Perfect Love

I once had a dream, and in this dream I was walking around a city. The initial details are vague, of course; remembering dreams is a tricky business. But there was an element of video-gameness to this situation, as I, like a game creator, was some sort of godlike being. Now, I don’t mean the pathetic gods we see in movies. No, I mean like the powerful gods the player inhabits in games like The Sims or the even more powerful godlike position of creating a video game, where you’re responsible for designing the rules of the universe. In this case, I was positioning NPCs—that’s “non-player characters,” an entity that the player doesn’t directly control. I was figuring out how the game engine worked: specifically, what would happen to NPCs on the street if I went into a building? Would their position reset (that is, was the outside reloaded into its default state when entering and then exiting a building?), or would they continue doing what they’d been doing? After all, computers (including your phone or game console) can only hold so much in memory at a time. I remember one specific NPC that I placed across the street from where I was through an interface, then tested this on, and he reset his position! Then I realized that there might be a door near where I positioned this NPC. If so, how would it look to exit through that door, I wondered. Would the NPC be awkwardly positioned? Would you see him spawn in?

So I crossed the street with some companions that had materialized (I don’t recall when or where in this process, but dreams can be like that). I had no regard for traffic because it couldn’t hurt me. In this dream I knew I was properly immortal, properly invulnerable. My companions were a bit freaked out, so I explained that the traffic posed me no risk because nothing could hurt me. At some point here, I got a bird’s eye view (not unlike a map app) on the NPC I’d been investigating—he’s important, so I hope you haven’t forgotten about him! It turned out there was a door near where he spawned, just a little behind him. I tried going in and out, and things seemed fine overall, but as I did this a few more times, I discovered that the NPC spawned initially clipped into some boxes—clipping, by the way, is where 3D models are overlapping, usually in a way that is unrealistic (this happens a lot in video games with clothing or hair clipping into parts of each other). This wouldn’t do, but as I set about trying to fix the issue, the NPC suddenly became aware of me and ran away! I wasn’t angry, though, just a bit disappointed. I woke up shortly thereafter, and I felt like my eyes had been opened to a profound truth.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve often wondered why God isn’t more overtly involved in our world. Sure, the Bible tells us stories of times when God overtly acted, with particularly notable examples being the Creation process, the Israelite’s flight from Egypt, and the first coming of Jesus Christ. (There are also, of course, the various prophets mentioned as having been around at various times in ancient Israel and Judah who performed miracles.) But wouldn’t it be great to have God more obviously involved in our world? I’ve certainly thought so. Why does He so often limit Himself to working through His human servants?

In 1 John 4:18, the Apostle tells us, “There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment.” This begins to give us a clue. Let’s consider all of the times angels—mere angels, not even God!—open their interactions with humans by saying, “Don’t be afraid.” Then remember what Isaiah said in chapter six of the record of his prophecies: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple. Seraphim were standing above Him…then I said, ‘Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts.”

When we imagine gods in our media, we imagine pathetic gods, impotent gods. Sure, they’re more powerful than us, but they’re only supermen. H.P. Lovecraft, in imagining eldritch horrors beyond our comprehension—Cthulhu being perhaps the most famous example—drew closer to the truth of the divine. Simply put, the distance between us and God is vast, and like that NPC was terrified of me in the dream, we, too, would be like Isaiah were we to behold God: We would declare woe upon ourselves as we began to really comprehend what omnipotence—being the Almighty, all powerful—truly means. We would also be faced with how insignificant we are compared to such a Being.

And yet! And yet that Being loves us and longs to dwell with us. That is how things were at the beginning: God dwelt with Adam and Eve. The first coming of Christ was a foretaste of this, of God with us. One day, God will make all things new and sin will be no more, and we who have trusted in Him will be made new, in the image and model of Jesus Himself—for just as we bear the image of Adam, the first natural man, so will we bear the image of Jesus, who, by His death and resurrection, became the first spiritual man, that we might have an image to bear. But without the perfect love of Christ to drive out fear, without His righteousness to make us worthy, we could not bear to dwell with God.

This is the profound realization: the more visibly active God is in our world, the more He would either be abused or feared and avoided. Either people would come to Him, as they did Christ Jesus, simply for the miracles—healing, typically—or they would recoil in terror, as the Israelites did at Mount Sanai, as recorded in Exodus: “The LORD said to Moses, ‘I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear when I speak with you and will always believe you.’” And how did the people respond when God displayed His divinity to them? “’You speak to us, and we will listen,’ they said to Moses, ‘but don’t let God speak to us, or we will die.’” Without the restorative work of Jesus and being reborn in His image, we would not be able to bear being in the presence of God. Without the love of Christ being perfected in us, we would be overwhelmed by fear. And while the fear of God is warranted, He wants to be among a people who love Him as He loves them: deeply and completely.

So do we wish that God would act directly? Yes, and I think God, too, would like to care for us more openly, as Jesus cared for the masses that sought Him. And one day, that will indeed be the state of things, but until that time, when we, along with all of Creation, have been made ready, God calls us to represent Him by caring for and loving each other. May we do so faithfully as we long for the day that God once again dwells fully among us.


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