Commentary

God’s Fondness for Mankind Sparks Holy Week Reflection

By WESLEY SMITH | Apr 17, 2019

One of the best known and best loved verses in all the Scriptures says this about God: He is fond of the human race  –  “God so loved the World” (John 3:16).

The late C.S. Lewis, a British writer and lay theologian, pictured God taking some of His own freedom and slipping it into humankind’s beastly little hearts. That is why, said Lewis, God is so mysterious with humanity. God wants something more than mere obedience. His master plan is to win from them the free, unforced recognition of His love, and free, unforced and glad response to it.

“God so loved the world,” wrote John, “that He gave His only begotten Son.”

Nicolas Berdyaev, who abandoned Marx for Kant and then Kant for Christianity, insisted that neither history nor theology nor the church brought him to the Christian faith, but a simple woman called Mother Maria.

Berdyaev was present when the Nazis sought to destroy the Jews in gas chambers. One distraught mother refused to depart with her baby. When Maria saw that an officer was interested only in getting the correct numbers of people to the gas chambers, without a word she pushed the mother aside and quickly took her place. This deed revealed to Berdyaev, a philosopher, the heart of Christianity.

This is the heart of Christianity. It is symbolized by the most precious of all symbols: the cross on which Christ died. In sign language used by the deaf, the way to say “Jesus” is to make an imaginary nail print in the hand. In this day of comfort and convenience, folks need to be reminded that at the center of the Christian faith is the symbol of suffering and sacrifice. We have been “bought with a price.”

John Woolman, a Quaker in the Colonial era, walked barefoot from Philadelphia to Baltimore. He walked the distance in his bare feet so that he could know how the slaves who had to make that journey felt. It was the spirit of Christ in him, the spirit of self-sacrifice compelled by love.

We may not understand how the cross saves us or why it was necessary for Christ to pay the awful price for our sins, but we know that the cross of Golgotha represents all the awesome depths of God’s love.

An old violin maker took great pride in the instruments that he fashioned. One night a thief broke into his shop and stole his most prized piece of work. Months later he was passing a pawn shop and recognized that most perfect instrument in the window. He had no way of proving that he had built the violin, for it was stolen before he had a chance to mark it as his own. The old man was forced to go back home and dig into his savings to buy back his beloved instrument.

That is what God was forced to do on Calvary. He created us and then, because of our greed and self-centeredness (our sinfulness), He had to buy us back.

“Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all” was so beautifully written by Isaac Watts in his hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” There it is. There is the conclusion of the matter: “Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

God is fond of the human race. “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

A blessed Holy Week to all.

Wesley Smith of Harvey Cedars is a retired pastor of the American Baptist Church, USA.

 

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