Monday, April 17, 2006

Why the cross matters

On Good Friday, we looked at God's omniscience, His total knowledge of our situations past, present and future. Some of us can accept that God knows it all. The trouble is we don't always think He cares. There is a tension here that we have to resolve. If God knows it all, why doesn't He spare us from pain. Archibald MacLeish's retelling of Job's story contains the haunting refrain: "If God is good He is not god, if God is god He is not good." In other words, either God can be loving or He can be powerful, but He can't be both. It's the age-old question of evil and we are all troubled by it. In the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Rabbi Kushner famously concluded that God is caring but simply helpless to intercede.

I think this is one of the reasons that Jesus took on the form of a man, lived a real human life, and suffered and died on the cross. The incarnation, God clothed in flesh, put the otherness of the Almighty on a collision course with the fleshy reality of mankind. Because He lived in our skin, Jesus has more than a remote sympathetic interest in our plight. He has true empathy, a compassion that comes from knowing our plight intimately.

What seems a paradox to us is simply the perfect convergence of God's character. Only God can perfectly balance love and power. We can't. And because we can't we have a difficult time understanding or accepting how God can do it.

David, the man after God's own heart, struggled with this too. The Psalms are full of his joyful proclamations of God's overwhelming love...and his pleading for the God he thinks has deserted him. In Psalm 62, however, David finds rest. In a poetic expression of emphasis, David asserts in this song: "One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O LORD, are loving."

Only in this carefully balanced and whole image of God's character can we learn to fully trust Him and rest in His promises.

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