Over a hundred years ago George Macdonald wrote: ‘He that is made in the image of God must know Him or be desolate’. Is it possible to dispel the desolation in which human beings without God find themselves? Will we ever be what God intended us to be?
The Bible clarifies the reason for the disarray in world history and in the individual’s life. Paul indicates to friends in Ephesus that human beings are ‘without hope and without God in the world’. To the Romans he writes: ‘through one man (Adam) sin entered the world, and death through sin’. As a result, ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God'1. Human beings no longer display God’s glory and they have been deprived of happy communion with God.
This inexcusable rebellion2 marred the image of God in human beings. As a result, they lost in great measure the privilege of exercising a beautiful dominion over God’s creation. Sin, then, is the reason for the difference between the original destiny of glory that God apportioned to us, and the sad situation today, which some find almost too onerous to bear.
The life of Cain anticipates this strange paradox in the human race. This sad son of Adam and Eve was the ancestor of descendants who raised cattle and sheep and who excelled in the arts and in the sciences. Cain probably built the first city in the world and named it after his son, Enoch. Yet, without pity, he murdered his own brother, Abel. Cain was a living contradiction. The conflicting attitudes and the diverse acts of his life oppose each other. Inevitably, they mutually destroy each other, leaving behind the ruins of a disastrous existence3.
Because human beings lost sight of the destiny of eternal glory for which God created them, and being under the condemnation of God, chaos resulted. Consequently, frustration in varying degrees fills our lives. Sometimes we do achieve extra-ordinary success and, at other times, we experience personal, shameful failures. The eminent mathematician and man of great faith, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), com-ments on the effect of reason and imagination in the human being. He describes man as both the shame and the glory of the universe4. Many experience the same mixed feelings of success and failure, of joy and sorrow, all of which can be discerned in this strange paradox in Cain’s life. We feel something is wrong. We know what Cain meant when he said that his punishment was greater than he could bear!
Does God care about the human situation? The meaning of the noun ‘care’ includes the following concepts: ‘personal attention; ready assistance; painstaking dedication; watchful supervision’.
Does God care in that way? The verb ‘to care for’ means ‘to look after; to watch over; to hold dear; to show concern for someone or something’. Does God really care for us with such dedication?
The fall of man in no way implies that God permanently failed in His original design concerning the role of man in the created order. Thankfully men and women do not have the last word concerning God’s plans. Thankfully, even less does the ‘wicked one’ have the final say.
Paul employs some extraordinary phrases when he highlights the wonder of God’s will as it relates to the human race. For example, he writes of, ‘the good pleasure of his will’, and of, ‘the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will'5. In spite of the moral downfall of men and women created in the divine image, God moves forward with great joy in His paramount purpose of bringing us to a destiny of glory. ‘His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave Him great pleasure'6.
The wonderful truth is that God did not turn His back on the human race. Even when we lost in great measure our capacity to administer wisely His creation, God did not forget us. His love for us never wavered. Although bewildered as to why, the Psalmist knew that God was keenly interested in human beings, for he asked, ‘But why are people important to you? Why do you take care of human beings?’7
It is true that three times in his letter to the Romans Paul states that God gave men and women up8. He describes for us in repulsive detail the treacherous road the human race took with all its built-in, self-destructive elements. Yet whatever this phrase means, it can hardly carry the idea that God disregarded the human race even although, from our point of view, there was overwhelming reason to do so. The whole thrust of this great doctrinal document to the church in Rome repeatedly emphasizes how far God went in order to bring back to Himself the human rebels. The apostle joyfully shares with the Romans that God is ready and willing to credit His own righteousness to men and women9. ‘It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up for our offenses, and was raised because of our justification'10.
What, then, does Paul mean when he repeats three times that God gave them up? The phrase in Romans suggests that God let us go, much as parents sometimes do, and sadly, must let their adult children go, who have chosen a wrong path for life. As they are no longer children, they cannot forcibly be kept under the parents’ supervision. Is this what Philip Yancey suggests? He writes, ‘human beings are like nothing else in nature. God cannot control them, yet He cannot simply thrust them aside either. He cannot get humanity out of His mind'11.
Even when Christian parents must let their adult children go, they follow them with their love and prayers. They are ready to help in moments of crisis. Like the father in the moving story of the lost son, they will run to meet their wayward children when they return and they welcome them back into the warmth of family love. They never forget their ‘rebel’ sons and daughters.
Similarly, God did not create human beings as robots to do His will mechanically. This special creation was made in the image and likeness of God with the inherent ability to think and to be involved in decision making. The human race made a serious, tragic, and wrong choice.
God did let us go, but in His love He followed us. Paul is dogmatic on this vital issue: ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself'12. The cross remains the incontrovertible witness that we are important and precious to God.
God does care!
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