Sunday, May 31, 2020

Divine Multi-Tasking

A teacher once told me about a student who couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time. He didn’t mean it literally, of course; it was a comment on the student’s intelligence. We assume the smarter a person is, the more things they are capable of doing at the same time.

A juggler keeps multiple balls in the air simultaneously. It can be impressive to watch a skilled multi-tasker at work. But human beings have upper limits on our juggling ability. The maximum number of items ever juggled is either 13 or 14, depending on who you believe. The case has been made that the laws of physics make juggling 15 items impossible. At least, nobody alive can do it.

For This Purpose ...

John the Baptist said this about his mission:
“[F]or this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he [the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world] might be revealed to Israel.”
That was how he assessed his role in the plans and purposes of God. He served other purposes too, some of which he was aware. He was “a voice crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’.”

God is rarely doing only one thing through any of us. Malachi had prophesied that John would “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers”, and that the success or failure of his mission would determine whether the Lord would “come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction”. So John was both a fulfiller and the fulfillment of multiple prophecies, a herald of the coming king, a revealer, a baptizer, a road-straightener, a family reuniter, a “friend of the bridegroom”, and not just a prophet but “more than a prophet”, the greatest among those born of women. John did career counseling and even gave unsolicited legal advice.

John was a bit of a juggler, or perhaps we might say that God was doing a bit of juggling through John. Nothing John did served only a single purpose. But was he conscious of all the ways in which he was fulfilling the purposes of God in his life at every moment? Probably not. We rarely are.

God Was In Christ ...

But John the Baptist pales in comparison to what God was doing in Christ. Consider what scripture tells us about that:


Better theologians could generate a much, much lengthier list. I will make no attempt to be exhaustive, as that would simply reveal the poverty of my own appreciation of what God was accomplishing in sending his Son into the world. Still, that single paragraph lists eighteen separate objectives which were met in the life and death of the Lord Jesus, well past the world juggling record. And yes, we could argue that many of these are consequences rather than stated purposes, but does God ever do anything unintentionally? I think not.

In Christ, the greatest Intelligence in the universe was doing a multi-tasking operation the like of which no one else has ever conceived or could conceive.

Walking and Chewing Gum

Two thoughts:
  1. The infamous sovereignty/free will paradox is only a problem for a limited God. A God who can multi-task as he did in sending his Son into the world is certainly competent to keep 8 billion balls in the air at the same time ... or more, as necessary. The only limits on God’s power and foresight are the ones we have in our own minds.
  2. We are not here on this earth for only one reason, or even two or three. God is bigger than that. He is able to accomplish all manner of his purposes simultaneously, often through the very same acts. If our testimony to Christ is ineffective in calling our loved ones to repentance, it will serve as evidence against rebels and Christ-rejecters at the great white throne. Who could argue? If we cannot see all that is being accomplished in and through us, we should not worry. It was planned by an infinitely greater Intelligence. We should not expect to be able to subject his will to our very limited analytical capabilities.
Anyone who thinks otherwise is advised to get the walking and gum thing perfect before dabbling in theology.

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