Have you ever just sat and pondered the depth of God’s unfathomable, divine love? It is a helpful thing to do…I think, to consider that God really leaves no stone unturned in order to bring us home.
Elie Wiesel is to blame for this line of thinking this morning. I ran across one of his quotes from the first volume of his memoirs entitled, All Rivers Run to the Sea.
Wiesel wrote, “Do you know which of all the characters in the Bible is most tragic? It is God, blessed be His name, God whose creatures so often disappoint and betray him.”
That’s some hard-hitting language! But these words carry considerable weight when we note that they were written by a survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
I say all the time that one of my greater horrors is my inability to see myself. None of us can! My guess is that each of us thinks too highly or too lowly of self to be accurate at any given time.
The good news is that God loves us in our raggedness, warts and all. When we ponder the depth of God’s unfathomable, divine love and consider our own raggedness, it can change how we see all of life.
Decades ago I studied the Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard. The weight of much of his writings have to do with commitment and the power of personal choice.
Quite naturally, commitment and personal choice are major tenets regarding our relationship with God. God does not demand or coerce love from us. To do so would be inauthentic. And, if you want to start a list concerning what God cannot do, inauthentic would be at the top.
To help us understand this better, Kierkegaard tells a deeply moving parable about a king who fell in love with a humble maiden who had no education, pedigree, status or means. It could not be explained why the king so loved this girl but for whatever reason, he could not stop.
What to do? What to do?
All the power in the universe could not unlock the girl’s heart so that she would love the king authentically. He could of course force her into submission but again, this would not be authentic love.
The king wanted the girl’s heart and knew that it could only be opened from the inside. Unlimited power cannot command love.
Kierkegaard writes, “What a depth of grief lies in this unhappy love. No human being is destined to suffer such grief. God has reserved it to himself, this unfathomable grief…for the divine love is that unfathomable love which cannot rest content.”
In the parable, the king could try to elevate the girl to a more lofty position in the kingdom, he could shower her with gifts and he could even cloth her in royal apparel. But…how could he know if the girl loved him for himself or for all that he gave her?
Furthermore, how could the girl know that the king loved her for herself, even if she had remained a peasant, rather than what she would become if he dressed her up?
Every scenario that the king came up with had flaws. And, since you and I have the benefit of seeing through the rearview mirror, we know what the king decided to do.
The king took off his crown, got up from his throne, sat aside his robe, turned in his king-credentials and took on a life of a peasant. He chose to wear rags and scratch out a life in the dirt to be equally yoked with the young maiden.
Kierkegaard writes, “But the servant-form is no mere outer garment, and therefore God must suffer all things, endure all things…he must be forsaken in death, absolutely like the humblest…his entire life is a story of suffering; and it is love that suffers, the love which gives all is itself in want.”
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross (Philippians 2:4-8 NIV).”
“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger (Luke 2:12 KJV).”
“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20 NIV).”
“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not (Isaiah 53:2b-3 NIV).”
Mansion to manger!
It seems to me that God has done everything possible to win our hearts authentically. Kierkegaard is right…there is enormous power within commitment and personal choice. How will we execute these privileges today?