“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only son, full of grace and truth. From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”

(John 1: 14-18, abridged)

When you try to envision God, what do you see?

Many Christians – perhaps even most – see God primarily as a God of justice. In a world rife with injustice, we need God to make sure justice is done. Trouble is, the kind of justice we mostly tend to want God to uphold is the same kind we humans have been using and abusing for centuries: the kind where no misdemeanour goes unpunished and everyone gets their just deserts. In this view, God is essentially the ultimate lawmaker and law enforcer. This, we might say, is the God of Moses.

But here’s the thing: grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. If there was something we humans still needed to understand about God, it wasn’t his predilection for all things legal and judicial: Moses already laid that out pretty clearly. The late Robert Farrar Capon, episcopal priest and theologian, put it this way: “For if the world could have been saved by providing good examples to which we could respond with appropriately good works, it would have been saved an hour and twenty minutes after Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the the commandments.” [1]

No, what was needed was not more law, or stricter law enforcement. What was needed was a revelation of grace and truth so stark and explicit as to be virtually unmissable. Enter Jesus, born in poverty, friend of sinners, executed as a lawbreaker.

John tells us that no one has seen God. Not Moses, not Elijah, not David… no one. But the only Son has not only seen him, he has made him known to us in unmistakeable terms.

Jesus breaks every paradigm about God, revealing him to be full of grace and truth. Full means there’s no room for anything else. God isn’t mostly grace and truth, with a few more bitter ingredients thrown into the mix; grace and truth is the divine totality. As we’re told in 1 John, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all”.

When you try to envision God, then, if you see anything other than the face of Jesus, you merely join Moses, Elijah, David and all the others on the long list of those who thought they’d seen God, but in fact had seen only a dim reflection. And when you finally see with clarity the face of Jesus, you’ll see that it is indeed full of grace and truth, reflecting with crystal clarity the Father’s unchanging heart of undiluted love.

Merry Christmas, friends.

 

Notes

[1] Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus.

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