I don’t have to prod myself to remember that God is loving, but it’s essential to remind myself daily that God is holy. Everything about me wants a loving God, even my sin nature. (Especially my sin nature!) But it’s because God is holy that his love is not emotional or predictable. Holy is why I don’t understand God; why I deceive myself when I boast that I do.
My eyes don’t contain enough rods to capture all the detail and movement of the complex world we inhabit. Even if my vision was stronger, I’d need a much larger, very unwieldy brain to process all that visual data pouring in from all directions. That’s why my mind coaches my eyes, directing them to process only the things I’m looking for, the familiar, the resonant. I am blind to most things- like all those unusual colored automobiles I never noticed on the road until I bought one in that particular shade of red!
We cannot deal with the complexity and holiness of God because his eternal purposes are so different from our own that our minds can’t even deal with all the evidence of what He’s really like. Unchurched people sometimes have a clearer picture of the Almighty because in their ignorance, they don’t assume an unfamiliar God must do something visible and benevolent for them individually every day. The way believers sometimes assume.
There is something seductive and misleading in that beloved church cliché, “If I were the only sinner in the world, Jesus would still have died just for me.” Yes, but Christ would have also died for the world if I could never have existed or been part of His plan. His purposes are not perpetually linked to my personality.
I recently saw a magician perform a stunt that still haunts me many days later. He convinced an audience that his life was in their hands; that decisions they would make would either save his life or destroy him on the stage. Moments later, the amazed participants were dazzled by one narrow escape, and another. Then the performer allowed them to see that he was never at risk from the most serious hazard; had the worst-case scenario been selected, it would have happened to the spectators, not the magician! Had they chosen wrongly, they- not he– would have suffered the consequences.
Sometimes, I feel as though my faith is very noble because I am somehow “saving” God. By continuing to believe, numbering myself among what seems like a shrinking minority on the Earth, surely I must be preserving the faith and boosting God’s credibility. Fat chance of that! In fact, the Gospel is and has always been about God saving the world- along with me if I continue to trust him.
The Almighty Creator who fashioned the universe without witnesses or consultants is not empowered by the adulation of a slim minority any more than he requires the acclaim of the majority. He retains his place at the center of the cosmos because it simply doesn’t make sense without him. Science works hard to organize explanations, but only God offers answers. C.S. Lewis called it the deep magic. Indeed!
Lift up the Cross.