“God Loves You!”
We see it displayed on billboards and on the glowing marquees of churches seeking 24/7 attention. We hear it said in sermons, homilies, and in talks by those with respectable reputations in all matters spiritual. Truly, this simple phrase seems to be thought of as useful for incapsulating the very essence of what it is that you need to know about the Gospel. If you could only say one thing to reach the world in order to preach the gospel, you’d probably reach for the ubiquitous John 3:16 (For God so loved the world…) which is displayed everywhere from Tebow’s eye-black to the placard held by the guy with the rainbow-afro at the Masters. We hope that spreading this encapsulation of the Gospel will change the lives of those who see it. What exactly is it that we want them to receive upon hearing that news?
I suggest that the importance of this truth is in need of a little explanation. I do think that our instincts are right to believe that this truth is the most essential and important one to communicate to the world about our faith. Are we ourselves aware of how important this little but central truth is for our own lives though?
In a very big way, the central truth of Christianity is the bold claim that God has revealed Himself to us, not in condemnation and in anger at our brokenness, but in a judgment of mercy that reveals that the deepest desire of God Himself is our happiness with Him. This is big news for the world. Without this revelation, how are we to know what God is like? Is he angry with us? Does he favor us? Without enlightenment from the source, the mythologies of history have landed on both sides of that with much mixing in between. Scripture reveals the truth: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
God is not a picky middle-manager, an accountant, or an abusive father. God is so much better than the human images that we impose upon Him. God, who is perfect and perfectly happy without the universe, has chosen to create the world for no other reason than to allow the creatures that he made to know and love him (the angels and us) to share in the perfect happiness that He enjoys. This is what we mean when we proclaim that God Loves us. This is not merely saccharine sentimentality, but is the truth that is at the core of the Christian claim and one that has the power to determine the spiritual trajectory of our lives.
So what possibilities about God does that eliminate?
- God is indifferent to my life and doesn’t really care if I’m happy or miserable.
- God only cares that I obey his rules, and he’ll punish me if I don’t.
- God is looking out for his own interests (whatever those might be) and I’m responsible for finding my own fulfillment.
Most Christians probably wouldn’t say those things out loud, but if we’re honest, how often do we let the false ideas above become the operative principle in our lives? What if I allow the Gospel to effect a paradigm shift in my thinking and look at everything through the lens of the truth that every interaction that God chooses to have with man is for one purpose: to bring about the fulfillment and happiness of the human race and His glory through that?
How would it change the way I look at:
- The discernment of my vocation
- The Church’s moral teachings
- The hierarchy/power structure in the Church
- The problem of suffering
I plan to write in the coming weeks in much greater detail about the paradigm shift in thinking that this truth effects for each of these aspects of life. For now, consider that it suddenly it becomes much easier to love a God in whom I can trust to have my true best interests in his omnipotent will. I can trust that since His general Will for me is my happiness, his Will for me in this situation and at this time is ultimately for my happiness and fulfillment as well. Suddenly, the moral life that the Church asks me to live in Christ becomes not an onerous set of rules and regulations, but the loving commands of a father who truly does know best.
Is your relationship with The Lord based on this principle of unconditional love? Or has that element of fear that’s based on those falsehoods crept in? Let’s get to know Jesus better through prayer and reading scripture and let Him reveal His true self to us.
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” -John 15:11