Monday, September 17, 2012

This is Love

"This is love: not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sin." (1 John 4:10)

This verse is committed to my head and heart in a song I learned years ago (GT and the Halo Express--not only for the kids). I've studied it, I've though about it, I've meditated on it. But I never considered it in terms of a Divine humility and the need for me to destroy my illusion of self-sufficiency.

In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis develops the concept that God allows pain in human life for a number of reasons, primarily, however, to remind humans of our limitations in front of the Almighty Creator of all things. Today's Western culture has become so secularized that God is forgotten, ignored, or even intentionally cast aside. We usurped the role of the Creator, putting our own hearts and minds at the center of conscious thought, and making ourselves a form of a god. Human nature always puts itself first until that self is surrendered in willful obedience to the One who made it in His image. This is an act of the intellect, emotion, and volition, which makes it utterly impossible to accomplish without supernatural aid.

Lewis's view is that we will not even attempt that self-surrender without pain or suffering as a motivator.  He says, "Now God, who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as He leaves us any other resort where it can even plausibly be looked for. While what we call 'our own life' remains agreeable we will not surrender it to Him" (Lewis, The Problem of Pain chapter 6).  Why should we? If our own hearts and minds are contentedly at the center, why change it? "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" says the old adage. So, knowing the inclination of humanity, God allows circumstances to "break" us in order that we might take our eyes off our own self-centeredness and correctly re-focus on our true purpose in this life: to live in fellowship with the Creator.

Lewis calls this a "Divine humility" because it demonstrates God's willingness to accept us when what we have to offer him is worthless. If we come to God at our best and happiest, our offerings are only slightly sweeter than when we come to him utterly spent and empty-handed. Lewis says, "He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is 'nothing better' now to be had." (Lewis, Pain, ch 6) Ouch.

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

Certainly we know at an intellectual level that no human on earth has the capacity to be perfectly good, and yet that is what God requires of us. He cannot look on anything less. In our own scheme of things, it would be easier to throw away the imperfect project and start over. But God is so much greater than we can even imagine. He gave us free will in order that we might choose Him, knowing full well that we would not. Then He provided a way for us to reconnect with Him, knowing that a great many of us would thumb our noses at Christ and still put our own selves at the center. He pursues us with a passion of Love that is beyond the scope of human understanding, until finally, we determine to surrender our wills for His, and we come to understand that His Love is far greater than anything we could ever ask or imagine.

This is Love.

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