God’s graciousness is ‘prior to our faith and love’
Re: “We know who we are,” Jan. 1, 2018, page 8.
I find myself agreeing with Willard Metzger but wishing he had said more. I would say that God’s love for us precedes our love for God as the basis of the church’s unity; love for God is our response. To put it another way, our most profound commonality is that God has been gracious to us; we are “forgiven, loved, and free,” as the hymn says.
From the Old and New testaments onward, the church has sought adequate ways of confessing God’s graciousness. All of them begin with the mystery of who God is: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three in one. The point is that God created us, redeems us and sustains us. In the fullness of time “the Word became flesh and dwelled among us” (John 1:14). He taught us the way of life, healed the sick, died with us and for us, and was vindicated when God raised him from the dead. Amazingly, that lets us in on the love that has always been there between the Father and the Son
“We love Jesus” because God first loved us. Confessing that God loved us in Jesus Christ—his life, death and resurrection—and the Holy Spirit is the rock on which we stand. In our time of theological turmoil this confession of God’s initiative towards us cannot be assumed. It needs to be named.
That is what I am pleading for in this letter. Our subjective response to the Bible’s disclosure of God’s love and how it came to embrace the world is essential for our faith and love to have integrity. But, as I understand it, the church’s identity is grounded in God’s graciousness prior to our faith and love.
—John D. Rempel, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.