Time to check in about our ponderings. In Acts go God, Part 1, I suggested that most of us have some sort of notion how we think God should be, how God should act, how God intervenes or interferes with life. I also suggested that if you got bored pondering your notion of God, maybe consider pondering how your view of God impacts your view of you.
That leads us to probably the most famous verse in all of the New Testament, thanks to those zealous sports fans who intentionally sit, where television cameras are pointed, with handmade signs with this verse written out on it. Also, because he didn’t have enough room on his face for the entire verse, then-college football player Tim Tebow, would just write the verse reference. I could never figure out why someone would just have the verse reference. I’m sure the verse’s message was directed to non-Christians who most likely wouldn’t have any notion of what the reference was! Talk about preaching to the choir!
Alas, the verse I’m referring to is so familiar that it’s often dismissed as a Christian cliché:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. John 3:16
This verse tells us two things about the acts of God. First, we learn that God’s immediate and ultimate relationship to the world is not one of power or indifference but of affection: For God so loved the world. God’s power is subordinate to God’s love. The world is a place loved by God. Like creation, it is good. Terrible things happen because it’s not a perfect place. The world is not without pain and the price of our freedom is learning to live with a world of ambiguity and danger, joy and opportunity. Through all of that, God relates to us out of abundant love. The action of God, the act that counts, is love.
The second thing we learn from the Christian perspective is that God loves us so much that the ultimate expression of God’s love, God’s act of love toward us, is to be with us in the person of Jesus. God’s love is a participating love that engages with us and in our behalf. This is no God content simply to intimidate or ignore. This action of God dignifies the whole of creation by becoming a part of it so that we might participate with God in the making of a new creation. The God who acts in Jesus does so in such a way as to stir us to action wherever and whenever we can and with whatever we have, so that the love of God can be translated into human form and effort.
Why does Jesus matter or a God who is invested? God’s love is God’s ultimate action and it’s given human form in Jesus. God invests God’s self and God’s love in the unlikely form of a man born of a woman, who suffered as we suffer and died as we shall die. Dare we invest any less in humanity than God? Dare we invest any less in ourselves and our world than God? Is not God’s love for us in Jesus a sign that we are lovable and the world is worth loving? If that is so, can there by any possible limit to what we can attempt as God’s representatives in the world?
I don’t believe God interferes in the often-tragic course of the world’s activity. I don’t believe that God is a great puppeteer who somehow pulls strings for good or bad, depending on his temper or ours. Rather, I believe God made the world and loves it so much that God became one of us and made God’s work our opportunity.
The challenge Jesus poses to us in this famous verse is do we mean what we say and will we do what we hear? God has chosen not to act in the form of phenomena, but has chosen to act in the form of men and women who know Jesus, and love and serve God. Everyone will be able to see what kind of builders we are by our willingness to be the action, the activity of God in the world. For it is through us, our patience, our labor, and our love, in a world easily content without God, that God be known.
So the Acts of God become the actions of women and men, like you and me, who share God’s love in a world that is not perfect.