What grace communicates...
My 21-year-old daughter had to write an essay for one of her classes. It is so beautifully written (and no that isn't mom bias!!) that I thought I would share it with all of you. Enjoy!
THE RADICAL LOVE OF JESUS - WHAT GRACE COMMUNICATES
The most significant transforming truth I've come to understand this past year and a half has been the radical love of God. It's a simple reality that I've claimed to know and encounter and yet something I've realized is that I knew absolutely nothing about the radical love of our Jesus. We often take the spotlight off of how radical it is and make it about ourselves. We make it about our sin, and our separation, and our need for a bridge back to God. But the crushing reality the Holy Spirit brought me to is that the cross was never about my lack or separation. It was always about a bold display of love. A love that cries out "YES!" to His people, "THIS IS WHO YOU ARE TO ME. THIS IS WHO YOU HAVE ALWAYS BEEN." Never once was it about a wrath with which I have been taught that my God was bubbling.
As long as I can remember, I saw the cross as a place where God poured out His judgment, His anger. But how can my God be both consumed by love and also wrath? The two oppose entirely one another! I have been taught that sin was so offensive to this holy, all-powerful God that He could not enter or be near it. How ridiculous is that? How can an all-powerful, strong God not be near something as little as my sin- when Romans describes sin as just 'missing the mark'! How can such a loving God be offended by my merely missing the mark? That sounds like a sensitive man, a man who isn't strong at all. I've come to learn that isn't God whatsoever. My earthly father is never offended when I miss it! He embraces me even more, pouring the truth of who I actually am into me. I can't imagine how much more my heavenly Father does that to me! Not only is He not offended by sin, but I also go as far as to say that He doesn't even care about it. And I say that because the truth is: He cares about our hearts. The law, the cross- it was all to point out that our hearts were far from Him after the garden, but His was never far from us.
The garden has become one of my favorite stories. Holy Spirit has completely shifted my view of it! I had been so used to hearing an angry God call out to Adam after he had 'sinned,' "WHERE ARE YOU?!" When what happened was Adam hid, and a loving, tender Father cried out, "My son? Where have you gone? You are far from me!" All Adam did was miss the mark of his original design! In my relearning of this story, I found the word 'sin' isn't even in it. The word used in the garden story is 'disobeyed' which is the word shema in Hebrew. It's 'to listen.' Nowhere in this story is God angry towards any 'sin.' In fact, He is overwhelmed by a passionate, zealous love that says, "I WILL NOT LOSE YOU TO YOURSELF BECAUSE YOU FAILED TO LISTEN." The Father never separated Himself from humanity out of anger or disgust toward his son's now presumed 'unholiness.' God sought humanity out! God went looking for Adam because the view of the son had not changed. What changed was our view of the Father. Here is where we see a passionate love story unfold.
When I came to these conclusions, my theology as a whole was on tilt. How then did the law, the wild stories from the Old Testament fit in with all this??? For if my God is the 'same yesterday, today and forever,' how could He be angry in the beginning stories of the Bible and pure love after a day of judgment toward His son? He couldn't. So I had to go searching out what wrath and anger meant because those are words used in scripture! Here began my journey of grace- my journey of actually understanding the radical love of Jesus.
As I was reading up on this, seeking out, essentially, who God is- I discovered the meaning behind the word 'wrath.' I found the word used most often in the New Testament is the word orge which means, 'any strong passion.' It's the origin of the English words, 'orgy' and 'orgasm.' I would say those are definitely not words having to do with anger! I would even say the latter has to do with a response of overflowing love towards another person! I read a book by a man named Steve McVey called Beyond an Angry God. In his book, he describes 'wrath' like this: 'If a small child picked up a snake and his dad ran toward him screaming, grabbed him up and was slapping his hand, the child would perceive it as anger but in actuality, what he would be experiencing would be "fierce love."'
I discovered that the word wrath or orge is a violent love towards anything that harms us- such as sin and death. I called my mom, absolutely undone by everything I was learning. I felt as though I had no idea what the actual purpose of the life of Christ was until this very moment. She shared with me that the root word of orge is orego. It means 'to stretch oneself out to touch or grasp something.' This is what Jesus did toward us! The radical love of Jesus stretched Himself out (on the cross) to grasp us! Another meaning of orego is, "to yearn after, to desire, to stretch toward (to pull towards). "The Father in His love for us, desired us and stretched toward us (through Jesus), pulling us to Himself."
Writing all of this has me wholly undone yet again. I find myself in tears as the reality of the garden married to the reality of the cross comes to settle within my heart. I have come to know the heart of the radical love of Jesus. It's Hebrews 12:9, "His jealousy over us burns like fire." It's Hebrews 2:6, "Somewhere in the scriptures it is written, "What is it about the human species that God cannot get them out of his mind? What does he see in the son of man, that so captivates his gaze?" It's God leaving the garden with Adam. It's the radical, "YES! YOU ARE MINE!" of the cross! It's the law fulfilling the emptiness within itself- crying out for an example of how to actually reach God and thus leading us to the realization we never lost the relationship with Him!
This long journey has offended my mind and my theology. This truth has unraveled me completely! I feel like Paul, "Overwhelmed by what grace communicates, I bow my knees in awe before the Father." Eph. 3:14 Mirror Bible, "My heart cry is now, "The secret is out! His cherished love dream now unfolds in front of our very eyes." Eph. 1:9 Mirror Bible, "Grace communicates my origin. Grace communicates that I am the very dream of the Creator." Grace communicates I never lost right standing with God. Grace is not an excuse for me to do as I please but rather it causes my heart to shema to listen and respond to all He is and says. This is grace. This is the radical love of Jesus.