This is the third post in a series so I suggest you read the last two to get the whole picture. I don’t think the order matters but one may answer the questions that arise from another.
Let me be very clear up front. The Kingdom of Heaven is not like the military at all but our human, fallen nature, response to authority may explain some of our misconceptions about God our Father.
When I was in the Navy I had opportunity to interact with many senior leaders. I had a variety of jobs that made that possible. In one instance I served under a Navy Captain who was a real people person. He had been the Commanding Officer of the Blue Angels flight demonstration team and was a poster child for public relations. He was genuinely interested in the people who worked for Him and had this amazing ability to remember the smallest details about a person. I was naturally drawn into conversation and relationship because of his nature. On many occasions I had to interact with Him on a professional level. I had to brief him on details about my duties or tasks or projects. I was comfortable in those meetings since I “knew the boss” and I had a level of favor with him based on our relationship.
Fast forward and years later I am serving with another squadron in another country. I was attached to a carrier Airwing and a carrier task group. There was an Admiral in command of all these people and ships and aircraft. Guess what? It was this same guy I knew from before. When I found out he was the Admiral I was excited and a little frightened. I wondered if he would remember me. I thought about going to see him but that seemed inappropriate. I was just a lieutenant commander and this guy was not just an Admiral but our admiral in charge. I can’t guess how many men our the cost of all the equipment he was responsible for but it easily exceeded 10,000 people and 100 billion dollars. Our daily operating costs in fuel alone was many millions of dollars. So this was an important guy. Still I wondered if he would remember me.
My primary job in the Navy was to be a pilot. I was that guy “Maverick” from the movie (not as good-looking and less all his money). They way we typically operated around the ship was to fly in a section or 2 ship of aircraft. You would have a flight leader and a wingman that would go and fly a mission. One day the Admiral requested to fly with our squadron (he was a F/A-18 pilot also). I was the operations officer so I was in charge of the schedule and took the opportunity to schedule us to fly together. When he walked into the ready room he came right up to me and shook my hand. Not only did he remember me, he wanted to know all about my life since our last time together. He hadn’t changed at all. He may have been the most important and definitely the most powerful person over my life but to me he was a friend and to Him I was a friend. That was awesome. I had a number of opportunities to interact with Him over the year we served together. Whether we were playing golf or giving a brief I felt favor in his presence.
I noticed however that not everyone saw this man like I did. They would be afraid if they knew he was going to visit our area. Even my direct boss, my Commanding Officer (CO) would get nervous and anxious about a visit from the Admiral. I would tell my CO that I knew the Admiral and he was a nice guy so we didn’t need to worry. My CO didn’t see it that way. He was afraid the Admiral would find fault with our squadron or not be impressed at all. My CO saw his future potential for promotion directly related to the Admiral’s opinion of our squadron (including the waxed floors). Here is the best part. I would make sure to meet the Admiral when he showed up. The favor I had seemed to translate to the squadron CO. It may have been my imagination but the Admiral always liked us and it showed.
In other instances I would be having conversations with other peers and people who worked for me and hear the typical grumbling about leadership. It is common to hear someone say something like “I bet the Admiral has no clue about the little people and doesn’t care anyway.” Well I knew differently so I would tell them about my friend. I would have to choose my words carefully since familiarity between junior and senior is frowned upon but I knew the Admiral. I knew he was a nice guy. I knew he did care about us even if they didn’t know.
On other occasions I would see people respect the rank by coming to attention when he entered a room but then murmur about “who does he think he is” after he left. I realized that they just didn’t know him. They knew the rank and position but didn’t know him. I saw many an opportunity to tell people about this great leader but often it fell on deaf ears. If the individual didn’t know or respect me then my opinion was just that, opinion not fact. Some people just couldn’t be persuaded without a personal experience.
I wonder if this has been too obvious but if not…
Our perspective of God is based on us not on Him. To know who God is we need to know who Jesus is. To know what is in God’s heart we need to know the heart of Jesus. To know how God feels we need to know how Jesus feels. To know the fullness of God we need a revelation of the love of Christ. The Israelites did not know Jesus. They did not have a cross perspective. They were so far removed from that reality, the reality of God looking like Jesus, they killed him. Throughout history God was moving them and all of mankind to a place where they could receive the truth of a God who is Grace, a God who is love, a God who prefers mercy, a God who justifies the ungodly, a God who dies for mankind. They didn’t know Him.
Like my story with the Admiral, some knew God on various levels and we read their stories of mercy and love in their relationship with God. But the masses only knew about Him, they didn’t have a personal experience with Jesus. So I wonder what is different today? Everything is different. We have the Holy Spirit. Our personal encounter with Jesus is only a belief, a decision, a commitment away. Religion teaches you different. Religion wants to tell you about God instead of meeting Him. Religion wants you to live in fear of the position instead of realizing your position as son’s and daughters. This Admiral was my friend but not my dad. Come on! Your Abba is the creator of the universe. Even if you don’t know Him now you are one encounter from sonship. Your not an enlisted man in the Navy working for an angry, power-hungry Admiral. You are in the Kingdom of Heaven with an awesome Dad, loving groom and most comfortable and excited teacher.
God is that good. Our perspective needs to change. Step outside the chain of command and have a meeting with your Dad. That is all He wants. That is why He died for you.