Easter: A Celebration of Self-Giving Love
Last week, I began exploring several pervasive assumptions regarding how we perceive or experience God. Each one prevents us from experiencing Him the way the Bible consistently portrays Him to the world.
These assumptions are:
- God is Distant from us. We don’t often think of God as one who reveals Himself.
- God is Disgusted with us. When we do reflect on His presence in our midst, we rarely think of Him as one who reveals Himself as Divine, self-giving love. Many, in fact, perceive Him as a God who is disgusted with us.
- God is Determined to get us to behave. We don’t think of Him as someone who wants us to enjoy His presence as much as one who wants us to get fixed before we can enter His presence.
I’ll grant you, these assumptions are never stated so crassly, yet they remain the unspoken way we perceive God in our hearts, as well as portray Him to the world.
It’s such a shame since each one is fundamentally wrong!
In fact, I would say that God is – fundamentally speaking at least – NOT a God who is Distant, Disgusted, or Determined, but rather a God of Divine self-giving love and beauty.
Celebrating Love More Than Satisfying Wrath
I propose this because this image of God as a God of self-giving love and beauty is the most biblically persistent picture offered in both the Old and New Testament of the Christian Bible.
From beginning to the end, Genesis to Revelation, the story of God is a story of self-giving love and beauty. God’s self-giving love is designed to woo the wayward soul back into the loving environment God always intended.
An environment he originally intended and is now recreating (as the season of Easter proclaims) through those who have been captivated by His love and caught up in His kingdom!
In the earliest pages of Scripture this God of divine, self-giving love and beauty is pictured as one who creates, then observes creation and says, “Yeah, that’s awesome.”
The more He creates, the more enthralled He becomes.
On days one thru five everything – yes, everything – is good! On day six, His creation his great!
Creation Tells the Story of the With God Life
On day seven he rests. As He rests, one gets the feeling that He also exults in the good, and very good, creation that He’s brought to life!
This task of completing the project begun by the divine, self-giving love of God is a central component of what it means to be created in His image. It’s also part-and-parcel of what it means to have dominion over His good and beautiful world.
And, of course, that’s where things go awry.
Where we were initially called to bring His self-giving love to the world, we imported self-obsessed and self-absorbed love.
Disorder in the World
The opposites of self-giving love and the complete reversal and disordering of His original intention and design.
This reality of self-obsessed and absorbed love is visible within every sector of society.
That’s why statistics and headlines that dominate our news stories are often ones regarding opioid addiction, divorce, slavery, sexual exploitation, porn addiction, school shootings, etc.
All of these stats and news stories are the outcome of souls and societies bent in on themselves.
The Scriptures have a word for this: disorder.
Yet, the work of Christ on the Cross – celebrated this Easter season – reclaims this lost territory and re-orders the disorder both within and among us.
Re-Order on the Cross
The work of Christ on the Cross re-orders human life in the hope of restoring the original purposes birthed from, in, and through our God of divine, self-giving love.
By reestablishing the reign of God in His son, Jesus the Messiah. It is the unalterable and unshakable rule of His son that begins, in earnest, to reclaim and restore the lost and sacred ground of divine, self-giving love.
This self-giving love most clearly manifests itself in the cross. Indeed, God hasn’t reestablished His rule in spite of the cross but because of it!
Sin is, at last, Exhausted
When writing on the power of the cross to re-order and reestablish the rule of God through His son, New Testament Scholar N.T. Wright observes it’s universal and unyielding power:
“Jesus doesn’t give an explanation for the pain and sorrow of the world. He comes where the pain is most acute and takes it upon himself. Jesus doesn’t explain why there is suffering, illness, and death in the world. He brings healing and hope. He doesn’t allow the problem of evil to be the subject of a seminar. He allows evil to do its worst to him. He exhausts it, drains its power, and emerges with new life. The resurrection says, more clearly than anything else can, “There is a God, and he is the creator of the world we know, and he is the father of Jesus, Israel’s Messiah.” That is the first part of the good news about God.”
The cross is the epitome of self-giving love and the antidote to love that’s self-absorbed and self-obsessed.
The resurrection is the public proclamation of that which was secured by way of the crucifixion: the reign of God’s Divine, self-giving love is now reestablished in and through the rule of His Son. As such, the possibilities of a reordered humanity – a humanity that’s captivated by the self-giving love of Christ and consumed with the expansion of His rule on earth.
In other words, the story of Easter is centrally a story about God’s self-giving love and it’s power over – and destruction of – the forces of sin, in both the soul and society.
Easter then is a celebration of the ancient story of God, not as a God who is distant from us, disgusted with us, or determined to make us behave, but as a God of divine, self-giving love.
Disrupting to Renew!
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