Posts Tagged ‘incarnation’

How God Loves

March 18, 2009

Earlier this month, an article made the rounds on the web explaining what it feels like to be both a practicing Christian and a non-practicing homosexual. It’s pretty good, and it set off a fair amount of online discussion. I’m not looking to explain my understanding of this hot-button issue here. I already wrote a really long article about it a long time ago. Wesley Hills, who writes as a Christian who is gay, tells of the loneliness that comes from being different from so many around him. What struck me most in his article was the following passage:

I know well-meaning Christians who often remind me, “God’s love for you is better than any love you might find in a human relationship.” While I believe this is true in an ultimate and profound sense, putting it this way seems to set up a false dichotomy. A statement more in sync with the drift of the New Testament might go something like this: “God’s love for us is expressed and experienced mainly through the medium of human relationships.”

That last statement really stuck with me. I’ve seen that false dichotomy before. And he’s right: I don’t feel God’s love in a vacuum. Separated from actual relationships with people, my relationship with God can be entirely “in my head.” Now don’t get me wrong…I know Him on my own, too. But my relationship with Him needs anchors–contact points with the world around me. And I find that comes most often through people.

I know, objectively speaking, that God is present, that He is involved in my life, and that He cares for me. But I am not merely an intellectual being (despite how my blog may make me sound sometimes!). I also FEEL. And I feel His love through the love of other people. And truth be told, the only truths that really change you are the truths that make you feel something. That’s not existentialism, by the way, it’s just a fact. We can “believe” all kinds of things without them really affecting us, changing us. But when something really moves us, we really change.

This made me think a bit about how God’s care for those around me gets communicated through me. It’s a humbling thought, really. For example, my children will gain part of their image of God through what I teach them about God, objectively speaking. But the most lasting impressions of Him will come from how I treat them. How I love them. If they grow up feeling the care and love of their father, they will find it much easier to see how their heavenly Father loves them, too.

In truth, the same thing goes for all my other relationships. It’s true for my wife, for my friends and extended family, and for the brothers and sisters in my church community. When I stop and consider it, I mean really stop. And consider. This thought adds such weight and meaning to even the simplest moments with others. I am becoming a vehicle for the love of God, right there in the middle of every day, boring stuff. Pretty cool.

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What I Learned From a Muslim Riot

February 8, 2006

It’s impressive to see how angry some Muslim communities of the world have become over depictions of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper. What’s more amazing for me is to learn that most Muslims believe it is wrong to create ANY depiction of Mohammed for ANY reason. That detail fascinates me.

The ancient Hebrews also had a rule about depictions of Yahweh. As I recall, Moses threw quite a fit about a gold cow once. The rule about making a graven image of Yahweh was due to the fact that Yahweh is invisible, immeasurable, infinite. He is spirit, and to put him into physical form would immediately supplant Him from His rightful place as the only legitimate Object of worship.

But the earliest Christians (who were themselves Jewish) made a bold leap into the unknown by claiming that Jesus Christ was Yahweh Himself come in the flesh. They unapologetically declared that Jesus was “the image of the invisible God,” and “the exact representation” of Him on this earth. Yahweh had always promised that He would one day dwell with His people, and while previous attempts to represent Him in artistic form were forbidden, God’s own representation of Himself was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Like Jesus, Mohammed was a man. A flesh and blood man. I believe that most normal Muslims believe that. Which means that he can be drawn. He can be painted. He can even be cartooned. That’s the risk you put yourself up for when you inhabit human flesh. A man can be caricatured. In fact, the more famous he is, the more likely it is that he WILL be. I’ve seen three disrespectful depictions of Jesus in the last two days. I didn’t like them. I guess I consider them offensive. But I didn’t go burn the national flags of the countries that allowed them to exist! Well, that’s not what I’m trying to write about at this moment. So back to what I was trying to say…

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that followers of Mohammed disallow depictions of him out of respect and homage to him? In their efforts to idealize him they confine him to the unseen realm, so to speak. I suppose that for them to see him represented in visible form would somehow reduce him and dishonor him, robbing him of the worship that they believe he deserves.

Compare this with Jesus, who stated in no uncertain terms that he who has seen him has seen Yahweh. This man stated that he and Yahweh would come and indwell those who believe in him, so that we, too, can become sons and daughters of God. The early Christians embraced this idea and proclaimed that when the church of Jesus gathers they are reassembling Christ himself. They are the body of Christ, inseparable from him in every way. “Little Christs,” they came to be called. Here is a faith that embraces the visible representation of their God.

Talk about running the risk of misrepresentation! Millions of little depictions of Christ running around all over the earth. What was Jesus thinking!? Didn’t he know that he was setting himself up for insult and injury? In particular, what was he thinking when he chose ME to be one of those representations? If I didn’t have the utmost deference for his wisdom, I would question his judgment about this issue. But this only illustrates my point. [Wait, what was my point?… Oh, yeah…] God knew that we could never be satisfied worshiping a God that we couldn’t see. We are flesh and blood and we identify with flesh and blood. So He took on flesh and blood in order to be with us. In so doing He set Himself up for insult, abuse, and misrepresentation. Apparently, he counted the cost and determined that we were worth it. That’s really something. I think I’ll go dwell on that for a little bit. Why don’t you join me?