The risk of love

Without love everything would be meaningless. But love is vulnerable. History is about the eternal covenant of love that God is preparing.

Before the start of the world

The price for the intended covenant of love was high. God knew that from the very beginning. It could only succeed if He Himself would be willing to suffer the consequences of freedom of will.

Yet, He chose to start the world. He wanted us to share in His abundant glory. What a remarkable and priceless decision this was! The Bible speaks of a counsel that the triune God held already before the start of world history, and which gave everything its meaning:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6).

Even before the start of history, He foresaw what was about to happen. He not only wanted to create mankind so they could share in His love and glory but was even willing to pay the price for this Himself. He already anticipated that the future worldwide community would be built around the Son, who by His sacrifice would become the infallible Cornerstone. That is why the Messiah says that He did not come to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). This is the dynamics of the heavenly Kingdom. What unfathomable, divine love!

The apostle Paul points out Gods original intention once again (in one of the longest sentences in the Bible, as if he wanted to say everything in one breath 😉):  

“In Him [Jesus] 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 know to us the mystery of His will, according to His good please 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).

The divine plan, agreed within the Trinity, was carried out in the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. He is the eternal Son of God, in the form of a vulnerable man, who bears the cost of our human choice and failure.

“Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come – in the volume of the book it is written of Me – to do Your will, O God’” (Hebrews 10:5-7).

Why were sacrifices and grain offerings not enough? Because it was really nothing more than a foreshadowing of the real Atonement. Human methods and resources could not solve the real problem. The relationship between God and man could only be set right and restored if God Himself took the consequences of human sin. Only then could the covenant be set straight and continue.

Herein we find the true meaning of Jesus' death. At the moment He died, Jesus spoke the very deep words: “It is finished” (John 19:30). What is it? What was finished? It was the ultimate purpose, the eternal counsel of God, that was accomplished. In this way He paid the price for the free covenant of love. The death and resurrection of the Messiah is the turning point of our entire history, and nothing less but the foundation of the eternal future. Want to know more about this central theme? Go to [Jesus: good news for all the nations] and find out why He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

At the time God subjected creation to a curse (Genesis 3:14-19 / Romans 8:20), which we still experience on a daily basis, He already promised to bear the consequences of sin Himself. He symbolizes this by the first animal sacrifice. He uses animal skin to clothe the people and to cover their shame (Genesis 3:21).

Any sacrifice to follow would remind God of His promise and future reconciliation with humanity. For that reason, the sacrifices were acceptable to Him. It was not to please a capricious God, as was the custom among the Gentiles, but because it was a sign of His own salvation plan. Already in the very first promisewhich He gives to mankind (Genesis 3:15), you hear this echo of His intention. He's going to do it. And everyone, in whatever nation or generation, who has believed in this promise, who has trusted in God's sacrificial love, has been adopted into His universal community [God's family continues to grow].

The apostle Paul can hardly find words to describe God's eternal counsel as it worked out in and through the Messiah:

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?” (Romans 11:33-34)

The prophet Isaiah said it this way, 800 years earlier:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways”, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

You can reason and philosophize about God's unfathomable thoughts, but in the end you will become silent. His ways are forever. It is justly called 'an everlasting gospel' (Revelation 14:6).

The Dynamics of Love and Power

The execution of God's mega project is staggeringly complex. Imagine there is a God who is super smart, powerful and omnipresent. Shouldn't such a superpower be able to get a lot done? He can make extraordinary things, bend things to His will and display His power in huge projects. But what if His purpose is to form a community of people who love Him out of free will, with all their heart, soul, and mind, and their neighbors as themselves? What would your advice be in such a case?

You may have some answers on the shelf. Many people have an answer ready to the question of what God should do. For example, he could start with solving all our problems. He should also make sure that there is no more misery in the world. If that's all taken care of, then surely, we could believe in Him. Then we might even begin to love Him. But honestly consider this scenario. How long would this contact last? People in need know how to find their way to God, but when the wind is in our sails again, we all follow our own way again. Most of the time we bring God in because we need Him, not because we love Him.

Within the Dutch theological landscape there was a man who paid a lot of attention to the relationship between God's love and omnipotence: Kornelis Miskotte. Miskotte was a theologian who lived close to God and close to the people of his time. In the tumultuous period of World War II, the question of God's power and love once again emerged with force. What should one conclude? Is the Almighty one unable to do anything about it? Or does He not care about us?

According to Miskotte, the core of the dilemma lies in a major misunderstanding. We are naturally inclined to put God's omnipotence and power first in our thinking and to see love as a second quality. Omnipotence and power appeals to our elementary experience of fate. Yet in God's project it is exactly the other way around. He does not achieve His goal by great display of power. He uses His power to shape the covenant of love. That changes the dynamics completely.

Getting people to join a covenant of love takes a great deal of divine knowledge, experience, patience, and insight. God's power, therefore, is not primarily seen in ostentatious matters, but in the small miracle. Through a smile, a change of mind, the boundary of an evil action, in a coincidence or in one quote that sticks with you. He uses His power and wisdom to put people on the track of His project. It is in such apparently small things, which contribute to the growth of His covenant, that God's greatness is manifested.

In our weakness to change reality, His strength is revealed in our lives. In what is foolishness to the world His wisdom is manifested. Through the suffering of Christ, the power of darkness has been dethroned. God's way with us humans is very strange in the eyes of those who are focused on strength, status, intelligence, immediate results, and self-interest. But He will make it all happen in His own way. His promise is our stronghold.

“And we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).