The other day I went to the art gallery in Perth which is featuring an exhibition of amazing Egyptian artefacts from the Louvre. Trying to get one's head around the sheer age of exhibits that could have been around when Moses was floating the Nile in a basket is one thing; trying to get one's head around the complex and elaborate rituals Egyptians underwent in their preparation for the afterlife is another. As I walked around I was reading about how this particular amulet or model or painting would trick or convince or appease the gods into accepting them, or would defend the person from evil spirits, or many more things. It was mindblowing and I actually found it desperately sad. This entire civilisation had so much that revolved around death. They Got It - the fact that death is what we are all heading for and that we had better prepare ourselves for it - but they missed out on so much.
And then today I was thinking about how many Thai people (or Indians, or many others) customarily refuse to say that a beautiful baby is beautiful - instead they comment on the baby's ugliness, so evil spirits will be tricked into not taking the baby away.
I hope I'm not offensive when I say these things, but I cannot help but be sad at the thought of living under such a burden of fear. To constantly have to appease someone, to trick someone into accepting you... if this is how we must live, what a horrible life that would be. And we Christians slip into it so easily. An extreme example is the Flagellants of the fourteenth century who went around whipping themselves because they believed by sinning, they had brought the Black Death (bubonic plague) as God's wrath upon them, and perhaps, perhaps if they just made their own lives very very painful, that would make God like them better.
As I heard in a truly wonderful sermon today, that is not the heart of God towards us. God is the loving Father who runs towards his lost, sinful sons with arms wide open; God is the one who sells all he has to find his treasure in us (Matthew 13v45); God who considers us 'his glorious inheritance in the saints' (Ephesians 1v18); God who 'for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame' (Hebrews 12v2 - one of my favourite passages by the way). And when we, as saints, die and meet God, he will not shame us with our misdeeds and question our right to come before him, but he will rejoice we are there, and he will say to us "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord!" (Matthew 25v21)
We have a wonderful God who likes us.