But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God—John 1:12
So, I have been asking myself that same question I posed earlier in this series of blogs on the theological virtues…what is the Good News of Christ for me? The elementary things I mentioned earlier, repentance, faith toward God, resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment have all had their day, their time of primacy, in my thinking about the Good News for me. Because they are foundation, they remain very important. But, they are no longer enough. The question:
Isn’t there something more?
has continued to plague me.
Now I find the Good News–my foundational hope–is in the promise of God that has been increasingly revealed over thousands of years. Seems like a no-brainer, but it hasn’t been for me. The promise started with God’s promise of land and becoming a great nation made to Abram (Genesis 12:1-3). It opened up more as a promise of kingdom with God’s man always on the throne in the promise made to King David (2Samuel 7:8-17). With the later prophets there were glimpses of something more, an early marriage metaphor (e.g., Hosea 1:2) and of God delighting in us (Zephaniah 3:17).
Yet, I was confused. With the person of Jesus came the doctrine of the Trinity formulated by the early church fathers: “God is three persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit); Each person is fully God; There is only one God.” In the context of the Trinity there were many metaphors: friend of Jesus (John 15:14), slave (bond-servant) of Jesus (Galatians 1:10), bride of Jesus (Revelation 21:2), child of God (John 1:12), united with God (John 14:23; 17:21), sibling of Jesus (Romans 8:29), and our being filled with the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). As I moved past the elementary things of what God had done for me, I found I had an identity crisis regarding who I was as a Christian. Each of these metaphors gives a different relational image between me and God…which is it?
Over the past five or six years and with the help of many men and women past and present, each much smarter than I am, the promise of God has been slowly dawning on me. Here is how I see it at this point in my journey with Jesus:
I am being united with Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit; Christ brings me into oneness with our Father (not in the pantheistic sense). Though it doesn’t conflate all of the above metaphors, I think it happens like this:
For more than 40 years I was a son of Satan (John 8:44). It was an abusive relationship, a sick distortion of love as with any abusive relationship; this one masquerades as father-son but is truly master-slave in the worst sense. When I turned to Jesus, all I knew was slavery and abuse disguised as love. While I believe that at that moment I actually became God’s son, I didn’t know it nor did I understand what it meant. So, I acted as I knew how, as a slave of Jesus.
It is much like any human who has been abused. It takes a long time for him or her to begin to trust someone who genuinely loves them. As Jesus’ slave, I was always waiting for and expecting the abuse; my image of God was a God who tallies mistakes and punishes capriciously. As I began to believe God could be trusted, we became friends and we interacted as friends. And, over time, as sometimes happens with human friends, our love as friends began to deepen into something more.
Along with some theologians I believe that the Holy Spirit is the personification of the loving relationship between Jesus and His Father. Their relationship is so real is has personhood. That same personified love is helping me to become one spirit with Jesus (1Corinthians 6:16-17; the two become one, the marriage metaphor). As I learn to cooperate with the Spirit in me to become increasingly purified through my obedience and God’s help and discipline, I draw closer in unity with Christ. (St. John of the Cross used a window metaphor: the purer the glass the more light shines through.) So in Christ, to use St. Paul’s phrase, I am actually God’s child even now. God the Father looks at me with the same loving gaze as He looks at Jesus. With Christ in me, another of Paul’s phrases, and the work of the Holy Spirit, I an actually becoming one with Jesus, taking on His characteristics (the so-called fruits of the Spirit of Galatians 5:22-23, and I gaze upon our Father with the gaze of a truly loving son, the gaze of Jesus.
St. John of the Cross says this (Ascent of Mount Carmel):
Love effects a likeness between the lover and the loved.
Love is the transformative agent for humans into the likeness of God as we were first created to be (Genesis 1:27). It should be no surprise; after all, God is love (1 John 4:8) and knows us only through love (1Corinthians 8:3). Therefore, as I love Jesus more deeply I find I increasingly become like Him; the two of us becoming one through the power of Love personified, the Holy Spirit.
So, this is the promise of God for me, it is the basis of my fundamental hope: that I am united with Jesus in love through the power of the Holy Spirit, and that Jesus will lead me into oneness with our Father. It is the greatest not-yet-being kind of hope, the only real hope for me to become who I really am and was created to be.
Some have hopes of a reward of a big mansion in heaven (John 14:2) or to finally become holy (1Peter 1:16) or to sit on a cloud for all eternity playing a harp (that sounds more like an agonizing existence to me). I look forward to being face-to-face with the One I am coming to love so deeply, becoming one with: Jesus. This is the only reward I want: the time to know God intimately as I truly am, and, through Jesus, to be in a genuine Father-child relationship with our Father as a part of the family of God. This is my foundational hope.
I think this is the foundational hope offered by God to the world. I believe the world is desperate for this hope.