One of the things that had the greatest impact on me during my time in seminary is not some great theological truth gleaned from one of the countless books we had to read, but rather part of a prayer one of my professors (Dr.G!!) prayed at the beginning of class one evening. He was praying along and then he said, “And Father, I thank you that you decided that you didn’t want to be God without us.” BOMBSHELL!! I had never heard someone say anything like that before. Honestly, I was a little taken back. There was a part of me that thought that perhaps he shouldn’t have said that. For some reason that part of his prayer kind of offended me a little. It seemed wrong somehow. Now, looking back, I can see that it was merely my Western religious paradigm that had been shaken to its core by a simple prayer.
We good, Protestant Christians of the West speak of God’s love, but many of us (if we are honest) see God as some kind of egotistical tyrant who can barely stand the thought of us and puts up with us only because we forced him to send Jesus to pay for our sins. Our understanding of God centers on the wrath of God and sin. Our God is a God far removed from his creation (transcendence), and the thought of his actually wanting to be near us (immanence) offends us somehow. We are taught that even after we come to Christ, we are still filthy, rotten to the core. And really if you get right down to it, the part about God being your Father is just theological mumbo jumbo – you best just be concerned with being good!! If the truth were told, it is fear and not love that binds many of us to God.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not minimizing our sin problem. We’ve all got one, and it brings about death, separation from God. But that’s precisely the point. Because God loves us so much, the Father sent the Son to redeem us and make it possible for us to partake in the eternal life that is in God. We brought sin and death into the world, our loving God provided the way back to Life and fellowship through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. God does not hate you, but loves you and desires to reveal himself to you. You were created for him. The Triune God who is eternally holy, existing as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, perfect and in need of nothing, because of love desired to have a people who would be indwelt by his Spirit and conformed into the image of the Son. He may have not needed us, but hallelujah; he wanted us!! He wanted you!!
Our theology has evolved into an extremely lopsided thing. We’ve stressed the transcendence of God and our own sinfulness at the expense of the immanence of God and his love. We emphasize the judiciary aspects of salvation and have lost sight of the fact that the One we fear as judge is the same One who created and desires us. My friend, the cross is not the image of a horrible God that demands blood in order to satisfy his insatiable wrath, but rather a demonstration of a God who assumed the brokenness of his creation in order to satisfy his insatiable love.