And then will I declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness. – Matthew 7:23
Monday, March 16, 2015
What God Knows
Reading Origen last night put me on this track. He sees goodness and existence as being essential to one another – two sides of the same coin. God knows only what is, and what God knows is. God does not know evil; therefore, evil is equivalent to non-being. Not too surprisingly, Satan lied when he said to Eve, You shall not surely die. When Jesus told the rich young ruler that no one is good but God, He was simply saying what had been told to Moses and the prophets. I AM THAT I AM. I am, and there is no other.
Evil does exist. People do practice lawlessness. There are tragedies. Jesus was incarnated in this world and experienced, as man, the tests and fears and losses. He wept at the tomb of Lazarus. God sees evil and is aware of it. We see dead leaves blowing about in the fall. We see smoke hanging in the air, fog in the morning stillness, dust thrown up by the wind. What we are seeing is an effect. We know the wind is blowing or not blowing, that a fire is burning, that there is cold air above warm ground. God sees the effects of evil, but the evil-doer, the instrument of evil has nothing in common with God. There is no connection, no intimacy, and no communion.
We read that the eyes of God are too pure to look upon evil. This is offensive to the secular mind. God is so judgmental, so sanctimonious. Who does He think He is? Yes, we really can be that stupid. For God to know sin would be for everything to cease to exist. It is not possible. Nonetheless, as 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us: He who knew no sin became sin for us in order that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ. When we think about this in terms of existence it quickly becomes mind-boggling. How could the sinless Son of God experience death at all? How could He, who is God, be separated from the Holy One? It’s not hard to see how the staggering incomprehensibility of such thoughts could lead to partial and heretical explanations.
Somehow the Lord took upon Himself the burden and penalty of our sin, identifying so perfectly and fully with us in the Incarnation that He was able to partake of our death and taste non-being as we know it. Jesus went all the way down into the lowest depths, the deepest darkness, and from there He rose because He is Good. No one can ever say that God does not understand or that He does not know what we are going through. Jesus knows better than you or I know. It is the one who has fully resisted temptation and gone all the way through the trial that knows how hot it gets at its worst. We say that we cannot stand anymore and give up.
To live is to be known by God; to be known by God is to live. Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 6:9 make a little more sense to me now, … as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live. In my unrighteousness, I was nothing. It didn’t matter how successful I might have been. I might have been acclaimed and celebrated by the world, but I was a non-being because I was unknown to the Lord. The poorest, most worthless, most insignificant soul, from the world’s point of view, who is known by God is worth all the world.
I was talking about the Pearl of Great Price a few weeks ago. It occurs to me that there are two sides to that parable. Certainly from the human side, what we give up to know God and be known of Him is nothing. It is smoke, dust, vapor, and swirling leaves. The other side is that God Himself sought such a Pearl. He, too, gave up everything that He might know it as His own.