Thursday, July 16, 2009

Is Jesus Our Umbrella?

God did not create the world, as some say He did, in order to have for Himself some outlet for His creativity. How do we know? Because that would be a self-serving reason to create, and in Christianity, God is not self-serving; He is the opposite. God is love. Neither did God create the world in order to have some form of self-expression. That, too, would be self-seeking. Again the Christian teaching has it the other way around: God expresses Himself, says such things as, “Let there be light,” in order to create the world. He gives being to the world, to you and me, because He loves us, and already loved us before He brought us from non-being into being.

The situation concerning God’s Law is similar. That is, He doesn’t command this or that because it is some perfect expression of Himself. (The perfect expression of Himself is Jesus Christ.) God doesn’t even set forth His precepts because the perfect law is an imperfect expression of Himself. It is that, but His reason for giving us the law is something different, something the very opposite of self-serving. His reason, as always, is love. He reveals to us His principles because they are good for us, because without their guidance (and even with them) we fall headlong into behaviors that tend to ruin our lives and our societies and our civilizations. He gives us His commandments, in other words, for the same reason He created us, for the same reason He does anything in relation to us: because He loves us.

This means that when we violate God’s commandments, we do no harm to God! It’s not as though the commandments existed for His sake. They, like the Sabbath, exist for our sake, and when we sin, we harm ourselves and our fellow man and our world.

This is why God is not literally angry with us: His honor has not suffered, His glory remains intact. You and I are simply far too small to have any effect upon the high and holy God. He knew before He created us everything we would do, yet still loved us, still gave us life, and still became Man and died for us, “while we were yet sinners.”

Yes, God chastises (corrects) whom He loves. And yes, we may be working at cross-purposes with God, and if so, we shall eventually find Him on the winning side, which means we are the big losers unless we've switched sides. But that isn’t because God is angry with us. It's because He is putting a stop to the harm we are inflicting on ourselves and others and the creation. He’s doing an intervention. He foils the plots of the crafty and brings to nothing the plans of the wicked.

There is no such thing as a God who is literally angry with us, but this doesn’t mean there is no such thing as Divine Wrath. There is, but it is directed at our enemies for our sake, instead of at us for His sake. Our God does nothing from self-interest. Rather, God's wrath is directed against our greed and sloth and lust and pride and so forth, the things that prevent us from becoming fully human, the things that drag us down to a level below the animals. God’s Wrath is exercised on our behalf against all the things that destroy us as bearers of His own Image. (Of course, if God were to destroy my pride, it might indeed feel as though God were against me, but in reality, He would have liberated me.)

And the exercise of God’s Wrath involves not punishment (which is totally useless!) but correction. He is not pleased when sins are avenged, but when they cease. God exercises His Wrath by destroying evil, displacing it and replacing with the corresponding good. Thus, when He reveals Himself to us and teaches us His ways, He is indulging His fury against ignorance. When He leads us in the paths of lovingkindness, He is pouring out His anger against hatred. When He rises from the tomb, He is displaying His Wrath against death. And so forth.

Now all of this is only a prelude to what I really want to say. The point I’m getting at is that there is this idea in non-Orthodox theologizing that Jesus Christ shields us from God’s Wrath. The truth, of course, is that in Christianity, Christ is God. Thus, if He shields you, so does God the Father and so does the Holy Spirit. Or if God the Father were angry with you, so would God the Son be, and so would Jesus Christ, the Man, whose will is always conformed to His Father’s.

Jesus Christ is indeed our Shield, our Umbrella. But what we all need protection from is not God’s Wrath, but the devil’s. He is the angry one, the furious, the envious one, the one from whom we need rescuing.

God and the devil are NEVER on the same side.

And they don't switch sides or from time to time swap roles, either.


He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust."

Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
(from Psalm 91)
Always remember that our God is “holy, harmless, undefiled”. (Hebrews 7:26)

4 comments:

Molly Aley said...

*applause*

Just Mairs said...

Hmmm....some things to chew on. As an artist, I've had what you peg as false thoughts about God's reason for creation - I'll have to ponder that a bit more.

As a "charismatic" Christian I've definitely seen - and have since rejected - the separation of the three persons of the Trinity. The Protestant idea that somehow one person of the Trinity is at odds with the other two is definitely prevalent and very distorted.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Glad if it helps, Molly.

Mairs, I've probably made too sharp a distinction. Self-expression in God IS the expression of Love, isn't it?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Furthermore...

Having an outlet for your creativity, or expressing yourself, is not even *necessarily* self-serving even in human beings.

Depending upon what you want to express, of course.