The Greatest Mystery
There are many mysteries in this world. Some are silly, like how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop? Some are contentious, such as the creation/evolution debate—how did we get here? Some are more profound, such as does the soul exist and if so, where in the body and how?
To me, the greatest mystery of all is God’s Love. Why does He love us?! Seriously, you look around at all of the crap in this world, all of the ‘bad people,’ all of the evil actions, and my favorite, all of the profoundly stupid things we do, and there are times we are merely a pathetic colony of parasites on an otherwise interesting mudball in space.
Who in their right mind would create us in the first place and then love us in the second place and then die for us in the third place?
Sure, there is the great nobility of the human spirit, the highest ambitions and achievements, the tenderness between lovers or a mother and child, but God even says that in His eyes, our most righteous acts are like the filthiest uncleannesses of which we can conceive, and that’s us at our best!
So I come back to why would He lower Himself to wallow in our mud, put up with our thick-headedness and malice, and even to submit to unjust torture and the worst of executions? It reminds me of the scene in The Matrix, where the evil program, Mr. Smith, wipes his fingertips in Keanu Reeve’s sweat and smells it bemoaning how much he hates our stench.
C. S. Lewis explores this in The Screwtape Letters, as the demons are completely baffled by God’s love for humanity. We are disgusting lower lifeforms to them, and the only reason we even come on their radar is because God cares so much about us that we become the easiest target for their wrath against God.
Somehow, it isn’t until we truly recognize how unbelievably humble and hopeless our situation is that we can begin to recognize the impossibility of the Gospel. It flies in the face of anything and everything logical, or even reasonable.
The circus becomes even more bizarre the more you study the Old Testament, and how our ‘heroes’ of the faith are simply pathetically normal at best, and rogues at worst. The ‘children of Israel’ are a mob of whiny ingrates that deserve every judgment against them. And we are no different!
And yet, and yet, “for the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross.” What was that joy? Having us redeemed and with Him in eternity! Think about it—how many of your coworkers, neighbors, even friends and relations do you really want to have around for eternity? And for those few, would you die to get them there?
At the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples, “I have earnestly desired to share this Passover meal with you.” These are the same people who in just a couple of hours would abandon Him in sheer fright and His closest friend would deny even knowing Him three times.
A common response you may have to this diatribe is that He loves us because we are created in His image. On the surface, the cynical response is, “so what.” If you create, say a masterpiece machine, perfectly crafted, yet it becomes a lemon, most people would try to fix it, but eventually get to the point where they just toss it, and either give up or start over from scratch. Even God wrestled with this option in the days of Noah.
But I think there is something there to the imago Dei argument. And that is part of the mystery. Just as a fish, it is said, doesn’t know it is wet, the imago Dei is so much a part of our substance, that we struggle to even identify it. Furthermore, to the extent we can identify aspects of it, the contempt of the familiar leads us away from seeing its true value.
Really. Take some time to think through this. The almighty, eternal, righteous, holy, good God put upon us the very imprint of His Being, a thing He apparently has done nowhere else. No matter how tarnished, beat up, moldy, muddy, twisted we become, that Divine image is still at the core of our being. It is beyond our ability to understand how precious that makes us to Him, and I’m not even sure we’ll understand it in Heaven, but somehow, in some way, we are a treasure to Him that is beyond value, beyond even His own Self that He would go to such lengths to reclaim us.
I don’t get it. All of the greatest mysteries of science are beneath irrelevant, and comically so in comparison to this great mystery of God’s love for us.
We can dismiss it as the most bizarre fantasy humanity has ever conceived in a drunken, stoned stupor, or we can put our minds to exploring it as the most incredible aspect of the reality of our existence and treat it with the awed reverence of a suddenly appearing artifact of some advanced civilization, and take it as the gift it is meant to be. It is too out there to be a deliberately crafted lie. The closest the Gospel could come in that direction is in the form of a perverse joke, and it just doesn’t make sense in that context.
Fantasy or hyperreality. Those are really our best options. Which is it for you? St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, that if it is for this life only that we hope in Christ, we are to be the most pitied of fools, for we have believed in a grotesque fantasy. But if Christ did rise from the dead, physically, bodily, as Himself, then it is the most important thing for a person to know and respond to, and in that alone does life have purpose and hope.
But it is still a mystery.
But I tell you firmly, He is risen.