"The Humble God"

—Rick Hawkes, Ruling Elder

“Can we ever expect to understand existence? Clues we have, and work to do, to make headway on that issue. Surely someday, we can believe, we will grasp the central idea of it all as so simple, so beautiful, so compelling that we will all say to each other, ‘Oh, how could it have been otherwise! How could we all have been so blind so long!’”

“Information, Physics, Quantum: The Search For Links,” 1989, John Wheeler, Physicist

Why doesn’t God make the truth of Christianity more obvious? When he announced the Gospel, why didn’t he appear in the sky to all the world as a giant as big as a mountain and proclaim in a voice of thunder his offer of salvation in such a way that there could be no doubt that this was coming from the God of all creation? It is a little embarrassing, after all, when sharing the Gospel, to have to explain that this comes from the words of a carpenter’s son who lived 2000 years ago. Couldn’t he at least have come as a Roman Caesar or somebody else with significant public standing? Christianity is easily dismissed as yet another religion resting on the words of some ancient teacher who could not possibly have any relevance to the modern world.

Put yourself in God’s shoes, figuratively speaking, for a moment. Imagine you are omnipresent, but you want to create something. Where will you put the thing? You will have a devil of a time just finding room for it seeing as how you are already everywhere. Somehow you surmount this difficulty because you are, after all, God. Galaxies, stars, and planets are wonderful, but they can be a little bit the same, mostly going around and around. So, you come up with monkeys in jungles. Now this is really something. Who knows what a monkey will do next? You do, of course, but no one else does, not even the monkey doing the things. These creatures express a creative freedom of action impossible for planets.

Yet the monkey, like the planet, knows nothing of right and wrong, good and evil. Having a creation that is morally free is an even more wondrous work than monkeys. Making room for planets and monkeys required some work. But how can God make a moral spiritual being whose freedom is not obliterated by God’s own overwhelming sovereignty? How could mankind not be compelled to love and to submit to God simply by the beauty of the Lord? Such a moral yet utterly dependent creature could only exist in the presence of a humble God, a God devoted to preserving the shimmering bubble of that creature’s liberty in the face of the piercing radiance of God’s own glorious goodness. Each time this moral creature thinks, “Shall I lie or tell the truth,” the universe catches its breath that such a terrible choice can exist.

We say that God is invisible meaning that we cannot see him with our material eyes. Rom 1:20 tells us that all the material world functions as sort of a veil that mediates between us and the glory of the Lord. God is revealed to us in creation, but in such a way that we can choose not to recognize his revelation. Just as the Lord covered Moses while the glory of the Lord passed by, so God covers us, buffering his glory by means of the material universe. He gives us the freedom to be seeing, but not perceiving. It is foolish for us to pretend not to notice the glory of God in creation so that we can pursue our rebellion against him. But it is a course that God purposefully left open to us.

The work of redemption is the most delicate of all surgeries. Our hearts will be confirmed in spiritual death if confronted by the righteous God in judgment. So, God comes up with a secret way, a hidden way, to circumvent our wall of rebellion, to appear not in glory and judgment, but in a gentle way, without power, without overwhelming rightness. He comes not as a mountain-sized giant, but as an unremarkable baby who takes years to learn to walk, talk, and read. God goes to all this trouble because he is determined to preserve the delicate freedom of his unique spiritual and material creatures. Our liberty of will makes our love and obedience beautiful in a way that is unique in all creation. He will not violate his own design of mankind.

God so loved us, that he was willing to be humble and even to be humiliated in order to save us without compelling us. He compares his love for us with the love of a shepherd for his flock, a husband for his wife, a father for his child. He knows us better than we know ourselves. His love seeks our benefit even at great cost to himself.

If we demand the respect of the world because we are ambassadors of the God of all Creation, then we undermine the message of the humble and gentle Christ. When we are ashamed of the humility of Christ, when we wish he would have come in manifest power, so we would not have to tiptoe around pleading with people to consider his message, then we misapprehend the beauty of the love of God. God’s humbleness in Christ is the ultimate proof of the greatness and majesty of his love for us. The power of the Gospel does not come as a coercive force against sinners. It comes like yeast hidden in his people’s hearts, slowly and secretly raising them up. It is no small part of Christian discipleship to learn to love the humility of Christ which is so contrary to our pride and to learn to rest in our simple calling as his followers.