Who Conforms to Whom?

Are you familiar with “Calvinball” from the comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes? It is a fictional game in which both Calvin and his stuffed toy tiger Hobbes, who lives animated in Calvin’s imagination, make up their own rules as they go along. No rule can be used twice, except the rule that no rule can be used twice! It is Calvin’s way of averting society’s demands and conforming reality to his passions of the moment. In a little ditty he sings, “You don’t need a team or a referee! You know that it’s great, ‘cause it’s named after me!”1

In its humorous way, Calvinball gently illustrates something more consequential than childhood fantasies, namely our tendency to comport Biblical truth to our own comfort level, instead of vice versa. This is neither new nor cultural; it is human. It shows up in what we choose to believe about God, rather than what is necessarily true about Him. What might this look like? Sometimes we dangerously supplant God’s law with our own notions of right and wrong, as Isaiah cautioned, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”2 Also, our religious traditions, however sincere, may actually “nullify the word of God,”3 as Jesus warned the Sadducees, who insisted there was no life after death. “You are in error,” He told them, “because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”4 Forewarning us against bending God’s truth to our preferences, Peter cautioned his readers about “unstable people” who distort Scriptures, even “to their own destruction.”5 It is Satan’s oldest trick—to “explain away” the clear meaning of God’s Word through false premises and twisted reasoning and thus redirect us toward “a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”6 Tragically Adam, in the garden, fell for it; thankfully Jesus, in the wilderness, did not.

To his protégé Timothy—and effectively to us—Paul wrote, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” 7 God’s Word is truth8, and when we misuse it, we do so at our own peril. But when we conform our will to His ways, and not vice versa, we are safe to serve and free to flourish in life eternal—a fruitful, meaningful life.

Father, You send us not away from this world, but into it.9 Ignite in us a burning passion for Your Word and equip us in its truth to do every good work.” In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

1 Waterson, Bill. “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip. September 14, 2015.
2 Isaiah 5:20
3 Mark 7:13
4 Matthew 22:29
5 1 Peter 3:16
6 Proverbs 14:12
7 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT
8 John 17:17
9 John 17:18

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