Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Who Can Forever Resist the Love of God?

If there were a being who was eternally impervious to God, forever able to resist the Love of God, would not such a being be greater than God? Indeed, would not that being then be God? But we are created by God to be the image of God, which is to say, the image of Love, for God is Love. We were made by Love and for Love, to be loved and to love. It is inherent to our true nature, what it means to be human. The evil that has invaded the human heart cannot change that but can only obscure it.

Yet, our Lord Jesus Christ has come to deliver us from this darkness of heart, this depravity of mind, this enmity of the will against Love, which is to say, against God. This is the truth of the Incarnation, in which Christ has united divinity with humanity, God with humankind, Love with the human heart. And it is the truth of the Cross and Resurrection, by which Christ has defeated death and the devil (who held the power of death), and all of the powers that blind us and pull us away from Love. 

In self-giving, other-centered, cross-shaped love, our Lord Jesus submitted himself to shameful death by the wickedness of our own darkened hearts. And by that one death defeated death for all, for Love is stronger than death. Who, then, could forever resist the love of God?

There is no heart so hard
that the Love of Christ
cannot soften it,
No mind so darkened
that the Light of Christ
cannot enlighten it,
No will so bound
that the Truth of Christ
cannot set it free.
And so shall God
be All in All.

Monday, May 13, 2024

The Fullness of Him Who Fills All in All

And God put all things under Christ’s feet, and gave him to the Church as head over all things. Now the Church is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23 NET).

This passage is packed with stunning revelation. Not only that God has placed all things under the feet of Christ crucified, risen and ascended to the right hand of the Father. Not only that God has given Christ as head of the Church, and that the Church is, consequently, the body of Christ. Not only that Christ fills everything in every way. But this: The Church is the fullness of Christ.

Earlier in Ephesians 1, Paul tells us what God’s mysterious will and good pleasure is, which he purposed in himself and which is perfectly accomplished in Jesus Christ:

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace  which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth — in Him. (Ephesians 1:7-10)

Christ has not merely come at the end of time, he is himself the end of time, the fullness of time, the meaning and purpose of time. In him, God gathers together all in heaven and on earth — everyone and everything — bringing all into union, with Christ as head (anakephalaiomai). At the end of the chapter, we see Christ placed far above every rule, authority, power and dominion, far above every name that could ever be invoked. This is the Ascension. 

God has given Christ to the Church as the head (kephale) over all things. Paul specifically has in mind the relationship of head and body. He speaks of Christ as the head of the church, and of the Church as the body of Christ. Likewise, since Christ is the head of all things, what does that say about all things in heaven and on earth but that all is, in this way, the body of Christ.

Christ fills all things, in every way, with himself, and Paul declares that the Church, the Body of Christ, is that fullness which fills all in all. Being filled with Christ in every way, everything in creation is finally revealed to be the body of Christ, which is to say, the Church. This is what the end of time looks like. Fr. John Behr puts it very well for me:

I can no longer see the Church as a select group of people called out from unbelievers. Rather, the Church is the whole of Creation seen eschatologically; from which we already see islands in the present, called out from “the world” (in the negative sense).

Friday, May 10, 2024

Christ Has Ascended — And We With Him

Forty days after our Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, and in the fullness of his humanity and his divinity, he ascended into heaven. Paul speaks of this in the wonderful prayer he makes for the Church in Ephesians 1: that we may know the wonderful anticipation to which God has called us, that we may know the riches of the glorious inheritance God has in us, and that we may know the unfathomable greatness of his power for us. He tells, here and elsewhere, about that great power, and we see the glory of our Ascended Lord Jesus:

That Same Power,
The Mighty Strength
God exercised when He
Raised Christ from the dead
And seated him at the
Right hand of the Father
In the heavenly realms,
Far above all rule,
Far above all authority,
Far above all power,
Far above all dominion,
Far above every name—
The Name above All Names.

God has placed
All Things under his feet
And given him to the Church
To be head over All Things
In Heaven and on Earth,
To the Church,
Which is His Body,
The Fullness of Him
Who Fills All Things

Through the Incarnation, Christ united divinity with humanity, God with humankind, and became Human Being, of which we all partake and by which we are all now defined. Because of the Incarnation, the death of Christ has become our death, too. The resurrection of Christ has become our resurrection, too. And the ascension of Christ has become our ascension, too, the ascension of All Humankind. 

Only a few verses later, in Ephesians 2:6, Paul declares, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Christ has ascended into heaven, and we have ascended with him. This is not future promise but accomplished act and present reality. It is the good news of the gospel.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Unconditional Love, Justice and Mercy

Unless we understand the
unconditional love of God,
we understand neither the
justice nor mercy of God,
for God is One.

God is Love. (1 John 4:8)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Let us first understand this: God is love. Love is not merely something God does; love is what God is. God loves because it is God’s nature to love. For God to ever do otherwise would be to cease to be God.

We must also understand that God is not a being of parts, each of which must be balanced out by the others. No, God is one. God’s attributes are one, not many. They are not held in tension, in competition with each other. With God, love, justice and mercy are not three different things but three different ways of speaking of the same thing. If we do not understand the divine simplicity, the oneness of God, we will fail to properly understand the divine love, justice and mercy.

God is love, so the justice of God is not retributive, because love is not retributive. Rather, the justice of God is redemptive, restorative. It is not opposite to mercy but is the very manifestation of mercy, and mercy is the manifestation of justice. The divine justice puts things right, which is exactly what love does. The Love/Justice/Mercy of God releases what has been bound, redeems what has been lost, restores what has been broken, heals what has been wounded.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

The Pattern of All Creation

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Word, the Logos of God. Which is to say, Christ is the Logic, the Reason, the Purpose, the Plan of God. He is the Will and the Way of God, the meaning and pattern of all that is. All things are made through him, by him, for him and in him, and in him all things consist, cohere and hold together (Colossians 1:16-17). Everything that exists receives its being from him and in him.

The good news of the gospel is that he who is the Logos of God became human being (John 1:14), in whom all humankind participates. Jesus Christ defines human being, what it is to be human. He is at once the full revelation of humanity and the full revelation and glory of divinity.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth ... No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:14,18)

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

The Cross and Resurrection is the full revelation of God and the divine glory. There we see not only what it means to be human but also what it means to be God. We understand what it means that God is love (1 John 4:8), that love is self-giving, other-centered and cross-shaped.

Christ Crucified and Risen is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. Indeed, through the Cross and Resurrection, he is the foundation of the world. For he who is the firstborn from the dead is the firstborn of creation (Colossians 1). In this way, he is the paradigm of the whole universe; in his self-giving, other-centered, cross-shaped love, all things find their reason and meaning. And so he is the fractal reality of all Creation, the recurring pattern, at every layer and level of everything that is.