The God of Consent

‘Tis the season for Christmas posts, is it not? But instead of looking again at the manger scene, the ruthless dictator, or, God help us, a fat man in red, I’d like us to cast our minds back nine months – not back to March 2018, but back to nine months before The Original Christmas.

An angel appears to a young woman in the back-blocks and showers her with blessings, compliments, and a rather daunting proposition: mother to God in human form?

Photo by KayR Studios from Pexels
And who is she? She is, not to put too fine a point on it, nobody in particular. She has no position, no title, no fame; her fiancée’s just the local builder. She’s got a cousin who’s married to a priest, but that’s about as influential as the family gets.

But God decides that she’s just the right person to bring his Son into the world (not to mention bring him up), but does he just snap his fingers and make it happen? No. He sends an angel to tell her – and not just to tell her. No, the angel greets her as the important personage she doesn’t appear to be, answers all her questions, and then – waits.

Consider this carefully (and prepare to scrape your mind off the walls when it blows). This is God we’re talking about here – creator and sustainer of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient, omni-lots of things. Being omnipotent, he could just make it happen – but he doesn’t. Being omniscient, he could decide that she would be delighted to be of service, and just carry on – but he doesn’t.

This is the plan he has been carefully preparing for millenia, a plan so utterly unexpectedly mind-blowing that centuries of dropped hints will still leave people bowled over when it comes. This, it is not too much to say, is the axis of history, the point around which everything swings, the division between Before and After.

Milky Way galaxy
And it’s all waiting on this young woman’s consent. Because as important – as crucial – as all this is, God will not force it on her. And when she asks questions, she gets answers, because he wants an informed consent. The conversation is not over until she gives explicit verbal consent to God’s plan.

Why? Because that’s how God is. God is love, and love doesn’t force itself on anyone. He didn’t then, and he doesn’t now. Whether you’ve never spoken a civil word to him in your life, or whether you’ve been following him all your born days, he is still waiting for that yes. Every day, every moment, every choice – he waits for your consent.

7 Replies to “The God of Consent”

  1. Thanks for this. It’s timely, and oh, so relevant! I wish it were posted on every young person’s facebook page. Not to mention every boss’s. Well done for pointing this out 🙂

  2. This sounds nice, but isn’t scriptural. Luke 1:31-33 is not a proposition. Rather it is actually statement of what will happen. Yes, Mary is okay with it happening, but there is no indication in scripture that her consent was required or requested. God is God and does not require or ask for our consent. Jesus told Zaccheus that He was going to his house; he never asked. Joseph was enslaved and imprisoned without his consent. The disciples were told, not asked, to follow Jesus.

    1. I do not mean to suggest that everything in which God is at work must happen with our consent.
      But I do not believe that God forces himself on us.

      Yes, he invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house, but he didn’t just barge in and start eating off someone else’s plate. Yes, he told the disciples to follow him, but he didn’t drag them off by force. Zacchaeus could have gone home to bar the doors instead of prepare a feast. The disciples could have shrugged off Jesus’ call to “come, follow me”, like the rich young man did. That they didn’t is indicative of their consent to God’s irruption into their lives.

      In Mary’s case, if her consent was neither required nor requested, it makes a mockery of the angel’s claims that God has “greatly blessed” her and is being “gracious” to her. Being impregnated against your will is not a great blessing, or a sign of grace and favour. If what Mary thought of all this was irrelevant to God, Luke’s account of the event would in my opinion end at verse 33, instead of continuing on to the end of verse 38.

      1. Your last sentence sums it up. In your opinion. We are dealing with God. His ways are higher than our wasw and His thoughts are deeper than ours. To interpret Scripture based on what we think is right or moral is to put God into our finite, imperfect, fallen mortal boxes.

        I believe (note that this is my belief and not being espoused as truth) that Mary was chosen on part because she was a person whose attitude would be to say yes to whatever He determined was in His plan for her.

        If we say God is a God of consent, what do we say to the person who says, “but I didn’t give my consent for God to put a child of rape in my womb”, or “have my body ravaged by cancer”?

        1. Naturally, what I have written is my opinion. Everything I write is my opinion; I am not setting myself up as the Third Testament here. But I do write what I believe to be the truth.

          I interpret Scripture as best I can, from a world-view which I hope and believe is shaped by that same Scripture. But I do not see that recognizing God’s graciousness here is putting God into a box. I am not cutting and shaping Scripture according to my own intellectual assessment of it, just expanding on what I see written there. My point is not that God makes room for consent, and therefore God is good; my point is that God makes room for consent, and therefore consent is good.

          Please note: I am not claiming that God is in any way obliged to ask our consent; he is not some Bujold-esque deity who can do nothing without human cooperation. But just as he allows us the free will to choose to follow his ways or reject them, so he allows us to choose him or reject him. He could force us to do his bidding as unwilling slaves, but the fact that he doesn’t says something about his character and nature.

          Being omniscient, God already knew that Mary would choose his way, yes. But that makes it all the more significant that he gives her the opportunity to voice her yes, before his plan is put into action. (The angel tells Mary that she will conceive, not that she has already conceived.)

          As for your last point, pregnancy following rape happens. Cancer happens. They are what you might call natural occurrences in this fallen world. Pregnancy without sexual contact does not happen, unless God makes it happen. I see a clear distinction between things that God causes to happen, and things that God allows to happen. Or do we blame God for making the rape happen as well?

  3. I can’t agree with you Chris – if God did not choose to need consent, the whole world would be Christian – “God is not willing that anyone perish.”

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