For a long time, I've been planning on doing a unit on the prophetic books for my Christianity Today class. I've been building up to it for maybe a year now...teaching them about Creation, the Exodus...we did some other Old Testament studies on Ruth and King David...I expected them to have the foundation for reading the prophetic books. I was excited to share them with them and struggle through the process of finding God's love in difficult places.
Last week, I brought out Isaiah 5. It seemed a good chapter because it has beautiful love language (the vineyard) along with some "woe"s. I had a college professor who was really able to open these books up for me, in part by leading me to see God in them. I felt like I could identify with many of my students struggles with an angry God--they are harmony lovers and don't like anger--and lead them through those struggles. However, we began struggling much sooner than I had anticipated. In fact, we only made it through four verses, and all involved were still confused by the end of the class. These weren't the angry God verses...these were the verses about the vineyard.
So, I'd been turning over what to teach all this week. I still hadn't made so much progress by Friday. But I ended up leaving my Bible and lesson planning notebook an hour before the class was going to start and went and sat outside for half an hour or so. I found myself thinking about the difference between knowing ABOUT God and knowing GOD. And how hard it would be to understand the Bible if one didn't know God.
It is so much easier to teach history, theology, doctrine...anything other than God Himself. Trying to talk about God's love when there are unbelievers, pencils poised to take notes and log it all into their "knowledge about Christians" bank, without ending up in tears. It is watching them sit there, calm and unaffected, while I am aware of God's intense longing. And somehow being caught in between the two. Being one who is consumed by the love He has for me all while knowing I must be the voice that communicates that consuming fire to them...to somehow put words to that which burns through me and leaves me collapsed in awe. How badly He wants them to know.
Anyway...class last night was perhaps the least structured it had ever been. They said so many things that I could have taught a whole classes on. We switched topics maybe four times in an hour and only loosely tied them together. But there's only one thing I want to communicate to them, and I told them, "We are not moving into God's anger until you have seen His love." This is the "new" mission of Christianity Today.