This entry is part of a set of discussions on Inhabiting God's Story
This is where this conversation rightly begins, with God himself. The first thing we need to recognize is that we are part of his Story. This is his world. He made it. He has the first and last word. We exist at all because it pleased him that we would!
To inhabit God's Story, then, is to know where we stand before him.
Now, to live in God's Story is in fact not optional. All creation is his doing. Reality is in his hands. So we better ask who this God is. And what his intentions are for the work of his hands.
The answer to both of these questions is Love (e.g., 1 John 4:8). Love explains perfectly who God is: his nature, his character and his life. He is fierce love: a love that gives all for what he loves, and consumes all that hinders what he loves. We, the work of his hands, are the object of his love. Evil and sin he hates, because it destroys what he loves.
Love also explains God's design for his creation. Love holds his creation together and it explains how it works. Timothy Jennings articulated this beautifully:
God’s law of love is the outward flow of his personhood in the constant dispersion of himself to create, uphold and sustain the universe. This giving, outward-moving, other-centered love is the design on which all creation was constructed to operate. The law of love is the principle of selfless giving, which is the foundation upon which all life is built to function. Simply put, the law of love is the law of life! (Timothy Jennings, The God Shaped Brain)
He goes on to explain how he sees this "law of love" at work in creation. Prof. James Olthuis sums it up like this:
Loving is not merely one thing among others that we are called to do —an extraordinary achievement, a heroic gesture that completes ordinary acts and raises them to a higher level. Love is not an additive, a spiritual supplement reserved for saints, for those few consecrated to some higher purpose. Loving is of the essence of being human, the connective tissue of reality, the oxygen of life...
God's love is the oxygen that sustains the universe, the glue cohering the universe, the fire impassioning the universe. Love calls us -claims us- to responsibility, engagement, and mutuality. In the brokenness of sin and evil, love calls us to repentance, reconciliation, and transformation. Without love, the ether of existence vaporizes, the fabric of life unravels. (James Olthuis, The Beautiful Risk)
The Lord Jesus summarized the teaching of the Old Testament as just that: loving God with all our being and our neighbors as ourselves (Matt 22: 36-40). During his ministry he expanded on the meaning of both, demonstrating what love looks like on the ground, all the way to the cross.
Love or care (for-otherness), then, is the ultimate first principle. Whatever happens, whatever comes, whatever we do, however we do it, we remain for the other, whoever they are. That is how the Lord is making all things new, and it's how we play our part.
To be at home in God's Story means being onboard with his intentions for the work of his hands. Sin is basically rejection of God's ways and his design for his creation. Therefore, to be onboard with our Maker, to be at home in his Story, we need to leave behind sinful attitudes and behavior.
Sin is based in lies about what gives us life (e.g., Gen 3). To entertain sin is to remain in allegiance to those alleged sources of life. To find ourselves in God's Story and staying there is fundamentally a shift in our allegiances. Hesitance in letting go of sin reflects lack of trust in God and his intentions for the work of his hands.
This is a key point the biblical story has been trying to make. In fact, if there was just one point God wanted us to really hear and take to heart from this whole Story, I believe it would be this: trust me.
- God's Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery (New Studies in Biblical Theology), by Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.
- Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King, by Matthew W. Bates.
- Old Testament Ethics for the People of God, by Christopher J. H. Wright.
- The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation. A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics, by Richard Hays.
- Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World, by John G. Stackhouse Jr.
- Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament, by Ellen F. Davis.
- The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior, by Steven Garber.