Over the last few weeks, I have been trying to spend a few minutes every day focusing on God’s words to Jesus: You are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased.
While God gives these words specifically to Jesus, God speaks them to each of us as well. What we see in Jesus (dramatically portrayed in the wilderness) is a human being who takes these words to heart and lives like they are true.
As I began this process, I found I could easily accept the “beloved son” part, but I caught myself trying to resist “with you I am well pleased.”
I know I do things all the time which are not pleasing to God. I make mistakes, and how can I know for sure I am headed in the right direction? To assume God is “well pleased” with me seemed a little too bold.
Then I thought about my own children.
They are my beloved. And I am always pleased with them.
Yes, they often do things I do not like, make mistakes, don’t listen, drive me crazy, etc. But I am always pleased with them. When they do things which aren’t good for themselves or others, we address it and take the necessary actions to fix the problem. But I am always pleased with them.
I think I had a hard time accepting God “being pleased” with me because it brings up a tension we have a difficult time living in as human beings.
We want to be loved and accepted and our actions not to matter. Or we want life to be all about keeping the rules and behaving (love is conditional).
Maybe this is not explicit, but deep down we really want one or the other. Because it is easier. It is easier to keep rules so I can know both where I stand and where others stand. It is easier to let God be a limp hug and to assume all of life is about me feeling good about me.
But to grow and develop as human beings, we need both. We need to know we are loved and accepted and pleasing to God. No matter what. But we need to know our actions matter a great deal and we need to pay attention to how we live and think and act. And we need to be constantly examining our lives and trying to improve.
It can be very difficult to accept a truly unconditional love while at the same time knowing this love calls us to live in new and important ways.
This is the tension of the parable this week. It is a parable that gives a lot of people problems (me included). There are tough words and the initial picture of God is difficult to swallow. But I think it is so problematic because it holds this tension in a pretty dramatic way.
The picture of God and humanity that is painted here is one of a God who loves and accepts and is pleased with every person created. But it is also a picture of those who refuse to live like that is true.
To understand this better, we need to look at the parable a little closer.
Fortunately, Rob Bell did this a week or so ago on his blog and it is better formed than I would do here. I encourage you to read his post and notice how this tension is held in Jesus’ words.
May we learn to be a people who live in the tension of a God who is well pleased with us, and take our call seriously to communicate this to others with how we live.