August 19, 2012

Love From Beyond The Vanishing Point

God is Love. 

It is said so many times I fear it is often used or misused in a cliché manner and many people miss its true importance and the depth of its meaning. It is a depth of love that finds its source in a limitless, bottomless and infinite God. It is a limitless eternal love. It is a love that is from before vanishing point or the foundations of the world until beyond the vanishing point ahead of us moving forward. Our minds cannot get a full hold on it.

Since I am prone to focus a lot on the wrath of God, I decided this morning to do the opposite. I am focusing on the love and relational attributes of God. In so doing I sort of ended up driving in a circle because to best see the love of God one needs to witness the wrath of God also: In the Crucifixion of His Son. To best see the love of the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father we must correctly view the most heinous miscarriage of justice in the history of man. It is the murder of an innocent man to appease the wrath of God that we so clearly deserved. While I studied God the last few days I have come across some of the most interesting thoughts I had never had before.

First, we see God speaks of Israel as His firstborn in Exodus.

Exodus 4:21-23 ~ “…and the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”

We see God call David his son also (2 Samuel 7:14) and of course we see the advent of Jesus Christ. Israel then is not the last, only the first. We see a foreshadowing of not only Christ here we also see a foreshadowing of the Gentile nation. Israel being only the first shows the missional nature of God’s plan to evangelize. So we see God in His capacity as Father, Son and Creator of man in a familial capacity.

Second, we as humans nearly always approach reality or images of reality from the anthropomorphic or man-centered view. When dealing with God this rarely does reality justice. When we refer to God as Father and Jesus as His son we absolutely view this from a human perspective. We do it so much so that postmodern politically correct philosophy says that we should remove the male gender distinctions in the Bible to make it more female-friendly. Nearly 100% of the time we approach the text from a human angle with the idea of a human family in our head. This just will not do for the purpose of this essay. We must step back here and expand our narrow-minded point of view and realize that the relationship between God the Father and God the Son is not metaphor but ontological or “that which is in its very being”. This is not an analogy to make things understandable to humans. The relationship between the Father and Son is the original prototype from which we get the idea of the family, not the other way around. God, the Trinity is the archetype/prototype; humans in our relationships like marriage, parents, child, etc are only an analogy or copy of the real thing.  The true relationship qualities for relational or familial type relationships reside solely in Godhead. This is why, when humans begin to move away from God and the intended order God has established, relations become convoluted and begin to disintegrate and fall apart. Based on varying degrees of sin in a person’s life this disintegration can be halted, slowed or eradicated. The ideal would be to move towards God and eliminate the sin but as humans...we all have our baggage and this ideal will never be met here except through Christ. Although human relations are analogous, they are not perfect and therefore not the same as the Father and the Son.

Third, the tying, cohesive and intrinsic nature of God is love. A love that at its core perfect but from a human vantage point is understood as ἀγάπην or agape. As John states:

1 John 4:16 ~ “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Here we see the familial and love, we see the relationship aspect and the pathos. We see an unselfish, giving, sacrificial behavior in the love, specifically in Christ. This love, Father to Son and Son to Father has been around since before the foundations of the world. A love that finds it impetus in life and a life in the impetus of love. Perfect love and life of the Godhead. The Father gives life to the Son:

John 5:26 ~ “For as the Father has life in Himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in Himself.”

This is also the life that God the Father used to raise Christ from the dead through the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:11 ~ “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

So in His relationship with His children, Jesus attempts to explain this relational quality between the Father and Son and how it is a giving of life from the Father to the Son and thereby from the Son to the Disciples. After Jesus’ Crucifixion we will then see this giving from the Disciples to a new generation of spiritual brethren in the form of discipleship up until the modern day and to us. All through the medium of the Holy Spirit: life eternal because of eternal love, through love by relationship in belief by faith.

John 5:36-40” ~ “But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

We also read:

John 14:10-11 ~ “The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.”

We therefore see relational love and life right in the works (Fruits of the Spirit) of Christ and are the evidences of the intimate nature of the Father’s relationship with the Son. This is also why we can see the intimate relationship between the believer indwelt by the Spirit and God also…they manifest the same Fruit of God’s presence: self-sacrificing love (among other things).

This is where we begin to see there is a radical departure from all other religions including Islam and even Judaism. Jesus tells us that the greatest love is the selfless, self-sacrificing kind.

John 15:13 ~ “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

We read that Jesus delighted in doing the will of the Father…

John 4:34 ~ “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

Jesus also said:

John 5:30 ~ “…can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

This is truly what Israel missed out on when they rejected their Messiah Jesus Christ. For love to exist there must be at least two otherwise the love becomes selfish and self-serving. There has to be another or other, otherwise there is only singularity. Self-giving love akin to agape has to have a plurality. God in the Trinity is indeed a plurality. There is “other” in Their Oneness and therefore the ability to love distinct from everything else--self-contained. God can therefore be Love and this is the only way it is possible in the true Agape, selfless sense. Agape…as in the greatest love which Jesus has already told us is, “that someone lay down his life for his friends”.

God the Father granted or gave this life of Himself to the Son (John 5:26). We then have the actual event in history on display for all of humanity for all time to witness in terms of this love: The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Son of God. These are the most obvious proofs of God’s love to mankind. God the Father gave life to the Son and the Son responded in love to the will of the Father by giving it back in return. In doing so he saves all of humanity who will believe in the very thing that He has done and understand that is was indeed a selfless act of love not only in obedience to the will of the Father but also a self-sacrifice because of His love of humanity and his desire to save all those from damnation that would believe it. It is a love that is Salvation. Riddled through all of this we see the familial and relational quality of the Godhead.

It is a love that is defined by the very nature of the Being who is doing the loving (God). It is not a love defined by the thing being loved (man). It is a love that only gets its full depth when it is viewed properly. It can only be seen in perspective when viewed from the position of the Godhead through Jesus Christ What makes this love even more profound is that it is not driven by what it can do for the One loving. From a human standpoint love is nearly always driven by what it can do for the one loving. In its very nature it is selfish. People generally do not love unless there is something to be gained by doing so. It is what it does for the self that impels us to do so. Not so for God. God needs nothing. God is self-sufficient and self-contained. Therefore, His love is by choice. He loves us because He wants to. His love is giving (agape) and it is also steadfast or faithful as understood in the Old Testament: חֶ֫סֶד or hesed. This Hebrew word expresses God's faithfulness to His covenant and also blessings and mercy.There is nothing more from His point of view that is needed from a covenant standpoint. He has given all and upheld His end of the relationship eternally-vanishing point to vanishing point. He knew He would, He did it and He will continue to...forever. He needs nothing from us. As a matter of fact (and ironically), it is we that desperately need something from Him and it is only through His mercy and grace that we get it. We receive His love in the form of His Son…hanging on a Cross.

John 3:16 ~ “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Love eternal, love from everlasting to everlasting.

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