The Fellowship Baptist Church, in keeping with its tradition of putting up church signs, has one that reads “Jesus sees us as we could be, not as we are”. And what I wanted to do today is ask the question -is that true? I’m not trying to kneecap anybody, but I am hoping to have some robust dialogue on this point.
I’ve been thinking about that sign and trying to put the best construction on things. I’ve been rolling it around in my head as verses of scriptures hiss and pop in my mind, trying to uncover all the nuances of such an expression. It’s possible it could mean different things to different audiences, but the fact that it is posted publicly for both believers and unbelievers to see and interpret in their own way limits its ability to be nuanced. While I think the perception and misconstruction of such a statement is important and would probably yield some interesting results, I wanted to focus on the theological precision of such a statement. Namely, is it true that Jesus sees us as we could be, and not as we are?
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.
For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— he was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
The scriptures make it clear that before the foundations of the world God has elected and predestined some to salvation. God sees us exactly as we are- children of wrath who live in the passions of our flesh and are slaves to sin- and out of his great love and mercy he saves us anyway. Romans 9:13 states “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” I would suggest that if you read Romans 9:13 and you are bothered by that last phrase, then you didn’t read Romans 9:13 closely enough. Instead, what should be amazing to anyone who understand the holiness of God and the justice of God against sin- what should be amazing to anyone who recognizes the depth of their own depravity, is “Jacob I loved“.
There was nothing in Jacob that was lovable. There was nothing in Jacob that was particularly attractive to the love of God. What should amaze us then is not that God hated, but that he loved. There are those who like to throw out objections to the Christian faith like “Why does God allow bad things happen to good people?” My normal response is; the Bible says there are “none righteous, no not one”. There are no good people. The real question should be why does God allow good things to happen to any of us at all? We have to have a right understanding of the God that Isaiah saw upon his throne. The angels circled the throne and what did they say ? Morning, noon and night, “Holy holy holy is the Lord God Almighty”. We underestimate his holiness and we greatly overestimate our goodness. We have no goodness, and any goodness we do have comes from God. That is why when we are dead in our trespasses and sins- when we are being ugly and cruel and selfish- blasphemers, god haters and god deniers, it should amaze us that Christ loves us as we are, in those moments of filth and scorn, and adopts us and brings us into a relationship with him.
God does not look into the future, see that we will become believers, and then goes back in time and elect us based on what we will be one day- covered in his Son’s righteousness, or a two-fold son of hell. God does not passively take in knowledge that way, or learn what we will become. The quote reads as if God sees our potential to be moral, or our potential to do good works, or even our potential to be Christians, and then based on that he acts upon us accordingly. I would make the case that God sees us as we are. All the time. His eyes are wide open. He is “clear headed” He is under no delusion. He sees us exactly as we are, and still he saves.
And so I would love some discussion on that church sign.
Do you agree with it? How do you read it? Am I reading it wrong? What impression does it give to unbelievers or believers? Is it theologically and biblically accurate?
September 20th, 2011 at 4:04 am
My first thought, before I read a word of your article is, the word love should be in that sign somewhere. I’ve never thought of God as a blind lover. It seems like a fundamentally human trait to me.
I won’t say I’m always disturbed by it… but I’m very often disturbed when God is humanized. And not just in cases of, say, Jesus being presented with a beard and long flowing blond hair, but Jesus being presented in overalls surrounded by children in little sneakers, jeans, and t-shirts (or sometimes little dresses, if the females are more stereotypical). I don’t think God is particularly human – sometimes not even in those things we value about humanity (or rather that Westerners value about humanity). I think if anything, we are like God. I agree that if there is anything good in our nature, it comes directly from God.
To say that Jesus sees past our faults puts him on an earthly scale. True, God was fully human through Christ. But I think negating the fact that he was fully God as well is dangerous. It makes God into a teddy bear shaped idol, but an idol nonetheless.
I’m really tired. Perhaps I can pick this up some time later.