Sunday, April 05, 2015

God Loves You

Happy Easter everybody! I am going to deviate from my usual routine here, in that this post is not directed at my usual readership. Rather, this article is for those of who have stumbled upon this blog accidentally: you who are sitting around this Easter with anxious hearts wondering whether you should become a Christian - or, if you already are a Christian, why you should hang on to your tottering faith.

Yes, tottering faith. There are many obstacles to faith in today's world. Modern reductive science that has conditioned us to think that to understand a thing is simply to explain what it is made out of; the world is full of unspeakable evils at home and abroad, all of which challenge our confidence in an all-good God; there are the temptations of the world - pleasure, wealth, and the good opinion of men - all of which make a Christian life seem fraught with difficulty; finally, there is the scandal frequently offered by those who bear the name of Christ, who fall far short of Christ's call and serve as painful reminders of the sinfulness of us all.

But an obstacle is not an impossibility. "Nothing shall be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). God can overcome all, even death. Even your faltering faith. Ask Him. Ask Him for the gift of faith. And then be humble enough to receive it when it was given, knowing that it is often given in seed form - just a very small measure, which must be nourished and protected before it can grow up into a mighty tree.

Why do we need God? We all fall short, my friend. All of us, despite our best intentions, have messed up. We might not all have killed someone; we might not all have committed adultery, but we have all really fouled things up. No matter what we will, we tend to choose selfishly. That's part of our nature, see. The world has told us that if we just tweak a little here, offer some more programs there, that we can build a material utopia. Well, even when the will and the means are there, human nature tends towards selfishness. It's just the way it is.

Not that our nature is bad. It is from God. People are good. But not perfect. We are flawed. Christians call this original sin - the fact that, while we are basically oriented to the good, we are unable to carry it out because there is also a streak of selfishness within all of us. Our whole race is fallen. This is why attempts to fall back on human ingenuity and materialist ideologies to build a better world are doomed to fail.

But God did not leave us in this darkness. When the time was right, He sent His only Son to take flesh and become a man. Jesus Christ took on human nature in its fullness. He felt the sweat of a hard day's work, endured the drudgery of human life, saw the world in all its frailty. But He did not succumb to its evil; though a man like us, He never committed or experienced sin, because He was also fully divine. Coming from God He was fully God; in becoming man He was fully man. Both God and Man - a Godman, and as such, the only one capable of reconciling man and God.

He came to earth in obscurity, lived a perfect life, and then suffered the humiliating death of crucifixion, though He was innocent. In giving Himself to the very last, He showed Himself utterly selfless and thus undid the selfishness of mankind; because He was divine, the love with which He carried out this act of self-sacrifice was so eminently pleasing to God that it wiped away the debt of sin that separated man from God. Just as God and Man come together in the Person of Christ, so God and Man are brought into harmony by the death of Christ.

And because that death was so perfect, that love so fulsome, that sacrifice so perfect, death could not keep Him chained. Yes, He rose from the dead, for "love is stronger than death" (Song of Solomon 8:6). This Resurrection was a vindication - a vindication of His teaching, but also of His identity. He manifest Himself to His disciples, who bore witness that Christ was truly risen from the dead.

And how does this effect you, dear friend? You see, Christ rose not just for Himself but on behalf of the whole human race. In Him, God has elevated and ennobled human nature. His death merited glory for Himself, but grace for all. He rose to glory, yes, but He makes possible your rise to glory as well. His Resurrection makes possible newness of life for you through His grace. Freedom from your sins. Freedom from your past. Freedom from whatever characterization you or others have created for yourself. Free from your passions which enslave you. Free to live as a son of God.

Yes, this is all for you. He died for all mankind, but He also died for you individually - because He created you, because He loves you. Yes, God loves you. I know its cliche, but its true. But don't get too cozy with that. The idea that the God of the Universe loves you is no cause for laziness or sloth; if He loves, He expects something from you, just we all do of those whom we love. "Doesn't God love me right where I am? Why does He demand I change?" Oh yes, God loves you right where you are - but He loves you too much to leave you in that condition.

What holds you back? Yes, there will always be objections, questions, uncertainties. Faith is a knowing but its also a kind of darkness. Faith does not depend on a mass of probabilities or on whether or not you have every detail worked out. Faith comes down to this: Do you or do you not believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead? If He did, then He is who He says He is and everything else follows. If He did not, the whole Christian faith is in vain. Yes, vain.

What is your answer to the question? Did He rise from the dead?

And if so - if you know down in your heart that it is true, then rejoice! You have the gift of faith, the seed of eternal life. Do not let it die. Nourish it. Nourish it in the truth. When our Lord rose, He did not leave us orphans, but sent the Holy Spirit among the Church that He founded, thus promising to lead it into all truth, so that though He is no longer on the earth according to the flesh, the Spirit of Christ can forever lead the brethren of Christ in the true Church of Christ - and this is that Church of which Peter was given the keys and made head.

Yes, there will be scandal. Yes, there will be embarrassment due to human error, arrogance and sin. But ultimately it is irrelevant to your own faith. Did Jesus rise or didn't He? He rose in power; that is what this day commemorates. And if you hold close to Him, you have power too. Power to remake the world according to God's law, starting with yourself, then the Church, then the world. It doesn't matter what they do; you keep doing what you know you need to do. If the Church needs holiness, you be holy. If the world needs compassion, you be compassionate. If you do not see Christians devoted to prayer, you be devoted to prayer. The kingdom is within you and it starts with you. You have questions? So did I. But there are answers. Many, many people have walked this path before you and there is no difficulty that has not been considered and resolved.

Believe the Gospel. Repent of your sins and resolve by the help of God's grace to put them away forever. Live in the freedom of the children of God. Drink the pure milk of Christ from the Church which Christ endowed with His Spirit. Frequent the sacraments. Pray intensively and make the acquaintance of other prayerful people. Honor the Church. Love God above all, as He has loved you. Make no compromise with the world. Do these things and you will experience the power of Christ's Resurrection, and the joy and freedom you possess in Christ now is but a foretaste of the eternal reward your faith will bring you in Christ, who brings all things to fulfillment.

And if you do not yet have faith, then pray for it. God will grant it if you are sincere in following Him. That's really all it takes is an assent of mind and will to follow God and put Him above all. He will bring it to completion.

Amen and amen! He is Risen indeed!


Anonymous said...

Thanks, a good read.

But He did not succumb to --it's-- evil

His death merited grace --no-- only for Himself

Boniface said...

Thank you! Fixed

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Boniface. Excellent; easy to understand and profoundly true