As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m reading Peter Rollins’ book “The Orthodox Heretic: And Other Impossible Tales“. This morning, I read a story about small island nation being invaded by a much larger and more powerful one. The invaders held all the advantages, more soldiers, better training, better weapons and equipment and, the islanders found out after consulting their oracle, God was on their side. In their despair, their chieftain said “Trust me”. He assembled all the able-bodied men of the island, then sent home those with young children and also those that had been married less than a year, reducing his force to a few thousand men. This vastly outnumbered army marched out to meet their foe and defeated them utterly. The people were amazed and rejoiced at seeing their enemy throw down their arms and run in terror. The oracle was more dumbfounded than anyone else, because she knew the truth that had been hidden from the people; that the enemy had God on their side. She went to the chieftain and asked how such a miracle was possible. The chief replied “Surely you know that it does not matter which side God is on. When God is involved, the oppressed always win”.
You may be wondering how a story that features God losing has anything to do with glorifying God. I will admit it’s very hard concept to grasp, inculcated as we are the idea that winning equals glory. To gain an understanding of this, first we should look at the word “glory”, which comes from the Latin gloria, meaning fame and renown. That doesn’t really help, because one might win infamy or notoriety from losing a battle or argument, but not fame or renown. In the Old Testament, glory is used to translate several Hebrew words, notably hod and kabod. Hod means majesty, splendor, praise and submission (hmm). Kabod means weight or heaviness and is used to express importance, honor and majesty. Except for the submission part, that’s also less than helpful. It’s hard to see how losing anything is majestic or splendid, isn’t it? So, let’s move on to the New Testament. Here, glory is used for doxa, meaning judgment or opinion. The way it’s used here, however, the meaning is more like good reputation or honor, which is helpful. What, you say, how the hell is that helpful? Well, haven’t we all acquiesced in an argument when we realized that doing so would serve a greater good? Wouldn’t you call that honorable? It would certainly build a good reputation.
I say all that to point out that we have a skewed idea of glory. How was God glorified by the huge, ornate cathedrals of Europe, built on the backs of starving people? Exactly how was God glorified by the Crusades or the Thirty Years War which caused the deaths of thousands (if not millions) of innocents? Those examples may be from the past, but it’s no better today. Because how is God glorified by church congregations which insulate themselves from the world by holing up in beautiful facilities while their brothers and sisters live in crushing poverty? How is God glorified when the church He founded through His son tramples on the rights of His children because of who they love? How is God glorified when His church excludes anyone for any reason whatsoever? The Gospel is the good news for everybody, everywhere. It seems to me the best way to glorify God is start living that way.