Perhaps the angry preacher is familiar to you. He stands high on the stage and growls about those who live as enemies of the cross of Christ! Their end is destruction; their God is their belly; their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things! He wipes the sweat off his brow and pounds the pulpit. It’s an all too familiar picture for many.
This preacher has missed one slight but powerful phrase in the passage from Philippians that he is quoting. It is the phrase, “but now I tell you even with tears.” Tears are the context of this passage. On Sunday, Bob reminded us of how dramatically the tears of Paul change the meaning of this passage and he invited us to think about a rarely mentioned attribute of God, His Sadness. The tears of sadness for the world that God loves witnessed in Paul, Jesus, and in true followers of Christ throughout the centuries provide the context into which Jesus makes his offer to save.
Paul weeps for those have made the suffering Cross of Christ their enemy. Jesus weeps for Lazarus, and on the cross he weeps for us. We cry for the things we love, and sometimes our tears precede our own awareness of our love. It is a gift of love to tear up when you hear a co-worker honestly describe her depression. Or when you hear about a shooting in Michigan that you have no personal connection to-other than that you wept when you heard about it. A mother cries with joy at the sight of her newly born daughter and years later she cries out of that same love when her daughter slams the door.
God’s sadness and His tears are reminders to us of His great love.
On Sunday Bob made an important distinction: “God loves you, not the idealized version of you.” This is the good news. I often compete with others and feel threatened by their success or prideful in their defeat, but more often, I am competing with a version of myself that wastes less time, thinks loftier thoughts, works more efficiently, is a little more handsome, and has a little more faith. I am driven towards self-improvement, sanctification, and perfection not from a place of surety in who God has created me to be, but out of a shame for not being all of those things.
But that 2.0 image of myself is not the version of me that God wept joyfully over at my birth, and it is not the version that God cried longingly over on the cross. The tears of God over Jerusalem, Kalamazoo, Aleppo, and Chicago are born out of love and offered in the real hope that they will know the cross-shaped love of Christ.
During Lent, we have referred on several occasions to a book called Wholeheartedness, which invites the reader to live beyond anxieties and performance and into your truest self. This is the self that God delights in. Check out the link for the book, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about getting a copy.