Monday, May 6, 2024

God of Steadfast Love

One of the criticisms of God is that He seems fickle, especially in the Old Testament.

He invested His holy energies in creating the world and specially creating man, only to flood everything and start over just a few chapters later. He promised Israel that He would give them Canaan, but He makes them wander in the wilderness for 40 years first and threatens to abandon them and let them all die again. They finally get to Canaan, to the Promised Land, and a few generations later, He's exiling them to Babylon and away from the Promise. 

Then He sends His Son to die for us and says He's always loved us. But...not all of this looks like love. 

Maybe it's tough love. 

Anyone who has ever been a parent or who has ever cared deeply about another human being understands this concept. When your child is addicted to drugs, sometimes the most loving thing to do is to kick them out of your house. When your spouse is entangled in a love affair with someone else, sometimes the most loving thing to do is to cut them off from your love, even if your heart keeps on loving them and wanting them back. 

And like anyone who loves anyone, sometimes the way we love grows and changes as we have more experience with a person. Sometimes, we look at a situation and think that we know what it calls for, but when we are in a relationship with that person for longer, we understand that what the situation requires may not be what the person or the relationship requires, so we adjust what we're doing to fit the specifics of what we're dealing with. 

I think we see this same kind of steadfast, learning, growing love in God. We see Him trying to be steadfast, trying to keep loving, exercising tough love. But we also see Him growing in how He loves us. 

At first, yes, it's easy to flood the world and start over. And for awhile, it seems to become God's go-to, even though He never does it a second time. He keeps threatening in the wilderness, but He never follows through on that (based largely on the petitions of Moses and the reminders that that's not who God is). Eventually, He comes to the place where He just sends His people away for awhile, to let them deal with the consequences of their own choices. Until finally, His love wins out and He sends His Son. 

Some may bristle at such a human comparison to God, but remember - we are created in His image and relationships are dynamic. God is who He is. Always has been, always will be. But relationships, especially relationships with truly fickle human beings, are dynamic. They are constantly changing, always requiring adaptation, always requiring flexibility and response. And if God were not dynamic with us in this regard, no relationship would be possible. 

But let us be clear - we are the fickle ones; not Him. His love is steadfast and sure. And He shows it again and again by the way that He loves us. 

Even when we're tough to love. 

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