Weeks ago I heard Guns N’ Roses’ “Civil War” again, which starts off with this famous quote from Cool Hand Luke:
What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men.
In this Hollywood case, it is a tyranical, evil prison warden who is saying it to rationalize mistreating a prisoner (played by Paul Newman). However, I cannot help but think that, replacing an evil man with a good God, it can be used to illustrate some biblical truth.
- Between God and man, there is a failure to communicate
- The issue is on man’s side, not God’s, because…
- Some men you just can’t reach
- God ultimately gives men what they want
- God takes no pleasure in given men what they deserve
(Of course, in this case I am using “man” and “men” in its traditional form, representing humans regardless of gender.)
With the first one, I hope I don’t have to prove it. From the moment Eve first trusted the devil more than our Lord, that failure to communicate has been pretty obvious. As for the problem being on our side (versus God’s), here is an interesting example from just before the first Christian martyr, Stephen, gets stoned:
You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you (Acts 7:51, English Standard Version).
Throughout history, it hasn’t been for a lack of effort on our Lord’s part that men haven’t heard…it’s because we resist. Today, we have even less excuse, because the Ultimate form of communication came:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Yet, there is still a failure to communicate.
Not enough evidence for you? The first chapter or Romans may be the slam-dunk about those who refuse to listen:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them (Romans 1:18-19).
Basically, the truth is plain. We choose to ignore it.
Now, how about “God ultimately gives men what they want”? Romans 1 gives us a view of this too:
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen (Romans 1:24-25).
Two more times in that chapter the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to talk about God giving men up…giving men what they want.
Which, if it is outside God’s will, is not good for us. Horribly bad, actually.
Ultimately, in the end, those who truly want to be with the Most High will be, and those who don’t won’t. Their choice. (As is said, “Choose wisely.”) God does not force anyone to be damned or to be saved.
Okay, what about the last one? Does our Lord enjoy giving bad men what they deserve?
For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live (Ezekiel 18:32).
Absolutely not…and if you think about it…why would He have gone through with so costly a plan (as sending His Son to die for us) if He got a kick out of righteous punishment of sinners? “For God so loved the world” and all (see John 3:16)…
The cruel warden in Cool Hand Look is a not a fair symbol for God, but the problems he had with Paul Newman’s character is the problem God has with us. The difference is that God is good and the communication breakdown (Led Zeppelin anyone?) is completely on our side.
Let us not be like so many throughout history and today. Let us listen and live.
P.S. In case you are interested, here is the song that that brought these thoughts to mind: