God's Love is in All Things - Including You!
Here at Riviera Baptist Church, our youth group is currently working through a Bible Challenge to read through the first few books of the New Testament. Several of our students are on track to complete the challenge - which is awesome!
In light of this, I have been thinking a lot about the Gospels (as one would guess), but also about revelation in general: how Jesus is the highest end of revelation.
The Gospels center on the life of Jesus Christ. Though they are similar in content, they are unique regarding which details are included and the structure in which they are presented. The Sermon on the Mount, being sparse and fragmented in Luke, is peculiar to Matthew’s Gospel. This sermon, consisting of three chapters of discourse, is a re-interpretation of the Law through the person of Christ. “You have heard that it was said . . .” Jesus would allude to the prophets of old, “. . . but now I say. . . .”
This is not Jesus rejecting the law, but rather His perfecting it through His own perfection. His law deals not with His morality, but with the nature of God. God is not into rule-following, but unity. To be close to, or one with, a God who literally is all necessitates us being like Him. Our proximity to Him is strengthened as we, by the strength of His grace, reflect His nature in greater measure.
The law of God is love (Matthew 22:27-40), meaning that our unity with Him consists in love. And His love is the love that is to be shared with all people: “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another (John 13:34). We all – every one of us – have been created for the love of Christ, just as we’ve all been “created through Him” (John 1:3). Once an immaterial mass, “formless and void,” passed through the divine essence and entity of love, known as Jesus, and took shape. We are “bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh,” created as His counterpart. When our pre-existent material passed through Him, we were created in His likeness – meaning the “stuff” that He’s made up of is the stuff that we’re made up of. And because He is “one,” our “stuff” and His “stuff” are always attempting fusion.
We’re not just called to this. We are created to “abide in His love” (John 15:9), to live in the midst of His all-loving presence, which is “at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Hans Urs von Balthasar said, “The word of God speaks of the Father’s world of eternity being open and accessible to the believer, and we must not water this down, as if the world were merely in the future, merely promised, merely spiritual, and not also present, realized and of the body” (Prayer, 50).
Although our destiny is not fully actualized, it is fully present. Our destiny is oneness with the God who calls Himself Love. And God is all around us. He is not omnipresent in the sense that His presence is off-ground, hovering in the air about us. All things were created through Christ (John 1:3), meaning that all things are a gift of Himself to us, and we too are a gift to all others – provided that we live in accordance with our calling.
In a very real way, God can be found everywhere, in everything. The earth “is bathed in the radiance which comes from a heaven which has already been laid open” (Prayer, 51). We too often bifurcate reality into sacred and secular, holy and profane, pure and defiled. Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” (cf. Mark 16:15; 1 Timothy 2:4; Colossians 1:16-17). Christ is after all! All situations and all people are redeemable if we embrace the love of God in all, rather than distorting His love into exclusivism.
Jesus spent time with the drunkard and the glutton, the crazies, the tax collectors, the harlots, and more – not insisting for a second that they were untouchable due to their tempting nature, but understanding that they too were people deeply loved by God, created for His love, and wanting, even if unknowingly, His love, yet feeling to shameful and too hateful to reach for it. If we could embrace the love of God in us – really embrace the person of Jesus – we too could reach the darkness in the world that mainstream Christianity has told us to run from for so long, yet to which God is reaching every moment.
Director of Youth & Discipleship
Riviera Baptist Church