The Restoration of Identity
I have been stuck on a quote by St. Augustine lately, "In loving me, you have made me lovable." I keep thinking about this quote, while also considering all that God is revealing to me theologically right now, and as I always do, I am going back to the same question I have been asking for six years now: "What is Christianity all about?" I believe that for all the books written by brilliant and inspired intellects throughout the centuries on Christianity, that when reduced, boiled down, and stripped of every peripheral pet doctrine and such, that Christianity is very simple. Karl Barth, a famous Christian theologian and thinker, was once questioned after one of his lectures concerning how he would summarize his entire life's work, and in response Barth simply said, "Jesus loves me this I know, because the Bible tells me so."
Barth's response captures the essence of our faith, what it actually is that we have been called to believe. We are called to believe that in spite of the carnal tendencies that seem to lash out from us from time to time, regardless of our ability to follow through on our personal vows and commitments to God, that simple, fragile, faulty folks like you and I have somehow stolen the heart of God. We are beckoned, by the gentle whisper of divine love, to daringly step into the penetrating light of His passionate gaze, and there, to remain for eternity.
In the garden of Eden, man spit in the face of his Father and chose instead to be his own God. In so doing man fell. And as we consider all the suffering, pain, and anguish reverberating throughout human history we can begin to understand just how great that fall truly was. Man sinned by breaking away from God as the standard of that which is right and chose instead to decide for himself what is right. Idolatry quickly blew up into a filthy slew of other crimes of selfishness and lust, staining the human conscience, and trapping him in a cycle of pain that would only end in final judgement. Man exchanged being covered by the glory of God for fig leaves, and traded love and intimacy for guilt and hiding.
But Christ came, God in flesh, to remove the stains of sin, the condemnation we deserved, and to restore us to the penetrating rays of divine affection. The cross demonstrates what God was willing to do for the sake of His great love for us. The cross is a reminder of our worth, our value, and truly of our identity. We are not just screw ups, or bags of flesh and chemical reactions passing through existence. We are something grand, something beautiful, something of unfathomable worth and dignity. We are His sons and daughters, those who are viciously loved by Him.
Jesus came to restore us to the Father, and in so doing, He restores our identity as well. We are loved, embraced, accepted, wanted, and those who are delighted in by the One who sits enthroned in glory. Through loving us, He calls us into a new perspective of ourselves. His cross and affection force us to consider if we will believe that we are truly as valuable as He seems to think we are. Can someone like me truly be that lovable? The heart, now warmed by the revelation of His love and affection, reaches upward trying to lay hold of a lifestyle that would honor the value that has been placed on it. Not in order to pay Him back. Not in order to prove to God that He made a good choice in dying for us. But rather because this heart has come to believe that it is really lovable, valuable, and precious therefore it seeks to live in alignment with that revelation.
Thank you Father, that "In loving me, you have made me lovable."