Archive for September 2017

God’s Ways with us are Relational

Some consider God primarily as Judge whose chief concern is his law.  In order for this “legal” God to be gracious towards us he must first punish his own Son in our place.  He then demands us to meet all his legal conditions for true acceptance.  Even though I try to meet his demands I cannot really be sure he accepts me. I have to constantly self-examine. Do I have enough faith? Is it “saving” faith? Did I repent correctly? Is God o.k. with my imperfect obedience?  If I were to go this way the result would be lack assurance.

Looking through the lens of Christ, we see that God’s ways with us are primarily relational rather than merely legal. For through Jesus, we learn that God is Father and that his purpose is to bring us into family relationship. He wants us to find our true being-in-communion as sons and daughters in union with his unique Son by the Spirit.

Allowing the legal to eclipse this relational vision results in a distorted way of responding to God.  We are workers trying hard to satisfy God’s demands rather than dearly loved sons and daughters. We are driven by guilt rather than drawn by grace. We endure condemnation and rarely enjoy communion.

In Jesus’ parable of the lost son, the father wanted his son home before the prodigal turned back.  And he did not wish for his son to relate in terms of work as a mere servant.  He wanted to welcome him back into the family with a warm embrace and joyful celebration.  So our Father in Jesus longs eagerly for us all to return home and when we do there is great rejoicing in the Father’s heart and all heaven.

Lowly Judge

Jesus is God as human living among us in humility.  As the One who loves, He doesn’t want to be high and exalted far above us; he wants to live among us as one of us.  Indeed, God as human is marked by the deepest humility as he goes to the very lowest place to lift us up to the very highest place in union with himself.

The “god” that we  humans imagine is so very different.  We project a deity  that is distant from us.  One that towers above us as the unapproachable high and mighty Judge who sits in his far-off court room eager to condemn.  In contrast, the God we meet in Christ is eager to know us in love; eager to cross the infinite chasm between the Creator and the creature; eager to stoop down to us bearing condemnation in himself for us; and eager to lift us up into union with himself so that we can share in everything that he is and has.  Not the Judge high in his heavenly court room, but rather the Judge who is prepared to humble himself handing himself over to be judged for us in order to bring us into living union with himself.

Behind this vision of God stooping to enter into union with us is God as three persons in One communion of love.  If God were a solitary being then he would have had no one to love before he created.  But the Triune God has always loved within the communion of love that he is.  His desire for oneness with us flows out of his own eternal Oneness in love.

 

The One Who Loves

Through Jesus, God makes himself known to us as the One who loves. To understand this “love” we must not begin with our own ideas of what love is.  We must rather pay attention to who God is as made known in Jesus.  In him, we discover that the One who loves gives himself totally to create communion with us.  God does not will to be without us nor to leave us without him. So he acts, in love, to restore us to himself in spite of what we are like. Yes, the One who loves pours himself out without restraint for those who reject him in order to take them up into the communion of his eternal love as Father, Son and Spirit.

 However, when considering what God is like, too many allow God as Judge to predominate. Make no mistake, God is Judge. But when we see that God is love, the meaning of Judge is somewhat different.  With God as love fully in view, we see that God’s judgement is an expression of the love that he is.  The Triune One is an inexhaustible fountain of love that overflows and expresses itself in all he does.  So the One who loves must expresses his love in the justice that makes everything right in his world.  That includes pursuing restorative justice because he does not want to simply punish offenders.  He wants to restore them to fellowship within his family. So, in love, the Judge himself is judged for us so that we might live with him.

As those who are so well loved our hearts yearn to live in ever closer communion with One of such beauty.

 

The One Who loves

Through Jesus, God makes himself known to us as the One who loves. To understand this “love” we must not begin with our own ideas of what love is.  We must rather pay attention to who God is as made known in Jesus.  In him, we discover that the One who loves gives himself totally to create communion with us.  God does not will to be without us nor to leave us without him. So he acts, in love, to restore us to himself in spite of what we are like. Yes, the One who loves pours himself out without restraint for those who reject him in order to take them up into the communion of his eternal love as Father, Son and Spirit.

 However, when considering what God is like, too many allow God as Judge to predominate. Make no mistake, God is Judge. But when we see that God is love, the meaning of Judge is somewhat different.  With God as love fully in view, we see that God’s judgement is an expression of the love that he is.  The Triune One is an inexhaustible fountain of love that overflows and expresses itself in all he does.  So the One who loves must expresses his love in the justice that makes everything right in his world.  That includes pursuing restorative justice because he does not want to simply punish offenders.  He wants to restore them to fellowship within his family. So, in love, the Judge himself is judged for us so that we might live with him.

As those who are so well loved our hearts yearn to live in ever closer communion with One of such beauty.

 

Father Before Judge

God is both Father and Judge, but should we put God as Judge before God as Father?  If we do so we may see God as one who primarily seeks a legal settlement with us rather than a restored relationship. We may also gain the impression that God first needed to quench his righteous wrath before he could bring himself to love us. But this is plainly not so.  Paul tells us that it was while we were yet sinners that God demonstrated his love for us at the cross (Rom 5:8).  Christ cannot be thought of as the one who changes God making him merciful towards us.  

Of course God is Judge and he must put everything right between us “legally”. But the legal aspect must never take centre stage. Rather than putting the legal first we must consider God as the triune communion of love who wants family relationship with us. And who desires this so strongly he became one of us to lift us up into his own life.

We must continually clarify this relational vision by always looking to who God is in Christ.  In Jesus, we see God as Father who loves us even though we don’t love him in return. In him, we also see that the Father’s all-embracing purpose for humanity is relational rather than judicial.  And what God is in Christ he ever was and is in himself.  Christ’s coming among us in the likeness of sinful flesh  is the very movement and expression of God’s Fatherly love towards us.