“Your Arms Too Short to Box With God” was a gospel music theatre production in the late 70’s based on the Gospel of Matthew.
In its gritty, direct way the phrase captures the tense drama in a scene from the book of Acts.
After hearing the good news of forgiveness and joy in the life, death and resurrection of Messiah Jesus, people found faith, hope and freedom. But the religious elites and power brokers of the day became jealous (Acts 5:17), and put the whole thing on lockdown, attacking the apostles.
Why? What’s wrong with good news?
Bad news sells. Look at the first 10 minutes of your evening news. Fires, murders, rapes, gang violence, and political corruption (vote early, vote often, as we say in Chicago!) flood the screen.
Bad news stirs up fear…Good News serves up freedom.
Religious and political elites of Jesus’ day were the Bad News Boys, building a system of rules and regulations to control people. That’s legalism. And legalism craves power, destroys community and is blind to new truth. It thrives on bad news, not good news. Fear, not freedom, gets hard-wired into the operating system.
Filled with “shouldn’t” and “don’t” and “watch out” language it creates unnecessary guilt and makes unwarranted threats of punishment.
Powerful elites had God confined securely in a nice little box where He could be controlled, but these “unlearned men” had just smashed the lock and turned Him loose on everyone. What should they do?
Well, they tried to kill them, but an esteemed leader, Gemaliel, stepped in with some common sense advice.
Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.
That’s right … If this is a Spirit-led movement, let it be… because Your Arms Too Short to Box With God!
Some think the greatest danger to the Church today is our government or the socialists or gays or Hollywood or the Occupy Movements or the NSA or the Tea Party or Snowden or Cruz or Obama, or whatever. I believe our biggest threat is the same threat Jesus faced everywhere He turned.
Good old, run-of-the-mill, unadulterated LEGALISM.
Legalism is hell-bent on crushing the Spirit in the name of self-preservation and faith protection. Established religious power brokers can be the most toxic, hate-filled and destructive people, halting every new effort to bring light and hope to our world (see Acts 13:50; 14:2; 14:19;17:5). If it is not their brand, their theology, their book, their leader, their way… then watch out. This Religious News Service post cites examples of the destructive finger-pointing legalism we are dishing out in the name of Jesus.
But I have to look very hard at myself. Am I “Boxing with God” by clinging so tightly to ways and ideas I think are THE way? Am I blind to new expressions of God’s favor being carried along by fresh winds of the Spirit? A chill runs up my spine when I think I might be in the ring with God.
When we criticize young leaders, dismiss fresh theologies, and bash novel forms of church life are we protecting the faith or are we boxing with God? We stand in the corner, our back to our “enemy,” talking trash about the other guy and strategizing with our manager, donning our gloves and popping in our mouth guard…and then the bell rings.
We turn toward center ring but stop dead in our tracks at the sight of our opponent.
The back of his robe says G.O.D.
These Arms Definitely Way Too Short to Box with God!