I have a 1-year old chocolate colored poodle. She’s a great dog and she’s always happy to see me. Wait, that’s an understatement. She goes nuts when we come home. She is so excited that often she wets herself. We feed her, and pet her. We take her for walks occasionally. We play with her and hang out together. And that’s enough, she thinks we are wonderful. She jumps on the bed in the morning and licks my face to wake me up. She always wants to play. And even when we aren’t playing she just wants to be near me. She follows us around the house and lays at my feet. And all her enthusiasm and love is great for my self-esteem. And she does this even when we ignore her. Sometimes we have to lock her up in a crate for most of the day to keep her from destroying the house. But when we come home and let her out, it’s a celebration.
For some Christians, this is a close description of how they understand God’s love. He is really excited about us, makes hardly any demands, and won’t mind if we lock him away in a crate when we have better things to do. They have attempted to tame God, and as a result his love is… Well… Just okay. But it doesn’t match the love we see at Calvary where we see Christ pouring out his life for an unfaithful spouse. The puppy-dog kind of love doesn’t produce the (seemingly) irrational joy, worship, and sacrifice we see described in scripture. It doesn’t buoy up the soul in the face of great sin and suffering.
I am slowly working my way through “Yawning At Tigers” by Drew Dyck. He writes about this phenomenon, and our tendency to domesticate God. Writing about modern preachers, he says:
“Unfortunately, in our efforts to make the Bible interesting and relevant, we try to normalize God. We become experts at taking something lofty, so unfathomable and incomprehensible, and dragging it down to the lowest shelf. We fail to account for the fact that God is neither completely knowable nor remotely manageable”
Unfortunately, in our efforts to make the Bible interesting and relevant, we try to normalize God.
He says that we are often uncomfortable with the mysterious, and transcendent descriptions of God. They are too strange or even unpleasant to our American sensibilities, so we explain them away. Again, he writes “Here’s the beautiful irony: making God strange actually enables us to know him more. Once we have marveled at his magnitude and mystery, we are able to achieve the deep intimacy that grows out of a true appreciation for who God is. Instead of treating him as an equal, we approach him with reverent awe. Only when we’ve been awestruck by his majesty can we be overwhelmed by his love.”
I love my dog, and enjoy the way she worships me. And that would be the best word to describe it! But God’s love is different, it’s not about his infatuation with my greatness. One of the reasons we are “yawning at tigers” is because we are not impressed with the love of God. And we are underwhelmed with his love because we don’t understand his holiness, majesty, and greatness. If we did, we would understand our own sin as well and see just how much it cost him to love us. And that would make his love something to live for.