Monday, January 13, 2014

God is Sovereign, God is Weak

There's (almost?) always more than one way of looking at things....

Last Sunday our Pastor, Trey Wince, made mention in his sermon about what a big deal it is that God cares about the little details of our lives. In our social-media-dominated society, in which we practically assume that everyone on Facebook needs to know what we're having for lunch, it can be easy to lose touch of the fact that... in reality... nobody cares, or at least very few people care (and, most likely, even fewer actually should care). So we lose touch of how big a deal it is that God, the God of the universe, the God who existed and extended grace to save us before we were even a thought in our parents' heads, actually does care about us and attends to us, even the small details of our lives. That's at least one side of the gospel coin—that the God who is too big, too important, too eternal to care about we who are too small and too insignificant to mater, actually does care about and even loves us. We are the object of God's love, we are the ones that stop God in God's tracks and make God say, "there's it is, the search is over." If we miss or downplay the absurdity of this notion,  even while we affirm it, then I suspect that we miss something profoundly important about the gospel.

But there's another way of looking at it that's just as profound and just as central to the gospel—the other side of the coin.

If you only ever start with God's sovereignty, God's glory, power, transcendence, omnipotence, etc.... if you over-play this hand, then you can easily end up with a controlling God, a God who's relationship with humanity is limited to the command to obedience, a God whose love is hardly mutual but fully condescending. I'm sure most of us are familiar with this God. Many of us have heard too many sermons about how small we are, how we're not good enough, and how big God is... so strongly communicated that the attempt to discuss God's love for humanity just seems disingenuous.

Pastor Trey, in keeping with his usual theological and homiletic excellence, did well not to overplay this side of the coin, because operating throughout his sermon was a subtly different but corresponding starting-point... the starting point of God's solidarity with humanity... the starting point of the cross.

You see, while the idea that God is too big to care about us (but cares and loves anyway) is just as radical as it is true, it is just as true and just as radical to say that the God who cares about us and shares our weakness is just too present and too intimate to actually be the sovereign and eternal God of the universe, but happens to be just that anyway. Or, as Jurgen Moltmann has put it, "God is not more powerful than he is in [the helplessness of the crucified Christ]" (The Crucified God, 205).
"The God of freedom, the true God, is... not recognized by his power and glory in the history of the world, but through his helplessness and his death on the scandal of the cross of Jesus" (195). 
Starting with God's weakness which is the deepest kind of intimacy with humanity, this "other side" of the coin (in a sense) must assume God's sovereignty, God's crucifixion (in a sense) must assume God's resurrection, or else the history of Jesus Christ is reduced to mere tragedy.

It's downright absurd that the God of the universe should care about the little details of our lives.... Then again it's downright absurd that the God who loves us this much and knows us this intimately also happens to be the God of the universe. We need both sides of the coin. We need to realize how big God is, and sometimes to start there. But we also need to realize how deeply and intimately loving God is, even in the details of our lives, even down to our deepest sufferings, and sometimes we need to start there.

1 comment:

Steve Swope said...

Once again you've nailed it! I'll be borrowing thoughts from your first paragraph.