This reflection series, “The Impossible Religion,” reveals five specific problems that people have with the gospel of Jesus. These impossibilities arise when Christianity is a religion to achieve, rather than simply the “good news” of grace and redemption that will naturally transform us. Christianity outside of Christ’s redemption is in fact impossible, but with God nothing is impossible. For the next five weeks, we’ll go through Scriptures from five different areas of the Bible in order to confront these impossibilities:
- Impossible Devotion
- Impossible Standards
- Impossible Trust
- Impossible Power
- Impossible Purpose
Impossible Devotion (Numbers 6)
This particular chapter in the book of Numbers, found in the first five books of the Bible, also known as “the Torah,” discusses a particular vow taken by some, but not all, Israelites. This vow was “the vow of the Nazirite.”
For the purpose of time we will not discuss the details of the vow in depth. The main idea is that it was a vow of extreme devotion to God.
To many people, Christianity is where you “try your best.” But, deep down, we do this with a prepared surrender to the idea that we cannot achieve the devotion to God that is not merely suggested, but expected. This rebellion and resignation arises out of a distinct misunderstanding of Christianity and the relationship to God depicted in the scriptures. This rebellious resignation implies that the purpose of Christianity is to try your best, out of your own power, to please an impossible-to-please deity.
The problem with this perception is that, throughout the entire Bible, God speaks directly to his people, telling them that if they don’t want to serve him, if they don’t want to worship him, if they don’t want to love him, then there is no place for half-hearted attempts.
The Nazirite vow was chosen, not compulsory. God did not demand this life from all of his people. However, the heart of the Nazirite vow is a life that God’s people should ultimately desire. The life of the Nazirite was one of complete and utter devotion to a God that deserved such worship and commitment. The Nazirite understood that living this way was the only way to justify the balance of what God had already done and what we could never do. The Nazirite vow revealed a commitment to God that seems unrealistic: a level of self-denial that is offensive to some and impossible to the rest.
The only way in which to desire such a vow, such a life, and the only way by which to maintain this level of devotion is to understand the reason behind the choice to take it.
Taking a Nazirite vow does not mean that you try harder than the rest and therefore will receive greater praise from the creator. Rather, the individual perceived this option as the choice that would best honor the relationship between a “Creator” and his “Creation.” Taking a vow like that only arises out of the knowledge and understanding that anything less would be unworthy worship and service given God’s sacrifice for us already.
Being a Christian with the commitment like a Nazirite is impossible, if one approaches Christianity from the perspective that following God is simply something to add to your repertoire of good deeds and characteristics. The vow is impossible from the “point-earning” perspective.
The only way that this level of devotion is possible and, more importantly, acceptable to God, is if it is born out of a new identity that surrenders the heart totally to God, the only one worthy of such praise. Only a person remade in the image of Christ can willingly and wholeheartedly undertake such a vow.