God - My Beloved Opponent

by Runar Eldebo

Why faith, anyway? The questions asked of Christians today are legio, that is, many. The answers must not be too simple; they are to be found in the depths of our faith. Why are we Christians, anyway? Why did we stay when so many went away? Why did we not leave when crowds did, when so much of our modem society developed in front of our very eyes?

A short visit to Russia made this very first question into trememdum et fascinosum in my mind. Why Christians anyway? Why do people believe when there are so many other lives to be lived? Why bring our lives into the framework of surrender when self-esteem invites from the other side of the night? What is it with faith that leads us into temptation so that we want temptation?

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). For our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).

There is something about faith and God tllat makes a human being tremble. There is something in that interaction between God and humans that is killing humans lo make them alive. There is a resistance in God which, perhaps, is the great benefit in faith that we do not mention very often.

What about the great revivals during the last centuries? Why did people change their lives? What was the gospel, the real good news? That God himself opposed their lives? That God addressed people, offering himself to be the only and lonely opponent of their lives—their key to the reality of human existence?

Is this not what has been missing in Russia? An opponent of society? A kind of ultimate absolute for power games and the struggling of human affairs? A beloved opponent in whose hands we all tremble and where there is a fearful thing in which to fall—for ordinary people as well as for presidents and communist leaders?

A human existence without opposition falls into comfortability. This is the very big sin according to many of the Church Fathers, apetheia,—apathy. A life without striving. A life without an opponent.

One of my very close friends in Sweden is a Catholic Father. When people address him to become a Catholic, he always asks them not to. Why on earth do you want to be a Catholic, he asks back, when there are so many good and comfortable lives to live without God? Why be a Christian, after all?

And he quotes a Swedish poem from the author Ylva Eggehorn:

I warn you,

do not follow Jesus,

 do not sleep

under his garment.
I warn you,

 do not follow Jesus,

 but I know it is already too late
He has got you...

This, for me, is the core of my Christian belief: God is my beloved opponent! Without him I would not be the very person I am. Without God’s resistance and opposition, my life would be much more comfortable, much less interesting. Without God the soul-making or life-making of me would not have taken place. Emptiness would be where no hints of maturity can be seen.

“Draw near lo God and he will draw near to you (James 4:8) is the fearful invitation. The invitation to fall into God’s hands. The invitation to lifelong opposition. The key to that good, lifelong struggle is in my hands. I am to draw near. And God will, if I do. This is the challenge and beauty of Christian faith. Therefore, I am a Christian.