How do I know?

I wrote a long post on revelation in my first go-round. Ain’t nobody got time for that. But how do I know?

I can’t say it’s because I see you in Nature, in the World. I mean, I do, but I also see a LOT of messed up stuff that isn’t at all love. There are places in the world where I feel closer to you, sure, but I’m not one who can argue from the masterpiece to the master, in part because my claim about you isn’t that you’re a master. It’s that you are a lover.

I do see you in Scripture, but it’s complicated. Luke Johnson taught me in seminary that the New Testament, pretty much all of it, was a set of attempts to explain what the heck happened when people encountered the resurrected Jesus. And, I would add, when the people who fell into the group of believers tended to be Gentiles, even though Jesus was a Jewish rabbi. And the Old Testament is even more contingent on the culture; it is, at its heart, the story of a relatively inconsequential people that encountered your love in unusual ways. So both parts of the Christian Bible say way more about the people who wrote them and the people who they were written for than they say about you, which we should keep in mind when we are tempted to go literalist.

I do see you there, though. Not in a particular prooftext, but in the themes that keep coming back up. And those themes are these: self-sacrificial virtues and choosing the losers.

Yeah, there’s a lot more in the Bible than those two themes. But those are the ones that keep bubbling up, in part because they run counter to the narrative of God being the mighty warrior. God loves a rebellious people throughout the whole dang thing; he is absolutely the prodigal father who keeps making absurdly bad choices to give us another chance we don’t deserve and will surely blow. He is even willing to come walk with us to get us back to loving Him. And when push comes to shove, he suffers and dies, not to pay some sort of debt to himself for our sins, but to show us, look, see, there is not a damn thing you can do that is so awful that it can overpower how much I love you. The resurrection is the final word, not of atonement, but of love winning out. So can we just give up on the calculus of divine justice and love back, for gosh sake?

You see throughout the two testaments that God isn’t the only self-sacrificial one. From the Patriarchs to the Prophets to Jesus to the Apostles, what defines God’s people as different, besides being loved, is when they give themselves up for others. That’s what I learn about you from Scripture.

That and You pick the losers. It helps hammer home the theme that you are not at all oriented around power and majesty that you pick outcasts, almost every time. Look it up; in my days of leisure I hope to trace that theme throughout the Bible, but until the you can do your own homework. From Abram to David to Jeremiah to the women around Jesus to Peter to Paul to, really, all the rest of them, the people who get featured in God’s story aren’t the rich and powerful; they are the ones who would still be standing after the teams get picked for pickup ball. I may come back to that, because it says more about who we should be than directly who you are.

I don’t just see this through Scriptures. As far back as we have stories about saints, we see the virtues of love shine out in the people who reflect Your love. The same is true today; there are people that I just know get you, because of the way they love your people, especially the losers. There is something deep within me that sees those examples and says, involuntarily like a gasp of ecstasy, “Yesss!”

When that happens, whether it’s reading a passage in Paul or watching a servant of yours at work, I see who you are. If that’s ultimately post-modernist relativism rooted in a privileging of individual experience over objective truth, well, whatever. I know what my heart knows. And it is You, Love.

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