The older I get and the more I learn about living as a Christian, there is one thing that astounds me anew and catches me over and over again. That one thing is the love of God. The hymnwriter, Frederick M. Lehman, said that we could never possibly write the love of God completely:
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
And I truly believe that it would be a lifelong task to communicate the love of God. Lately I have been in a reflective mode when I haven’t been trying to finish writing my research papers for school and I have been reading a lot of Rich Mullins old stuff. I found a great site that has an archive of all of his old magazine columns and the lyrics to his songs and even transcripts of some of his concerts. The transcripts crack me up and bring me to tears and in some of those moments of off the cuff talking, he said the most amazing things about God’s love and living in this world as His kid.
And I kept thinking, maybe somehow, if I really read the Bible, if I really studied, my faith, that that would give me a sense of belonging, that I would find some kind of home there. And the funny thing is that I haven’t, yet.
People often ask me what I believe. Which always cracks me up, because you always think, well, why would I write that song, Creed, if I didn’t believe it? That should pretty much outline it for ya. They want to know what my millennial view is. I don’t even have a millennial view. I can’t see it. They want to know what I think about baptism. Well, I think a lot of things about baptism, but I don’t really know what I believe about it. My faith isn’t in that. My faith isn’t in Creationism. Certainly isn’t in the Religious Right kind of reasoning. Everything that has ever happened has failed, and it will continue to fail. But I think that’s because God is a jealous God. And He will not share us even with our best ideas about Him.
And when Christ has stripped away all of your ‘phony-baloney’ kind of systematic theology, all of your lame, Protestant kind of stupidity, all of your Catholic hang-ups, when Christ has stripped away everything that we have invented about Him, then maybe we will encounter Him as He really is. And we will know ourselves as we really are. So don’t be afraid that your faith gets shaken. Could be that God is shaking you forward, and shaking you free.
And the issue is not which side of which fence you end up on. The issue is really, has to do with, what does it mean to love Christ? What does it mean to obey Him? And I’m not really even sure what that is. But if there is any meaning in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, it is this: that there is a God who created us, and who loves us so much that He would stop at nothing to bring us to Him.
And I really suspect that of all the things we think we want to know, the only thing we really want to know, is that we are loved. And if Jesus means anything, He means that you are loved. I hope you know that.
You know, ten or fifteen years ago, I was pretty sure I had it all figured out. I had always been pretty smart and “wise for my age” as a young person. I had a pretty good handle on who was right and who was wrong. And a funny thing happened; God shook me forward and He keeps shaking me free from all that I “knew” that I knew. Believe me after a couple of undergraduate and graduate systematic theology classes with one more about to start, I am convinced that God isn’t willing to share our affections with our ideas about Him. He wants us to love Him the only way we know how, imperfectly!
There was something else in the concert transcripts that hit me just where I needed a hit:
We are not saved because we’re good. We’re good because we’re saved. Never forget what Jesus did for you. Never take lightly what it cost Him. And never assume that if it cost Him His very life, that it won’t cost you yours. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven. Why? Because God has a really big house, but He’s gonna have a lot of guests and He doesn’t want all that luggage to deal with. If we could lay down our stuff and let God love us, I think we’d pretty nearly be in heaven. And I hope you’re there. That’s where God wants you to be. And maybe you didn’t know that. I think a lot of us think that God is looking for ways to keep us out of His kingdom. Well, if that were the case, then Jesus would be absurd. But, if Jesus Christ is Who the Scriptures teach us that He is, then God wants us to be saved; we know that God wants us to be with Him.
The Bible isn’t a question and answer book. It isn’t just a book of rules or simply a guide to “better living.” The Bible is a book that tells us we are loved and it tells us about the One who loved us more than anything or anyone else ever could.