Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Am Infinitely Superfluous

My lengthy absence from this blog is called "Kaleo." What a wonderful and wild ride we have had these past few weeks: bungy jumping and a full-out Kaleo Christmas and even classes and assignments! But now students are at home, and so am I, and after a long nap this afternoon I think my head is clear enough to write again.

I have encouraged a number of people in the past while to pick up C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia again (or for the first time), and I hope you will too. If you haven't read any of these recently, your theological education is incomplete! Here is a great quote from the brain-stunning conclusion to the second of his other fictional series, which you should also read (but not to your children):
He has no need at all of anything that is made. An eldil is not more needful to Him than a grain of dust: a peopled world no more needful than a world that is empty: but all needless alike, and what all add to Him is nothing. We also have no need of anything that is made. Love me, my brothers, for I am infinitely superfluous, and your love shall be like His, born neither of your need nor of deserving, but a plain bounty. Blessed be He! (from Perelandra)
A.W. Tozer says something similar in Knowledge of the Holy:
The picture of a nervous, ingratiating God fawning over men to win their favor is not a pleasant one; yet if we look at the popular conception of God that is precisely what we see. Twentieth century Christianity has put God on charity. So lofty is our opinion of ourselves that we find it quite easy, not to say enjoyable, to believe that we are necessary to God. But the truth is that God is not greater for our being, nor would He be less if we did not exist. That we do exist is altogether of God’s free determination, not by our desert nor by divine necessity.
How humbling to us as his creatures! Although he takes delight in us, his delight would be no less if we did not exist! His love is all for our benefit - pure in its motivation and untainted by any desire for personal gain. By his grace we bring him glory and praise, but it is not because he is need of an appreciative audience. He simply wants us to enjoy him forever.

When we “call on the name of the Lord,” it is out of necessity and need and utter dependence. But when God calls us, it is out of generosity, kindness and grace. He calls us, not because we are qualified or because he needs us, but out of pure benevolence and extravagance. He is like the master woodworker inviting into his shop the little child who poked his head in the door out of curiosity. He could get more done without him, but out of love and compassion he teaches and encourages the child to do what he has been doing. He is glad for the child's quick "thank you" as he runs off for lunch, but would not demand it for the world.

It’s something I have to constantly keep in mind, both to avoid prideful comparison of my ministry to others, and to keep from trying to bear everything on my own.

So think of what Jesus means by this: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." Isn't that astounding? That God, whose love for us is so pure that it ignores what we deserve and has no thought of personal gain, would command us to love like him! No wonder he chided his disciples for thinking well of themselves when they loved their friends but not their enemies.

This is his call on us: To do no less than what he is doing in this world, reserving all of our "need-love" for him alone. That is, to so trust in him for all that we need that we would look for it from no one else. To so obey his new command that we would not flinch at extending love to the most undeserving wretch. As Mother Teresa said, "I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love."

The understanding that we are "infinitely superfluous" to God can lead to one of only two responses: to lose interest in his work and play with wood shavings in the corner, or to aspire to become like him and do what he is doing.

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