but was not able to finish,” Hegg will appear on the Thursday, August 28th program at 2 p.m. (PST) which will be replayed the same day at 6 p.m. (PST) to answer and expand upon what he was trying to say on Brown’s show. I suppose if I were Hegg, I’d do the same thing.

Sharing God

awesome_desert_landscapeWe all have moments of being struck by the awesomeness of life – whether the birth of a baby, a canopy of stars above, a piece of majestic music, or a breathtaking sunset.

These experiences are both energizing and calming at the same time. They enable us to break beyond our own limitations and to merge our (relatively) tiny, insignificant selves with the greater infinite unity. If God’s creation can have such an impact on us, how much more would an experience with the Creator Himself.

Consider someone travelling the world seeking exciting experiences. Now tell him: “In the next room, you can sit down and speak to God Almighty Himself for an entire hour.”

Wouldn’t that be the ultimate experience?

-Rabbi Noah Weinberg
“Way #31: Seek The Ultimate Pleasure”
Aish.com

I’m continuing to read comments on Derek Leman’s blog post The Sabbath is Between God and the Jewish People. Frankly, I’m beginning to see why the Gentile Christians and Jewish disciples started going their separate ways early on, that is, if they faced the same situations that are evident in the accumulating comments on Derek’s blog. I mentioned in my previous meditation (and in an extra meditation) that I’m getting a little frustrated with the whole “jockeying for position” activity going on between what we refer to as Messianic Judaism and the Christians in various expressions of the Hebrew Roots movement. Rabbi Weinberg talks about the ultimate pleasure of encountering God. Do we ever encounter God in these blog discussions?

Next to love of God, all other pleasures are insignificant. We can have delicious pizza, lots of money, love and power. But humans yearn to transcend the mundane side of daily life. That’s why mystery, magic and miracles capture our imaginations.

When all is said and done, no human being can be truly satisfied unless he reaches out and connects with the infinite transcendent dimension. We all seek to connect with that which encompasses all pleasures. Because nothing finite, nothing bound up in this world, can compare to the infinite.

Um…hello, religious blogosphere? Do you think you might be missing something?

I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the best pieces of advice I have received recently comes from a friend of mine. Seeing past all of the “stuff” we tend to argue about, he told me to not seek “Christianity” and to not seek “Judaism” but to seek an encounter with God.

In his article, Rabbi Weinberg describes ways that people can develop a love for God. You can click the link I provided above and read this entire write-up, but in general, he suggests learning to love God through nature, through history, and through Torah.

Oops! Well, as Meat Loaf has famously sung, two out of three ain’t bad. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating. As I’ve also said before, a significantly large portion of the Torah is immediately available to any Christian, whether we choose to call it “Torah” or not. In fact, one of the people commenting on Derek’s blog unexpectedly said this:

Besides, the fact that Christianity doesn’t keep the external commandments of the Torah, doesn’t mean that Christians don’t keep a *lot* of the Torah’s commands. In fact, many Christian groups keep a lot more of the Torah’s commands than a lot of the more liberal Jewish groups. So I don’t put too much stock in what these other groups do or don’t look like.

i-choose-loveSo even Christians can love God in the manner that Rabbi Weinberg suggests with only a few small adjustments (it’s unlikely that most Christians will choose to express love for God by laying tefillin or fasting on Yom Kippur nor, as we see in Acts 15, is it required) but those adjustments are probably less significant than you might imagine. But what Rabbi Weinberg says next is very illuminating.

One important manifestation of loving God is the desire to share it.

When you love God and you see other people getting caught up in all sorts of trivialities, it hurts. Why? Because it pains you to see a fellow human being missing out on such an awesome pleasure. So when you’re filled with enthusiasm about being close to God, you want all of humanity to have that relationship, too.

This is not like human beings who become jealous when the attention of their beloved is directed elsewhere. When it comes to God, there’s no jealousy when other people have a relationship with Him. Because God is infinite.

Wow! Let’s go over that again and apply it to the theme of today’s missive:

When you love God and you see other people getting caught up in all sorts of trivialities, it hurts. Why? Because it pains you to see a fellow human being missing out on such an awesome pleasure.

My point exactly!

The rest of what he says sounds almost “Christian.” I mean after all, what are we urged to do as part of our Christian faith but to share the Gospel with everyone we meet. The church I attend has a strong missionary component. The head Pastor was a missionary and is the son of missionaries. The church supports numerous missionaries all over the world. Pastor Randy encourages us often from the pulpit to share our faith, to be active, to be vocal, to live holy lives.

When it comes to God, there’s no jealousy when other people have a relationship with Him. Because God is infinite.

God is infinite. His love, mercy, grace, compassion, and kindness are infinite. He provides for us in unlimited amounts. We cannot exhaust His supply of His gifts for humanity by sharing them with too many people. We are commanded to share. We are commanded to love.

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV)

sharing-christIn my previous meditations, I compared some of the mitzvot to “toys” and painted a picture of how children are usually taught to share what they have. It doesn’t mean they’re surrendering a thing, it just means they’re sharing something pleasurable with a friend or even with a stranger. Children will start playing with a kid they don’t know faster than any adult will begin a conversation with a lonely stranger.

Again, I’m not trying to convince Jewish people to violate their sense of covenant identity by agreeing to a “one size fits all” philosophy regarding Torah, but I am saying that Paul didn’t seem to have a problem with the Gentiles meeting in a synagogue with Jews on Shabbat. Peter ate with Gentiles. It’s likely Cornelius davened at the set times for the prayers. This didn’t make Gentiles “Jewish” or “Israel,” but it did allow them to worship God using the only model they had available.

And style and lifestyle aside, isn’t experiencing God the whole point?

We are called “strangers” before we are reconciled to God, but God doesn’t let that stand in His way. He is completely and totally accessible to anyone who wants Him at any time and from any place.

So for those of us who (in theory) are reconciled with God, who know Him, who walk in the footsteps of our Master, why should we be afraid to share our pleasure in Him rather than continually drawing lines in the sand and saying which toys are “obligated” to the grafted in branches vs. which toys only belong to the natural branches? If someone who is unfamiliar with these sorts of debates is trying to make up his or her mind about whether or not to devote themselves to God, what are they going to learn when they visit your blog or mine? Are we sanctifying His Name or desecrating it, even inadvertently?

God is infinite beauty, grace, power, wisdom and meaning. What have you done to share that with someone today? What have I done?

Tomorrow, a more optimistic view.

The Chavruta Illusion

Study with a chavruta, or partner, is a hallmark of traditional Jewish learning. Together you break your heads on the texts. Two minds applied to a problem are almost always better than one.

Each checks and corrects the misconceptions of the other, questioning and sharpening the other’s ideas, while the necessity of articulating one’s thoughts to another person brings greater clarity than learning alone. Indeed, the Talmud goes so far as to say that one who learns Torah alone becomes stupid! (Berachot 63a)

Chavruta comes from the Hebrew word meaning, simply, “friend.” Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) states the fundamental importance of companionship in Jewish learning (and in general): “Make for yourself a teacher, find yourself a friend, and judge every person favourably.”

-Rabbi Julian Sinclair
“Chavruta”
TheJC.com

Periodically, I find myself on the receiving end of a certain amount of criticism because of my opinions, my beliefs, and sometimes “just because.” I’m willing to debate others, both in the comments section of my own blog and on the blogs of others, as long as I can see that there is an honest exchange of ideas without the personalization of conflict. When it becomes apparent to me that the other person is arguing just for the sake of arguing or only for the purpose of driving, forcing, or compelling me to acknowledge that they’re “right” without considering the possibility that their own viewpoint isn’t entirely valid, I tend to withdraw from the discussion. If this happens on my own blog, it’s incredibly easy since, after all, I’m the blog owner. On someone else’s blog, I just stop “talking.”

Debate, discussion, and a frank exchange of ideas is one thing, but I’ve got better things to do with my time than to either let myself be backed into a corner by a someone emulating a verbal “pit bull” or to endlessly explain what I’ve already explained fifteen different times, trying to find new and unique ways of expressing the same thought in the vain hope that I’ll be able to get my point through to someone who is never going to listen to my side of things.

OK, at this point, some of you reading this may be taking my descriptions personally. Please don’t. I am not describing a specific individual or collection of individuals here. I’m expressing “the worst of” experiences I’ve had in the blogosphere in the years I’ve been participating and then exaggerating it just a tad more to produce an impression. I’m trying to say that there are some otherwise well-meaning people on the web who are not really productive communicators.

Now, back to the topic at hand: Chavruta or rather, the Chavruta “illusion.”

I never get the “Chavruta illusion” from a Jewish person. I just wanted to let you know that. It’s always from a non-Jewish person involved in Messianic Judaism, Hebrew Roots, or a similar religious expression.

When I complain or draw attention to what I perceive as the “adversarial” or “hostile” tone of a person’s interactions with me (or with others), they accuse me of not understanding how learning takes place in a Yeshiva setting and invoke the concept of Chavruta. I also sometimes get “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17) and something like “Take away the dross from the silver” (Proverbs 25:4). This supposedly is to show me that an unbridled lack of graciousness and common courtesy, along with an essential rudeness is required and even encouraged when discussing differences of opinion in the realm of religious beliefs and ideas…at least as far as the “Jewish ideal” goes.

But wait a minute.

I never went to a Yeshiva. As a non-Jew, I probably would never be accepted for formal Yeshiva study. End of story. My experience in the Chavruta process is non-existent but (and this is important), since my detractors are also non-Jews, their experience in Yeshiva is just as anemic.

So where does this argument come from and is it valid? Can a Gentile Christian adopt the Chavruta process for learning and is it properly applied to a blogosphere comments discussion?

Let’s look at the context:

Yeshiva (Hebrew: ישיבה‎, lit. “sitting”; pl. ישיבות, yeshivot) is a Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah study. Study is usually done through daily shiurim (lectures or classes) and in study pairs called chavrutas (Aramaic for “friendship” or “companionship”). Chavruta-style learning is one of the unique features of the yeshiva.

Yeshiva page at wikipedia.org

“Friendship?” “Companionship?” Rabbi Sinclair talked about a Chavruta “judging every person favourably.” Hmmm. That hardly reflects many of the “challenging discussions” I’ve been describing.

Chavruta learning takes place in the formalized structure of the yeshiva or kollel, as well as in Talmudic study that an individual does on his own at any time of day. Although a man skilled in learning can study on his own, the challenge of developing, articulating, and defending his ideas to a study partner makes having chavruta a desirable relationship.

Chavruta page at wikipedia.org

Certainly wikipedia isn’t the foremost authority on Jewish educational studies, but I think a few brief quotes will provide sufficient context for the points I’m trying to get across. The discussions that occur within a Chavruta relationship are not a verbal, emotional, and intellectual free for all that allows each participant to behave anyway their feelings, biases, and personal priorities dictate. The partners are not randomly thrown together in an online venue where they can’t even see each other let alone develop any sort of meaningful relationship. There is a carefully organized and formalized structure to the entire process, supervised by experienced teachers in a time-honored tradition that goes back centuries.

Using the Chavruta model to explain why someone thinks they can verbally assault you on a blog is like using the model of a martial arts class at a respected Dojo established and led by an esteemed master as an excuse for starting a back-alley knife fight.

Even if the person’s intent in the blog comments is non-hostile at its core and the individual using the Chavruta example has a benign character, the comparison is still completely inappropriate. The comments section is practically uncontrolled compared to the environment constructed for Chavruta pairs to interact. The required relationships do not exist let alone approach the closeness of Chavruta, and only the blog owner really “supervises” any of the discussions on his/her blog, to varying degrees of effectiveness.

Bottom line is that comparing blogosphere discussions to the Chavruta relationship between two Yeshiva students is just an illusion and one situation has no connection to the other.

So is there any sort of model that we can consider more appropriate to guide us when disciples of the Master interact and particularly when we disagree?

I’ve quoted John 13:34 enough recently that my regular readers should know it by heart, but does “loving one another” mean we can’t disagree? Of course not. I’m sure even those closest to Jesus disagreed with each other. Disagreement isn’t a sign of lack of love, but maintaining love in disagreement can be challenging. 1 Corinthians 13, sometimes referred to as “the love chapter,” outlines the qualities of a disciple who truly experiences love of others. Even those with great spiritual and intellectual gifts who lack love seem to “gain nothing” and perhaps even fail to see the Master as clearly as those who possess love.

What happens when we do disagree?

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; –Philippians 4:2-5 (ESV)

I know this is an isolated set of verses, but Paul appears to be saying that he wants Euodia and Syntyche, who seem to be disagreeing, to be entreated to agree in the Lord. Rejoicing in the Lord and reasonableness seem to be connected to Paul’s request. Sadly, “reasonableness” isn’t always found on the Internet.

I suppose the following two quotes capture my feelings on the matter.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. –Romans 12:18 (ESV)

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. –Hebrews 12:14 (ESV)

So is my little “rant” encouraging peace? Probably not. Hardly in keeping with the spirit of Elul or this morning’s meditation, I must admit. I guess I could have kept all this to myself and just continued to post uplifting and supportive material, which isn’t a bad way to go. But as I’ve mentioned in the past, this blog is as much about what I’m thinking and feeling at any given point in time as it is a place where people can read a “morning meditation” (or afternoon or evening meditation for that matter). I suspect there are more than a few people who have similar feelings but are simply more gracious than I and thus, don’t express such feelings in a public arena.

And though you may consider me lacking in peace and grace by writing and posting this missive, it’s been on my mind for a while now and I think it’s important to dispel a sort of “Messianic blogosphere myth” about the justification some people have used to behave harshly toward others. Disagree if you will (I know I will from time to time). Argue, debate, discuss, and even harass and harangue if you must. Know that I will limit your outbursts on my blog if I deem necessary, not because I’m denying you “freedom of speech” or “censoring” you, but because I have the right to protect myself and the people who visit my blog. This is not tyranny, it’s responsibility.

With all that in mind, if you have the self-awareness to understand what you’re doing and even why you are doing it, please “come clean” and just say that you’re upset or offended or hurt or you just like to fuss and argue. Leave the Chavruta illusion out of it. It doesn’t apply.

Thanks.

 

Laughing with God

Deeper than the wisdom to create is the wisdom to repair.

And so, G-d built failure into His world, so that He could give Man His deepest wisdom. To repair.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Repair”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson
Chabad.org

How is repair deeper than creation?

-Posted by Avi

If you have unlimited resources–like G-d does–it’s much easier to throw out the broken pieces and start all over again than to keep them and get them to work.

That’s what Torah is–the ability to sustain the world while repairing it.

-Posted by Rabbi Freeman in response to Avi

God did that once. Destroy the world because it was easier than fixing it.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” –Genesis 6:5-7 (ESV)

Fortunately afterwards, God has told us that, even though it’s easier to destroy and start creation all over again, He will take another path from now on.

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” –Genesis 8:20-22; 9:12-17 (ESV)

And while the sign of God’s covenant with Noah has been appropriated for everything from rainbow ponies to the LGBT movement, it remains for me the promise that even though it is easier to destroy and recreate than to maintain, God has promised to continue to “sustain the world while repairing it.”

But what about individual human beings? Can and will God sustain us while we’re “under repair?”

Recently, I’ve commented about the seeming randomness of the purpose of individual lives as well as how faith can wane and leave each of us feeling isolated and alienated from God. While God may wait for us to return to Him, will He wait forever?

I guess since the human lifespan is finite, the literal answer must be, “No.”

On the other hand:

The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust. –Psalm 103:6-14 (ESV)

We rely on God’s mercy outweighing His judgment for if it didn’t, then how could anyone survive, even for an instant?

But that doesn’t really answer the question. It’s not as if sin doesn’t have it’s effect.

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
but your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear. –Isaiah 59:1-2 (ESV)

If God doesn’t seem to be paying attention to us, it’s because we have shut the door between us, not Him.

On the other hand, does arguing with God cause a separation? We have seen times when confronting God has actually been beneficial, such as when Abraham interceded for Sodom, when Jacob wrestled with God, and when Moses pleaded for Israel after the sin of the Golden Calf.

And yet, when God told Abraham to sacrifice the life of Isaac, Abraham didn’t say a word.

So I’m at a loss. How do you know when it is appropriate to contend with God and when you should remain silent and accept what He has said as final?

I don’t know. I don’t know if anyone knows. I only know that a relationship between a human being and an infinite and Almighty God either requires the human to be completely terrified all of the time and to say and do nothing, or the human must have the freedom to interact and even challenge God at times for there to be a relationship at all.

We are awfully casual with God at times. I suppose we rely on not only His mercy, but on His desire to have intimacy with us. To be intimate requires the ability to not only converse, but to argue, debate, struggle, and even yell. But God isn’t a human being, so how we relate to Him can’t really be the same as how we relate to our spouse or other loved ones.

Yes, I know that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without God being aware and that people are worth more to Him than sparrows. I also know anything we ask in Christ’s name will be done for us (though not anything asked frivolously or against the will of God), so we have these as indications of God’s great love for us.

But exactly where is the line that you cannot cross without permanent and irreversible consequences?

Maybe these are questions that should be left unasked or at least unanswered.

Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post describing God as a teacher, a “bringer of light, wisdom, and understanding,” as opposed to a harsh and punitive judge who elicits only fear from us. Maybe we only receive from God that which we look for, or to put it another way:

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. –Galatians 6:6-10 (ESV)

We can choose to fear God and obey Him out of that fear, and perhaps that’s where we all start out, or we can choose to see God as our great teacher who shows us the lessons for good. I suppose like in a yeshiva setting, we sometimes learn by debating our teacher, but only as a mechanism by which we burn away the inconsistencies and “dross” from our understanding.

In the end, we never doubt that what He says and does is for ultimate benefit. And we never doubt that even in our hottest anger or our darkest fears, that He always loves us. And He has taught us that we should always sustain the world while repairing it. That includes repairing who we are as individuals and repairing our relationship with God, sustaining it and not destroying it…and not destroying us.

Imagine a father tutoring his child, as any tutor will teach a student.

The child does well, and the father returns a smile of approval, as any good tutor would do.

Then the father laughs, slapping his child affectionately on the back, and they both laugh together, as only a father and child could do, the father saying in his laugh, “I always have this pride, this delight in you, that you are my child. Now is just my opportunity to show it.”

Above, our Father awaits His opportunity to laugh with us.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Father as Tutor”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Imagine a God and teacher who so loves us that we can also laugh with Him.