Have you heard of the theory of the “looking-glass self?” Sociologists have coined this phrase to describe how some people become what the most important person in their life (wife, father, boss, etc.) thinks they are.
In his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace? Philip Yancey tells the story of an Irish priest who, on a walking tour of his parish, sees an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road, praying. Impressed, the priest says to the man, “You must be very close to God.” The peasant looks up from his prayers, thinks a moment, and then smiles, “Yes, he is very fond of me.”
It’s doubtful that most professing Christians think that God is actually very fond of them. But here’s the remarkable thing about God, he actually is very fond of his creation, and particularly of his children who have accepted the gift of loving grace offered through his Son, Jesus.
When the renowned theologian Karl Barth visited the University of Chicago, at a press conference he was asked by one of the scholars and students who crowded around him, “Dr. Barth, what is the most profound truth you have learned in your years of study?”
No doubt they were expecting some profound theological and philosophical insight into the mysteries of God and the universe. Instead, without hesitation, the greatest theologian of the 20th century replied by repeating the simple line from the song that countless children have learned over the years,
“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
We should all agree with Dr. Barth. Now if God is the most important person in our life, and of course he should be. And if the most important person in our life views us continually through the lens of his divine, unchanging love, which he daily does without qualification, then our looking-glass self should lead us to consciously live our lives each day under the sunshine of God’s love.
At a seminar the renowned speaker and author, Brennan Manning (The Ragamuffin Gospel) referred to Jesus closest friend on earth, the disciple named John and identified in the Gospels as “the one Jesus loved.” (John 21:20) Manning said, “If John were to be asked, “What is your primary identity in life?” he would not reply, “I am a disciple, an apostle, an evangelist, an author of one of the four Gospels,” but rather, “I am the one Jesus loves.”
We all live out of a self-identity. That’s why one of the healthiest of Christian spiritual disciplines each day upon waking is to insulate ourselves from the chafing grind of the day ahead by turning our spiritual eyes to Christ, thanking him for his unending love, and reminding ourselves that we are each a child of God, that we have a place in our Father’s house, that we are forever loved by him.
By instinct, humanity feels it must do something to be accepted. And if it doesn’t do the right thing, not only is acceptance withheld, but some form of sanction is coming. In that regard, I can’t help but think of the young mother who sat in my office and told me her story.
She recounted how she had been an ‘A’ student, an obedient child, and member of her church youth group. But soon after graduation, she developed a lengthy illicit sexual relationship with her married neighbour. After time, convicted by her immorality she broke off the relationship. But some years later she reconnected with the same man and had his child. When I asked her what she felt about God, I’ll always remember her chilling words. With her head down she said, “God is just waiting to bring the big hammer down on me.”
I asked her to look at me and told her, “God is not waiting to bring the big hammer down on you.” And then I spoke to her what I believe are the three most important words we can ever say to anyone, “God loves you.” A tear trickled down her cheek and then it became a torrent as the loving arms of God wrapped themselves around her and she accepted the gift of Christ’s love.
What difference would it make in our lives if we consistently saw our primary identity in life as “the one Jesus loves,” as, “the one he is very fond of?”
If ever we question God’s sentiments towards us, we should just remind ourselves of the rogues gallery in the Bible that God blessed with his love: Jacob the schemer, David the adulterer, Peter the denier, Zacchaeus the tax-collecting thief, Paul the persecutor, Mary the prostitute, and the thief on the cross.
The Bible defines God with three simple words, “God is love.” After writing thousands of pages in his Church Dogmatics, Karl Barth arrived at this simple definition of God: “The One who loves.”
“Because your love is better than life, my lips will praise you” – Psalm 63:3
Yes, he is very fond of you and me.
Blessings for the week ahead.
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