Who becomes acceptable to whom?

Dave Farcas, ed. Ruth Jacob

Paul said that God was in (or as Jesus) Christ acting to reconcile the world to Himself. This is usually understood to mean that we somehow became acceptable to God because of Jesus. But what it really means is that God became acceptable to us. An outlandish, even blasphemous notion? Not when you read the entire biblical witness as a long, continuous narrative with the protagonist being YHWH Himself.

As Jesus, YHWH ("I shall be what I shall be") radically changed His modus operandi and His image. The various roles (creator, destroyer, Lord of Hosts, Lawgiver etc.) that He had acted out in the salvation history of Israel left the covenant in a crisis and with Israel in exile and under the heels of the gentile powers. How did YHWH resolve that crisis? Did he continue to berate Israel for their sin and once again threaten them with the chastisement of foreign, gentile armies that would ravage and punish Israel? No, He Himself took on the full burden and responsibility for providing the final solution for the defeat of evil and death in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. YHWH - the Lord of Host who had vanquished the armies of Pharaoh - now, as Jesus, subjected Himself to the military power of Rome by allowing Himself to be crucified, to be the victim.

Now we no longer see God as one who presides over the evil that befalls others or ourselves: instead, we see God as the One who subjects Himself to the ultimate evil of eternal death on the cross.

What is essential is not our faith in God but His faithfulness towards us. Because He is faithful, He will do whatever it takes, at His expense and not ours, to create the conditions that will nurture and make possible our faith in Him. We will truly see Him as He is at the Parousia (visible presence) of Jesus - the same Jesus who was crucified on a Roman cross and whose resurrection is the first instance of a radically new, transformed reality that is the future of everyone and everything.

All the horrors and pains that we suffer are not a necessary means that God uses to accomplish a greater end. We are in no way used by God as a means to an end. The truth is, for God to be glorified (be seen for who He really is), we, and all of creation, must be the end for God. He Himself provides the means, and bears the full cost of becoming that means as Jesus, to achieve that end for us.

Some hold that God could have set things up any way He wanted, and He set the whole thing up this way. Yet when we say that God could have set things up "any way He wanted," we are not really basing that on the biblical witness to YHWH and Jesus Christ: we are inadvertently allowing extra-biblical influences (philosophy, religion etc.) to inform our understanding of who we think God is. I think that our relationship with God is hindered when we don't see clearly that God is Jesus, allowing Jesus to define who God is; when instead we tend to see Jesus as god (seeing Jesus through preexisting assumptions about the nature of God), or God as having little to do with Jesus at all.

We are taught on this issue to accept that God's ways are higher than our ways, to say, "Who is man to judge God?", to believe it is wrong to be upset with God for allowing such horrible evil and suffering. Yet does God really allow evil and suffering to exist? Does He just stand by and let it all happen?

Because the only true constant or unchanging thing about God is His faithfulness to us, we need to allow Him to freely express Himself and change His methods of being faithful. We need to take His given, proper name YHWH ("I shall be what I shall be") seriously and realize that he will be or do anything to remain faithful to His beloved Other - us and the entire creation. He will even become a godforsaken man dying among godless men on a Roman cross. Let's accept YHWH's repentance (changing His mind and way of doing things) and not continue to hold Him rigidly to how He revealed Himself to Moses and the prophets. Let's see Him through His definitive self-revelation as Jesus of Nazareth.

The grace (unconditional kindness and generosity) is measured by how God answers the cries and needs of those who suffer the most - the least among us. YHWH, as Jesus the Good Shepherd, seeks out the one lost sheep, his focus is on those who are most at risk to the powers of evil.

There are people who live their whole lives knowing nothing but suffering and pain. Some are born in relative affluence, while millions starve to death elsewhere. Our experience is not a basis for a truly universal truth that speaks to everyone, especially for those whose life experience is nothing more than a living hell on earth. The experience that is Good News for everyone is the experience of YHWH as Jesus for us: only His experience on the cross can address the fundamental dilemma that everyone is faced with.

It is so easy to despair over the situation our world is in. There are so many indications that the world is descending into a death spiral. The evidence of our collective experiences tells us that. If we try to live by our experiences, we will be overcome by despair, or if not, we will modulate our experiences through various delusions. But we live in the present not based on our experience, but rather through faith and hope: faith which is seeing the faithfulness of God fulfilled on the cross of Jesus; and hope in the coming resurrection/transformation of all things at the Parousia of Jesus Christ.