How we think of ourselves relates to how we think of God
“All evil is a privation* of original goodness. Evil and sin are accidental conditions of human nature, not intrinsic qualities.” *(e.g. misery, hardship, poverty)
This quote is from David Bentley Hart, a decidedly unnecessarily verbose writer, but one who made a good point about our created natures. I think it’s important to consider who we are, or who we are created to be, because I think that gives us a good image of who God is and how God created us.
I think it’s important to consider this because we can see how we act in our hardship and we can forget how we were created. We can forget the intrinsic goodness that’s in us. That God created us and called us “Good.” I think we fall prey to the idea that our worst self is our true self. That when we are considering ourselves when we aren’t at our best, that’s our “authentic” self.
I think we might intrinsically do that because we often don’t reveal our worst selves to others on purpose, and when we are at rock bottom, there is no veneer that we attempt to use to protect us. But I just think that’s false. Our authentic self is the one that God sees and the one that God made and the one that God redeemed.
We have our work cut out for us
Unfortunately, some theologians have gone to great lengths to refute this idea, and I think that that adds insult-to-injury. We’re already insecure about being our best self, and then that psychology is reinforced by theology.
When we think of how God sees us, God doesn’t see evil, doesn’t see worms, as Isaac Watts said in his famous hymn:
“Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?”
Alas, and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
God doesn’t see you as the 18th Century Revivalist, Jonathan Edwards said in his sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God:
“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.”
I bring these up because I thought you might consider yourself a worm or a spider. Or you might consider your enemy as a worm or a spider. That’s not to say we don’t act as abhorrently as Edwards described, but I think we do God a disservice when we assume God sees us as we see one another.
The old is gone, the new is here!
God sees us as created good, beloved. More importantly, God is not just our creator, but our liberator and our deliver. God sees us as worthy to be freed, loved, saved. And God’s salvation is all about restoring us to who God created us to be. God is saving us from who we’ve “accidentally” become, as a perversion of our intrinsic self, our true self. The hardship we find ourselves in doesn’t totally erase who God created us to be and who God saved us to become, and so even now, as we see through a glass darkly (1 Cor. 13:12), so even in our world today, we see impressions of what was and what will be.
This is the spirit of what Paul is calling us into in 2. Cor. 5. We’re sitting with this passage this quarter.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. — 2 Corinthians 5:16-18
We no longer see ourselves in our hardships, in our “privations,” we see one another as God intended. Our new selves, and our true selves. There is something new, and quite old, that Jesus is inaugurating. Jesus is restoring creation, or as Paul says, making a new one.
You are reconciled to God and live in harmony with God.
Paul says this happens through Jesus’ reconciliation. We are reconciled with God through the work of Jesus, who is one with the Father. Here’s how Jesus addresses his Father right after the Last Supper:
That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.—John 17:21
We become one with Jesus, by ingesting him, in the Last Supper. I know that sounds weird, perhaps, but it really is what’s happening. We are joining the body of Christ, such that we are Christ for the people around us. We really are operating out of our new self. We are not worms or spiders, we are beloved Children of God. Once lost, now found, but always God’s children.
That’s the symbol of reconciliation and oneness with God. All that needed to happen happened on Golgotha (the hill Jesus died on), so we are fully welcomed into family after we were formerly estranged.
If there’s one thing I can’t say enough of is that God loves you and wants to relate to you. So much of Christian theology gives us the opposite message: that God’s goodness and sovereignty separates us from God, that God’s transcendence keeps God from us. And that the more distant God is from us, the better God is. And so God’s greatness comes at the expense of God’s love for us. That backward-way of thinking not only oppresses us, but it undoes God’s immanence. God is with us, and the miracle is that God is with us, despite God’s transcendence.
And that immanent and transcendent God loves you. God doesn’t despise you at all, but self-sacrificed to save you. God isn’t an angry, penal God who needed to subject his Son, Jesus, to his wrath so that he wouldn’t have to pour it down on you. That sort of bifurcation of God is not only heretical, it ruins the self-emptying sacrifice of God.
God self-emptied to become the person of Jesus Christ to relate to us and to love us. That sort of humbling sacrifice isn’t made to creatures that God hates and can’t stand. The ones that God sacrifices for, and longs to restore and bring home, are the ones God loves. Receive the love. Know you’re worth it. See yourself as God sees you. Reject the worst image you hold of yourself. Even though it might feel real, it’s a lie. The true you, the authentic you, is the one that God created and the one that God restored and made new through Jesus.