God Has Brought Me Laughter

Angels announce the birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah; 6th-century mosaic from Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy.
Abraham, Sarah, and the angel; oil on wood by Jan Provost (1465–1529).
Rembrandt van Rijn, Abraham
Entertaining the Angels (detail), 1656,
etching and drypoint, National
Gallery of Art, Washington,
Rosenwald Collection

One of the remarkable characteristics of the biblical way of training us to understand history and our place in it is the absolute refusal to whitewash a single detail… The history in which our Scriptures show that God is involved is every bit as messy as the history reported by our mass media in which God is rarely mentioned apart from blasphemies. Sex and violence, rape and massacre, brutality and deceit do not seem to be congenial materials for use in developing a story of salvation, but there they are, spread out on the pages of our Scriptures. It might not offend some of us so much if these flawed and reprobate people were held up as negative examples with lurid, hellfire descriptions of the punishing consequences of living such bad lives. But the [biblical] story is not told quite that way. There are punishing consequences, of course, but the fact is that all these people, good and bad, faithful and flawed, are worked into the plot of salvation. God, it turns out, does not require good people in order to do good work. As one medieval saying has it, “God draws straight lines with a crooked stick.” He can and does work with us, whatever the moral and spiritual condition in which he finds us. God, we realize, does some of his best work using the most unlikely people.2

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