Believe God’s Unbelievable Love
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
The Feast of the Holy Family
I did what you wanted; now you do what I want, okay?
Though few of us place our relationship with God on such a crass footing, there’s an element of this thinking in most of us. From religion’s earliest days to the present people have searched for effective ways to persuade God to meet our needs.
Hebrew Scripture is full of discussions about convincing God that the Jews deserved God’s favorable attention. Jesus himself frequently used this biblical language in his teaching though his belief in a totally reliable God, always faithful, loving and forgiving, is clear. Christianity has spent immense energy and not a little blood fighting over the nature of God’s care for us. Generally those who want to protect the idea of God’s absolute justice struggle with those who want to protect the idea of his gracious love.
Since the beginning, by fits and starts, the realization that love most accurately describes God has slowly permeated our faith. The awareness struggles because God’s love differs profoundly from our love with its strings, conditions and needs. God’s love is more like love the way that we long to practice it: always unconditional, always forgiving, always attentive, always giving, never counting the cost, never exhausted.
God’s love is so distinct from what we generate in our daily lives that even believing it possible is a stretch for us. Our tendency is to hear the absoluteness of God’s love and respond, Sure, but even God will dump us if we ignore him enough. He’s no patsy.
Doesn’t it make a difference to God whether we lie, cheat or steal? Sure it does; just as it makes a difference whether we hit ourselves in the head with a rock. Doing bad things is bad because we’re hurting ourselves and to one another: the consequences are real and lasting. But those consequences never include God’s withdrawing or diluting his care for us. God simply doesn’t do that. His love is not negotiated; it’s a gift.