[Rector]

Manipulation

 

In a small group recently I found myself playing one of those "get to know you" type of games. I always fell a bit uneasy with these intrusive, "in your face", games. They remind me of the church socials I went to as a kid. We were always forced to get up and do the barn dance when all we wanted to do was stand around and talk. Anyway, back to the game. We were asked to list five things we liked and five things we disliked.

As for the list of dislikes, there was one item that I quickly shuffled to the top. It was, "being manipulated". Yes, now there's something that I really do dislike; being peddled, being worked over, being used. I just can't stand another person trying to get at me, to work me over for their own gain. There's always someone who wants to jump the queue, squeeze up the left lane (sorry, right line in the US!) and rifle the house when grandma dies. Often, in personal relationships, there is this subtle behind the scenes angling to do us in, to crawl over us, to use us. It's enough to make the hairs of your neck stand on end. Of course, we can't get too self righteous about it, since we all play the game to some degree.

It worries me the way God gets described at times. I know the crucial debate is whether he is there or not, but for those who believe he is there, he often gets described as a manipulative Being. Take the most basic question - Why did he create us? Did he create us because he was lonely, wanted others to relate to, to befriend, to use to meet some need? Or did he create us because he wanted us to share his existence, to become like him, to become as gods? It's a crucial question. Is God just a celestial manipulator, ordering events for his own end, pushing us around and stomping on us when we don't toe the line? Or is he a self giving Being who seeks the good of others before himself? It would be hard to know what God is really like if it wasn't for his self revelation in Jesus. It's in the gentle Jesus that we come to see the real person behind the thunder and the lightening.

How does the Bible put it? "Christ Jesus: who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!" And why? Just for us...... I guess we have to admit that God is not into manipulation.