Over the past month, my three favorite current sitcoms have all had episodes involving religion. A few weeks ago, in Modern Family, Jay refused to go to church with wife Gloria because he didn’t believe there was a God. He shouted to the heavens, “Send me a sign,” and then he accidentally ran over his set of golf clubs. Community had a episode where Abed pretended to be Jesus for a film about the Gospel. In Thursday’s episode of The Office, Jim and Pam had a special christening ceremony for their daughter at their local church.
In usual form, the writers of The Office also developed a side story involving Toby Flenderson’s lack of faith. Toby admits that he and “the big guy” haven’t been getting along very well, and it has been a while since he last stepped into a church. In one scene, Toby tries to muster up the confidence to walk through the church entrance, but he just can’t. After the ceremony is completed, and everyone leaves, Toby enters the empty chapel, slowly walks up toward the alter, and says the one thing millions of people ask everyday:
“Why are you being so mean to me?”
Last week, our preacher asked, “Is your faith based on God’s activity or God’s identity?” Basically, it’s easy to have faith when God is actively involved in making life be peaches and cream. When we base our faith on God’s activity, when life is great, then God is great. Conversely, when life is bad, then God is bad. We looked at Lamentations 3:1-24, where in the first 20 verses, Jeremiah throws down a laundry list of bad things that have happened to him.
Basically, Jeremiah is protesting to God because of his current circumstances. Like Toby, it seams that God is his enemy. His downfall is God’s fault. But Jeremiah has hope.
Jeremiah concludes by saying, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23). How does Jeremiah go from feeling like a victim of God’s punishment to being so hopeful? He has faith in the identity of God – not his circumstances.
He knows that God is faithful. He knows that God is present. Sometimes we just need a wake-up call. I admit, I fall into this trap on a regular basis – my faith is strong when it’s not being tested. Then life pulls the rug out from under me, and I cry out, “Why are you being so mean to me?” There is so much more to life that the ups and downs, but if that’s what we focus on, we lose sight of God’s identity.