Like God

There are upper limits on nearly everything about us.

There is an upper limit to how much we can lift.  There is an upper limit to how much pain we can withstand before fainting.  There is an upper limit to how much we can remember.  There is an upper limit to how fast we can react.  To how wise our decisions can be.  This list could go on and on.

But there is no upper limit to how much we can love.

Perhaps this is the way in which we are made in the image of God.   People talk about God’s perfect love as a divine attribute: something far beyond us.  But it’s only beyond us because we don’t live up to our potential.  It’s quite different from the other things that we say about God.

A person who studied his whole life could never, even in theory, be as wise as God.  Omniscience is utterly impossible for us.

A person who spent his whole life working out would be nowhere near as strong as God.   A person who spent his whole life accumulating power would be nowehre as powerful as God.  Omnipotence is utterly impossible for us.

A person always arises from prior circumstances.  Self-existence (asiety) will never belong to us.

But God’s perfect love?  In practice, we of course fall short.  But in theory?  In theory we could be as loving as God.

I start contemplating all this tonight, while watching the film Legion with my lovely wife.  The film was fair (at best.)  It embodied a goofy theology, an incoherent plot and flirted with stereotype.   But it lead me to recognizing– not for the first time– that it’s rather surprising.  We humans are so very precious to our Creator.  We’re quite unlikely candidates to stand in the center of the cosmic drama that we find ourselves in.

Not just God, but even angels and demons seem to have so much more going on.  They are clearly smarter than us, faster than us, stronger than us…

I don’t know if my conclusion came from my own puny little brain or from something bigger than me.  But there’s something that rings true to me in this little dialogue.

I imagined somebody complaining to God, about this.  How tiny we are, how insignificant we seem.  If we’re so central, why do we end up so impotent?

(Part of the answer to this is, of course, that in and through Christ we’re not impotent.  But that’s not where my brain went in this imagined conversation.)

God’s answer (at least in my imagination) “Child… in power and even wisdom you are insiginificant before me, and the angels, and the demons… But power and wisdom matter so little.  In the way that matters most, in the capacity for love, you are made in my imagine; you have the capacity to love on a scale the very same scale that I love on.”

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

4 thoughts on “Like God”

  1. Why do Christians pay for and watch films that are patently blasphemous? Don’t we have choices?

    A Christian elder I knew over 30 years ago who was a Free Methodist minister from South India (and who is still alive, retired and yet still ministering) told me this anecdote based on the story of the demoniac of Gadara.

    When Jesus encountered the wild man in the wastes of Gadara, the demons inside him responded to Jesus that their name was ‘Legion’ and begged Him not to simply cast them out of the man, but to let them enter a herd of about 200 pigs that were grazing nearby.

    This Jesus did.

    As soon as the Legion entered the pigs, the animals galloped headlong, rushing down a slope and into the sea of Galilee where they were drowned.

    However, on the way, first one pig, then another, momentarily got stuck by smacking up against a boulder that was in their path. The second pig looked at the first who was lying against the side of the boulder, breathing hard, and asked him, “What’s going on? Where are we all going?”

    The first pig replied, “I dunno. Guess we’re just following the crowd…”

    Then the two pigs took a deep breath, got back up on their little cloven hooves, and rejoined the herd as the last bit of it plunged over the edge of a low cliff and into the sea.

    Yes, brother, they were just following the crowd.

    Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
    —John 9:39-41 NIV

    Is this the movie you and your lovely wife watched? http://cost-of-discipleship.blogspot.com/search?q=legion

    Was it good? Remember, there are some things you just can’t unsee.

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  2. Yes, my friend. That was the movie. I think you’re right to note that there are things we can’t unsee. There are movies I’ve stopped, movies I’ve walked out of, movies I regret seeing. This has happened less as I’ve grown more mature. I tend to be fairly discerning these days and generally steer clear of things that aren’t good for me.

    I don’t particularly regret seeing this movie. It was mediocre. It’s clear that they just Christianity as it fit their needs, as a setting, when it suited the plot, and they discarded Christianity when it did not.
    I don’t find it any more or less morally reprehensible than say the Harry Potter or Star Wars films; I wish that the film creators could find something more than just a back drop in my faith, but consider it a starting point in conversation with non-believers.

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    1. I often watch secular movies that have themes impinging on Christianity or spirituality in general, but like you I draw the line on certain films, we just have different criteria on when each of us draws the line.

      “Legion” starts out as a blasphemous accusation against our God, making Him want to destroy mankind, and pitting His own archangel against Him. This is reprehensible.

      Harry Potter films (I haven’t seen any) probably fall into an ambivalent category, as ones in which sorcery and magic are shown as delightful and desirable, as if there were no God. These are different from movies made about Narnia (none of which are true to the original books, however) in which magic is balanced by at least the Christlike image of Aslan. As for Star Wars or the Tolkien films, they are frankly mythological, but do not directly intersect Christianity, unlike the films under consideration, and so do not offend Christian sensibilities.

      What truly surprises me is how “Christians” follow in droves the films that have an anti-Christian spirit: Harry Potter, Legion, Avatar, to name a few of the more recent. It is simply a bad witness to others, a bad influence on ourselves, a weakening of the conscience of the Church (which is already for the most part unaware how worldly it has become).

      “There are movies I’ve stopped, movies I’ve walked out of, movies I regret seeing. This has happened less as I’ve grown more mature.” Don’t kid yourself, brother! In this area have you really become more mature, or just more tolerant of affronts against Christ in you?

      As holy apostle John writes, “Children, keep away from false gods.” You don’t think he was talking only about early Christians falling back into pagan idolatry, do you? He speaks to us, and warns us, today. Anything we consider worthy, we worship, and anything we excuse ourselves from the presence of Jesus to do, is an act of anomia, lawlessness. We all occasionally fall into this kind of sin, otherwise the Word would not be there to dissuade and convict us.

      “Let’s be more careful next time,” as I said to myself after I had gone to see the film “2012.”

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