- "We need to let it soak in that there is nothing we can do to make God love us more...and nothing we can do to make God love us less." - Philip Yancey
- "We all need to know that God does not love us because we are good; God loves us because God is good. Nothing humans can do will ever decrease or increase God's eternal eagerness to love." - Richard Rohr
When I first heard statements like these, I used to worry that folks would conclude, "So it doesn't matter what you do." Jesus never said, "It doesn't matter what you do." In fact, neither do Yancey or Rohr. It's obvious that Christ taught us to love others and emulate his grace in real life. That matters a lot! Christ forbade his followers from harming or judging others. So discovering God's grace isn't a green light for an "anything goes" attitude.
But worries aside, the New Testament shows us how and why these opening aphorisms are exactly right.
Consider the phrase, 'there's nothing you can do to make God.' This is true: no one can 'make God' do or be anything other than what God is. God loves us with an infinite love, because God IS love ... but nothing in heaven or earth or under the earth can constrain God to love us or not love us. His love is what theologians call a 'self-donation.' We don't seduce God's love by being either adorable or pathetic -- his love flows entirely from his nature and is utterly voluntary. God is "moved to compassion," not because we manipulate him with our pleas, but because God is compassion itself and his love flows without ceasing wherever it is received. My experience of God's love may fluctuate as I welcome it or rebuff it, but God himself cannot love us more or less. His love, by nature, is not dependent on our behaviour or jerked around by our emotional rollercoasters.
For God to be God means that he is the infinite perfection of all we call goodness and love. God can't become more than perfect or more than infinite. God cannot become more loving or more God. If he could become 1% more, that would mean he's only 99% now ... and that would be 1% less than God. Get it? And he cannot become less in any way -- less God, less infinite, less love -- because that would diminish him.
This makes God sound static. But he isn't. While God is not ever constrained or rattled, seduced or manipulated, God is not static or stationary. God may be immovable, but he is not immobile. God's love is an infinite spring (the Source never diminishes) in an unceasing flow (the River never stops).
Imagine the love of God as a powerful waterfall, infinitely bigger and more powerful than Niagara Falls. No matter how much volume of life-giving water is poured out, the Source never diminishes at all. There will never be less love because the Spring is infinite.
And imagine that the waterfall itself constantly and continuously gushes in a way that can't be increased or decreased ... the gallons per second is measured as absolutely steady because it is also infinite. The fact that the waterfall never ceases, never freezes over, never runs out and never goes away doesn't really make it static, does it? It is immovable but it is not immobile. This, I believe, is what some theologians meant by "God is pure act" and others imply by "God is a verb."
Now, what if we hopped into a little raft (our lives as individuals) or piloted a huge ship (any human movement or nation) -- and ventured into the waters beneath this infinite flow of divine love: would turning right or left 'make' the waterfall increase or decrease in its infinite volume? Would paddling harder have any impact whatsoever on the flow? Would it diminish or supplement the bottomless Spring at all? Of course not. No raft or ship or dam is big enough to clog up or slow down the ever-enduring mercies and everlasting loving-kindness of this infinite Love, this eternal God.
What we do in our boats or with our boats still matters. God still may say turn right rather than left so you don't run aground on the rocks. God may still say paddle harder or stop paddling to help us not ram into other boats. We're not saying 'anything goes' or 'it doesn't matter.' But we are saying, left or right, faster or slower, sink or swim -- as important as they are -- doesn't increase or diminish the flow of his love.
Further, while our behaviour doesn't affect God's love, that doesn't mean God's love has no effect on us! In our little analogy, flowing with God's love is going to be easier than fighting against the current. Surrendering to the flow of God's love is the key. Let it carry you along. Flow with him. Imagine that Source gushing up inside you and flowing through your life through surrender.
In Galatians 2, when Paul says, "I am crucified with Christ," he means, "I surrendered. I stopped bucking the flow. Stopped kicking against the goads." "Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives within me" means that Paul stopped religiously paddling for God's love and let Christ's love carry him along." When he says, "And now the life I live, I live by faith in the Son of God," he means that he's trusts the flow of Christ within him and flows with that love. He stopped trying to 'make' God love him more because nothing he had done ever 'made' God love him less. And so in Ephesians 3, Paul prays for us too, that we too would see how high and wide and long and deep the love of God -- oceans of it -- is for us.
Lord, let it be!
Author of "A More Christlike God"
Brad Jersak is an author, a core faculty member of Westminster Theological Centre, and senior editor at Plain Truth Ministries. His previous nine books include Can You Hear Me? Tuning in to the God Who Speaks, Stricken by God? Nonviolent Atonement and the Victory of Christ, and Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hope, Hell and the New Jerusalem. For more information, visit http://www.ptm.org/christlike.
"A More Christlike God"
By Brad Jersak
April 22, 2015
Plain Truth Ministries is Christianity without the religion.