When I can, I love to go to the ocean (I live the Midwest so that is a rare occasion) What has always struck me as amazing about the ocean is the balance of beauty and danger. I love standing on the beach at night and looking out into the endless horizon of deep blue meeting night sky. I am in awe of the size and the scope of it all. It’s beautiful. And yet, it’s a bit dangerous, this sense of wonder can be overwhelming. Standing amidst such beauty and yet feeling so small and weak in comparison of it all. There is an attractive danger in it all, being overwhelmed by a beautiful and great power, not fully seeing it all but in awe of what one can see.
I think God can be like that.
A little while ago I wrote about the power of God, seen in God the father, the split person(ality) as I call if of our Triune God’s three persons. I looked briefly at the begging of the Gospel of John, when John beautifully describes God, in trinity, commencing in the creative process.
Just after this whole creation bit, John writes something miraculous, unprecedented, and potentially dangerous for the Christian faith…
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14)
God is supposed to be better than us, greater than us, separate from us, not come and dwell among us. In much ancient thinking, this actually would lower God. God was not supposed to be like us, or among us, he really didn’t care about us, so God, as they thought, by lowering himself made it seem that perhaps he wasn’t even God.
God, on the other hand, was about to display his grand and brilliant plan of unveiling true greatness to the world. It wasn’t through the climactic destruction of creation, not in an impressive fire and brimstone judgment day, but in the birth of child, and not just any child… God in flesh.
And to what purpose? Why would God chose to partake in human existence, joining us in our humility, our frailty, our weakness, our death?
The answer is remarkable…
“God is love” (1 John 4:16, italics added) and to ultimately display is unequivocal love for all of creation, he poured out the Son, Jesus, the one whom through all things were created, to be living, breathing, love amidst us.
It is at this point, just as a side note, I challenge you to find anything as compelling as the one simple message, God came to us, lived among us, and died for us, so we might live with him… no tricks, no strings, just love.
The Lord and creator of all things infused love, and thus himself into the world in the form of a Son.
God is the God of Love
I have been the recipient of some unprecedented acts of kindness, generosity, and love throughout my life thus far.
5th Grade wasn’t the best year for me. What I mean by that is, it was a terrible year for me. I was still smoking cigarettes occasionally and had been cut from my soccer team. I was failing multiple subjects, and I had missed recess and social interaction for over three months rapidly trying to make up any work that I hadn’t completed.
I understand that these shortcomings, in the grand scheme of life are not monumental, but for the developmental trajectory of a 5th grader, I was not on the best path. Half way through the year, my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sarich, volunteered to take me to her classroom for an hour or two after school to help me with my homework and keep me focused on school. She didn’t do it for money, to my knowledge she was never compensated over her regular salary. She didn’t do it because my performance and test scores might boost her resume. They wouldn’t, I was already out of her class and my performance boost, being great in 4th grade and dropping in 5th was not going to bolster her career in any way. She simply helped me because she loved me. She loved helping young people. Whether she knew it or not, by showing her students, myself included, love, she showed them God.
Although maturity wise I am not sure I have surpassed the age of 10, I am not in my mid twenties. I have also been privileged enough to have attended and graduated my undergraduate college program as well as the first of two Master’s programs, earning academic achievements along the way.
I don’t whatsoever say that as a point of pride in accomplishment. I actually believe the longer you stay in school the more you realize you just don’t know. I say that because my academic trajectory was remarkably shifted due to the care and selfless love of a former teacher, and I feel there is a great part of my limited academic success that is due to her teaching.
I have had many other instances, from funds being donated anonymously so that I could attend or accomplish things, people donating time and energy to mentoring and caring for me and my well being, the way my parents raised me and what they taught me, of how my life has been altered significantly, by the love of others.
I am sure my small group leader in middles school would be shocked if he knew I was now indeed, a youth pastor, and yet the love he showed me week by week, simply by being in my life, had a remarkable impact on my life, and on the way I see God.
We are dangerous
The way that we love people has the potential to change their lives for the better, and likewise, the way we restrict our lives from people has the power offer converse change.The infusion of love in the world, through God the Son, being born as Jesus Christ, and now proclaimed and enacted through us, serves to eliminate fear from the world.
As a wise and ancient pastor once wrote, “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:16-18)
Jesus, also called Immanuel meaning “God with us,” came as a reminder to humanity of who God is. God is love.
And humanity, regardless of how we perceive our own religious conviction, now remind people of God in way that we offer him to others in love. One can be agnostic and still show people the one true God by the way they love their brothers and sisters, one can be a devout Christian and restrict others from God by the way we withhold love. This isn’t and engagement in a salvation discussion, this is an affirmation of John’s words, that God is love, the ultimate display of which was on the Cross 2,000 years ago, and we as human beings are called to receive God and to show others God.
Yes I get it, that is dangerous. It is dangerous for God to be defined in such a powerful yet humble essence, this thing we call love. It is dangerous to say an agnostic, or someone from another faith, can show others God, even if they don’t see that they are doing it, more than a Christian can. However, could that be true? Jesus was consistently pointing to others outside the religious spectrum and saying that they got it. Conversely, he would look to the religious Jews and reprimand them for not getting it.
We have a dangerous responsibility. Love has the ability to transform lives, God has the ability to transform lives… and how we show others God or how we restrict others from seeing this unique infusion of love, defined by the Son of the Triune God, made flesh for us, has remarkable impact on the world around us.
God gives us the ability to show others the ocean at night, let them bask in the beauty and the awe, and the danger of it all… he makes us dangerous, but in the best way.