Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The scandal of God as a child

A glimpse of divine love: infinite, yet scandalous to human reason

Is the Incarnation too hard to bear? In human pride, yes it is. In human theology, yes it is. And yet, here we see that accepting God the child, as a child, is a first step to human wholeness: God becomes the divine Son to us, as we accept Him as the child. The miracle of love is wrought in us when we come to Him as a child, daring to accept in Him the unity of His will: “He has not two thoughts about us,” MacDonald says. He only has one, and this is love, infinite love. Here we find a God who “finds His blessedness in the outgoing of blessedness.” Here we find the true meaning of the self and the other, the gift and giver. Here we find the unity of God’s will, and its incredible power: the will of God will be done for His children, simply because God is a child to them; His love cannot be forever disappointed because He gives in simplicity of will, not for himself, but for His loved ones. In weakness God conquers all.

And yet, it is precisely this dimension of God – God the child, God the joyfully tender, God the self-giving – that human reason, human pride, rejects. When we see God like this: with childhood in divine nature, completely self-giving to the point of death, it shocks us. We want that not for ourselves; neither do we want it for God. And so we steer Him away from the cross: “Far be it from you, Lord!”

However, though it be scandalous at first, let us stop here a little while, and see if there is merit in God the child! Perhaps it will be here that healing begins – as the heart bows to the inner meaning of gift and giver, and dances again as a child with the Child, the Son of Man, our God!

A healing scandal: God as child, gift and giver

George MacDonald

But the word of one who has seen this truth may help the dawn of a like perception in those who keep their faces turned towards the east and its aurora; for humans may have eyes, and, seeing dimly, want to see more. Therefore let us brood a little over the idea itself, and see whether it will not come forth so as to commend itself to that spirit, which, one with the human spirit where it dwells, searches the deep things of God. For, although the true heart may at first be shocked at the truth, as Peter was shocked when he said, “That be far from thee, Lord,” yet will it, after a season, receive it and rejoice in it.

Let me then ask, do you believe in the Incarnation? And if you do, let me ask further, Was Jesus ever less divine than God? I answer for you, Never. He was lower, but never less divine. Was He not a child then? You answer, “Yes, but not like other children.” I ask, “Did he not look like other children?” If He looked like them and was not like them, the whole was a deception, a masquerade at best. I say He was a child, whatever more He might be. God is man, and infinitely more. Our Lord became flesh, but did not become man. He took on him the form of man: He was man already. And He was, is, and ever shall be divinely childlike. He could never have been a child if He would ever have ceased to be a child, for in Him the transient found nothing. Childhood belongs to the divine nature.

Obedience, then, is as divine as Will, Service as divine as Rule. How? Because they are one in their nature; they are both a doing of the truth. The love in them is the same. The Fatherhood and the Sonship are one, save that the Fatherhood looks down lovingly, and the Sonship looks up lovingly. Love is all. And God is all in all. He is ever seeking to get down to us — to be the divine man to us. And we are ever saying, “That be far from thee, Lord!” We are careful, in our unbelief, over the divine dignity, of which He is too grand to think. Better pleasing to God, it needs little daring to say, is the audacity of Job, who, rushing into His presence, and flinging the door of His presence — chamber to the wall, like a troubled, it may be angry, but yet faithful child, calls aloud in the ear of him whose perfect Fatherhood He has yet to learn: “Am I a sea or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?”

Let us dare, then, to climb the height of divine truth to which this utterance of our Lord would lead us.

Does it not lead us up hither: that the devotion of God to His creatures is perfect? that He does not think about himself but about them? that He wants nothing for himself, but finds His blessedness in the outgoing of blessedness.

Ah! it is a terrible — shall it be a lonely glory this? We will draw near with our human response, our abandonment of self in the faith of Jesus. He gives himself to us — shall not we give ourselves to Him? Shall we not give ourselves to each other whom He loves?

For when is the child the ideal child in our eyes and to our hearts? Is it not when with gentle hand he takes his father by the beard, and turns that father’s face up to his brothers and sisters to kiss? when even the lovely selfishness of love-seeking has vanished, and the heart is absorbed in loving?

In this, then, is God like the child: that He is simply and altogether our friend, our father — our more than friend, father, and mother — our infinite love-perfect God. Grand and strong beyond all that human imagination can conceive of poet-thinking and kingly action, He is delicate beyond all that human tenderness can conceive of husband or wife, homely beyond all that human heart can conceive of father or mother. He has not two thoughts about us. With Him all is simplicity of purpose and meaning and effort and end — namely, that we should be as He is, think the same thoughts, mean the same things, possess the same blessedness. It is so plain that any one may see it, every one ought to see it, every one shall see it. It must be so.

He is utterly true and good to us, nor shall anything withstand His will.


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