My nephew is the ultimate Daddy’s boy; in his three-year-old way he makes it clear that he is only interested in his father’s time, attention and opinion. It sounds and looks something like this:
“Son, would you like to have special ‘Mommy Time’ today?”
“No thanks, I’ll wait for Daddy to get home.”
“Mommy loves you so much. Do you love Mommy?”
“Nah, I just love Daddy.”
You’re laughing; I know you are. I am too; I can’t help giggling every time I hear these stories, mostly because the little guy has no idea what he’s talking about!
He only has the luxury of his perspective because he has such an amazing momma. What he fails to see through his toddler eyes (maybe it’s his gorgeous long eyelashes getting in the way) is that she makes his world go round: She makes his bedroom cozy, prepares his meals, gets him to and from school, takes him to the doctor, and shapes his experience of the world on a daily basis…not to mention that she loves him to the moon and back.
At the risk of sounding like a “Jesus Juke” the analogy of my nephew came to mind as I was contemplating Jesus’ suffering on the cross and how we as humans have no idea what true separation from God would look and feel like.
But we can glimpse it through the work Jesus did on the cross. For the longest time I only saw his physical suffering because it was so excruciating. (In fact, the word excruciating is derived from two Latin words: ex cruciatus, or out of the cross. Crucifixion was the defining word for pain. (Ravi Zacharias))
But that’s not the full story. Jesus took on the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). Having existed eternally in perfect union with God, Jesus experienced total separation from God in our place. Because it was spiritual in nature–exiting outside of time and space–he experienced it eternally with infinite pain. And he did so once for all of us. (Hebrews 10, 1 Peter 3:18, Romans 6:10)
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
It is by Jesus’ example that we can come to understand that true separation from God renders all other suffering trivial and irrelevant by comparison. Paul grasped at this:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
The fullness of this truth is still remote to me, just barely perceptible, and yet it is changing me.
It provokes me to consider how many people, myself included some days, go about life as if we are of this world, in control, and God is simply a useful and occasional accessory.
When we do so we display the same naïveté as my young nephew–but on a spiritual scale. Like fish who don’t know they are wet we often seem blissfully ignorant to the God who created the world and all that is in it, the one who shapes our experience of the cosmos and gives life to each breath we take.
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man.
We only have the luxury of our delusion because of Jesus. Thanks to him we never have to experience true separation.
I worry that an insidious passivity is creeping into our culture when it comes to God. Similar to baseball, God is being rendered as a sweet, nostalgic idea that belongs to generations past, yet enjoys some lingering support out of sentimentality for an innocence that has long since passed away.
But just as my nephew’s momma loves him too much to cajole him with all the good things she does for him, how much she loves him and how lost he would be without her, God expresses His love for us with similar patience.
Each day He allows us to choose anew whom or what to worship. But one day we will make our choice for a final time; one day we will choose life and love or separation from God–the source of those things–for eternity.
If I am aware that people are fooling themselves into living as if there is no God, what am I willing to do about it?
Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
The bottom line is if I really grasped Christ’s suffering on the cross I would make a fool of myself if it meant ensuring that even my worst enemies got every opportunity to see and experience the good news.
We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ.