God’s Impossible Commandment

It is easier to believe that Jesus is God than it is to believe that God is Jesus. Or, to put it another way, it is easier to believe that Jesus is the truth than it is to believe that Jesus is the way. Or, still another, it is easier to believe in the promise of the clouds than it is to believe in the command of wood.

We cannot be persuaded to believe either that Jesus is not God or that God is not Jesus, lest we find ourselves worshiping a merely sentimental god on the one hand or a merely powerful god on the other. These two idols of Christian history lead inevitably to something far smaller than the claim of Christian faith, something as pathetic as a social gospel or as idolatrous as a social-less gospel—something that is always reducible to a political ideology—which appears wherever politics are taken more seriously than faith.

Every human affirms the death of humanity. Every religion affirms the life of god. But only the Christian religion affirms the death of God as the life of man, since it situated the resurrection of Man within the life of God. But that Man did not merely call himself the truth and the life, nor did he tell his followers to watch him with empty hands. He called himself the way. He then picked up a cross from a pile of crosses “as numerous as the stars in the sky” (Gen. 26:4) and invited them on a journey. It is there that they discovered who God is and what it means to love. But it is only there, only he is God, and only that is love. Anything less is not Christian, not god, and not love.

If this means anything, it means that being a Christian in a human world will at times be as painful as being God in a human world. Love is neither a sentimental gesture nor an optional command anymore than Jesus is a sentimental gesture or an optional god. Love is as hard as wood and as serious as salvation. And since the potential for love is as present as the existence of wives and husbands and children and neighbors and enemies, then being a Christian is as full-time as being a human.

Lord, help us do the impossible.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (Jn. 13:34).


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