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Sunday, September 10, 2006

If we're worthless, why would He die for us?

Gina from Refreshment in Refuge asked an excellent question. “If we are completely and totally worthless, why did Christ die for us? Why would Christ die for something worthless?” It’s the obvious question to my Truth in Advertising post from yesterday. And it’s a very valid question.

Yesterday I said that the value we do have is extrinsic – applied by God. So we aren’t worthless; we are simply worthless intrinsically. But there is more to the answer, and it’s something that I find quite exciting, so I will share it with you.

Paul’s epistle to Titus opens with this:

Paul, a bond-servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior; to Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior (Titus 1:1-4).
The highlighted portion is verse 2. The literal translation of “long ages ago” is “before times” or “before the world began”. In other words, before there was time, before there was anything but God, God made a promise. Two points here: 1) If God made a promise before there was anything, to whom did He make this promise. 2) What did He promise?

Before time there was only one entity: God. He existed in His Triune perfection. In this passage, Paul gives us a glimpse into an inter-Trinity exchange that occurs prior to anything being created. In other words, God promises … Himself.

What is promised? What promise did God make to Himself? The “hope”, referenced in verse two, references eternal life, but eternal life for whom? The eternal life promised before time began was for “the chosen of God”. So before time began God promised Himself an elect group to save for eternal life. The exchange isn’t given verbatim, but I imagine it would go something like this, based on the text. “Son, I’m going to make you a promise. We are going to make a Creation. Of that Creation, I am going to make for you a Bride. This Bride will be spotless, perfect, just for you. The only catch is that You will have to die for her. How’s that?” And the Son says, “Perfect! Thank You.” And so begins Creation.

Now, let me bring this down a step so we can contemplate it a moment. The Bride – the Church – is the Father’s love gift to the Son. Imagine, for a moment, that my wife loves orchids. So I decide to give her an orchid for her birthday. (To anyone who knows orchids, I apologize. I don’t. If I mess up on the particulars, bear with me. It’s simply an illustration.) So long before her birthday, I buy seeds and I plant orchids. I keep this orchid in a safe place. I keep it properly watered, properly fed. I give it exactly what it needs and tend to everything required to make this the perfect gift for my wife. Now, imagine this orchid is a special orchid because it is sentient … it can think. What do you suppose this orchid would be thinking? “Wow, I must be really, really special. Look at all this guy does for me. He takes care of my every need. He makes sure everything is good. He cares for me daily. I must be very, very special.” Is the orchid right? Or is it wrong? The correct answer is “Yes”. The orchid is wrong in the sense that the orchid itself is not very special. The orchid is right because as it is a love gift, it holds special value. In other words, because I love my wife, I love this orchid. If I didn’t love my wife, the orchid wouldn’t be of any great value.

This is us. God cares for us, tends to us, ensures that all things work together for good, feeds us, clothes us – gives every indication that we are of great value. The truth is that in and of ourselves we are not of any great value, but because the Father loves the Son, we are of tremendous value because we are the love gift the Father has promised to the Son. We think of ourselves as valuable. Our shortsightedness confuses us. The Father sees His Son as of ultimate worth and therefore places value in us commensurate with that.

That, to me, is very exciting. To be a love gift to the Son is exciting. To know that the Father will ensure the success of this gift is very exciting. Or think about this: The value placed on me is not based on me, which makes it impossible to lose. That's exciting. It puts me in the proper perspective, my proper place, and gives me great comfort. And for me, it answers the question Gina asked.

One last thought on the topic. Some time ago I read one atheist's protest to the existence of God. His argument was that if God exists, He is immoral. Here was his reasoning. Imagine a man sitting by the pool, reading. A 2-year-old comes in and falls into the pool. The man notices, but doesn't jump in to save her. That's immoral. The fundamental flaw in this argument is in the equating of us with God. The story makes us "2-year-old" gods. God is mandated to save us because we are so valuable. If we are as valuable as we seem to think we are, then the story has merit.

Let me suggest a more fitting parallel. The man is sitting by his pool, reading. A swarm of angry mosquitos descend, intent on killing the man. They misjudge their attack and wind up in the pool, drowning. What must the man do? Nothing ... nothing at all. He is under no obligation to save drowning, hostile bugs. There is no intrinisic value in a swarm of mosquitos. So if he gets up and decides to pull a few out just because he's merciful, that's an amazing thing, not an obligation. It is my belief that until we get this, we are going to be missing the magnificence of grace and mercy and suffering from the lack of gratitude that arrogance brings.

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