It's one of the best-known verses from the Bible. The reference is sometimes displayed at football games. Most of us can still remember at least a phrase. "God so loved the world..." We've just celebrated the gift God gave out of this love. But what are the implications for us?
How often do we stop and think about God's love for us? Sure, we feel comforted by God's grace. We mess up. We ask for forgiveness. We are assured. We go on. But could it be a different take on the story of God's involvement with us, with the world, if we consider that God did what God did and does what God does purely out of love? And maybe love sometimes corrects. Other times encourages. Frequently just applauds. From time to time weeps. What if loving is always God's motivation? Do you feel wooed today?
As surely as the world has changed so too the art of courtship. The concept is all but extinct, a dusty dinosaur of a thing stuffed in a musty closet of bygone days. Yet one of my favorite theologians uses this very concept to describe God's relating to all that God is creating. Robert Capon's trilogy entitled Romance of the Word is delicious to read and difficult to digest. Capon contrasts a mechanical approach to what God is up to with a personal approach. With a mechanical perspective, we are problems to be fixed. Through the lens of a personal perspective, we are creations to be loved. Which means that God is less of a divine tinkerer and much, much more a heavenly lover. Here are some of his thoughts for you to chew on: "The ultimate act by which God runs and rescues creation is the Incarnation. Sent by the Father and conceived by the Spirit, the eternal Word is born of the Virgin Mary and, in the mystery of that indwelling, lives, dies, rises, and reigns. Unfortunately, we tend to look on the mystery mechanically. We view it as a fairly straight piece of repair work that became necessary because of sin."
I'm not insisting that you accept this. But I am inviting you to consider it. It could make a world of difference in the way you think about yourself and other people. If, in God's infinite wisdom, we have been created to respond to a personal deity rather than to be operated on by a mechanical technician, we might breathe a little more easily. Live a little more freely. Love more graciously. Capon suggests that we wake up to the realization that we are being wooed. And, more importantly, that we truly desire the One doing the wooing. This, he says, "allows us to see God not as doing something - not as meddling, pushing, and shoving - but as being someone fetching... The Word in Jesus was not so much doing bits of busy work to jimmy things into line as he was being his own fetching self right there in the midst of creation." The bottom line for Capon, then, is succinctly this: "God loves you; his chief concern is to be himself for you."
Is this appealing to you? Are you drawn to this personal God? Do you feel wooed today? Sunday, in addition to hearing words from the Word about the mysteriously magnetic collecting, connecting, embracing, community-creating love God is, we'll sing "Gather Us In." Because that's a sign that God is with us, being a fetching Lord among us! Some assembly is required but it's God who handles the heavy lifting!