“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the Baby to be born, and she gave birth to her Firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2.4-7
This past week I read a series of pastoral responses to the movie Evan Almighty, a movie I admit I have not seen. The responses were in answer to the question of the appropriateness of conveying God as such a laid-back, irreverent character, one who even dances a jig at one point in the movie. Apparently, dancing seems a dubious activity for an almighty, all-powerful Being to engage in.
At issue is the holiness of God. Some felt portraying God in such an “unholy” manner was disrespectful and misleading. The world needs to know that God is holy. Indeed, who can argue? God is holy, and the world would be humbled – humiliated – if the holiness of God ever were to be revealed. It would be nice if a profane and arrogant world had even an inkling of the holiness of God. But we do not.
Possibly my favorite hymn of all time, Holy, Holy, Holy, contains a stanza with these words: though the darkness hide Thee, though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see, only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee, perfect in power, in love and purity.” Even for the most devout among us, the darkness shields us from a perfect holiness dwelling in unapproachable and uncreated Light. There are some things our eyes cannot bear to see and our souls are unprepared to encounter. The holiness of God, the perfection of His power, love and purity are so other-worldly that His compassion for our unworthiness requires that He hide from us even the glory emanating from His Being. To enter into the full presence of the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – would evoke a response of intolerable shame and humiliation. Our delusions of grandeur would shatter and melt in embarrassing horror that they had ever existed.
Thus, God approached us in the most innocuous modesty and defenseless delight of a Baby. He walked among us as a carpenter and teacher, wearing the clothes we wear, eating the foods we eat, sharing the experiences we have. The vast holiness of God was hidden from the view of a world utterly incapable of fully imagining it, much less embracing it. Apparently, God cares more that we know He loves us than He cares that we appreciate His glory and holiness. He raises us up and welcomes us into His presence, cloaking His unbearable beauty and majesty from our eyes, so we may come boldly before His throne. He calls us His own children and invites us to a familiarity with Him that speaks of immeasurable grace we cannot begin to understand.
Is the show irreverent? I have not seen it, but I am almost certain it would have to be. But there is no way that God is as insulted or offended as we are inclined to be. God Himself has opted to be irreverent. He has disrespected and demeaned Himself over and over again in order to draw us to Him. If He did not, we would never have the courage to approach Him.
The very act of trusting in the love of God in Jesus Christ demands a measure of irreverence and disrespect on our part. By what right are we deserving? Which one of us merits even the slightest glance from the throne of God, much less the boundless, irrepressible love that unceasingly pursues us and searches us out, calling us to life?
The vast distance between God and ourselves, as well as our own unworthiness, are precisely the reasons why the love of God is so…? I do not have sufficient words. Amazing, overwhelming, surprising, transforming, awe-inspiring, life-giving… God is perfectly able to reveal His holiness to us in the tiny glances He prepares us to see. It is not necessary for us to intimidate the world more than God chose to intimidate it.
Would God dance a jig? Well, do we? I would even suggest that, if it is the sort of harmless, fun thing we enjoy, then it is probably something we inherited from our Father. After all, we have been created in His image. Like Him, we are intended to be holy, but how did we ever come to think that holiness somehow precludes all silliness or fun? Exactly where do we think we got our own sense of humor? Have you ever seen a duckbill platypus?
When we introduce God to those who do not know Him, we need to do so as tenderly, as gently, and as appealingly as He introduced Himself. Every time we invoke the holiness of God, we are speaking of that which is beyond our own comprehension. We should be more like God in that every account of God’s approach, or even the approach of His emissaries, begins with, “Do not be afraid.”
God is holy. But that is not what He first desires to convey. His first and greatest desire is that we would know He loves us.
In Christ –
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