Friday, November 6, 2009

He Gave us Hearts

A childhood friend's mom died of cancer last week. She was only 50. I didn't know her well but I still feel an incredible sense of loss. She won't get to watch her daughter and son walk down the aisle on their wedding days; she won't delight in her grandchildren as they grow; and she won't celebrate any more anniversaries with her faithful husband. As a follower of Jesus Christ she is experiencing the consummation of her earthly discipleship in heaven right now, but her family is left in the wake of her influence, trying to make sense of it all.

My friend's mom is one of about 250,00 people who died last Sunday. Her death is a jarring reminder of the pain, disease, hunger, and abuse that ravage the lives of all people. Her death makes me wonder about God's love. He did, after all, decide to create us. Did his master plan for humanity include an inevitable encounter with suffering, destruction, and ultimately death? What kind of God lets the world deteriorate to the point of death?

Perhaps when I stand before God in heaven I will ask him about the problem of pain. But until then, I'm asking myself this question: if you were the author of the story of humanity, how would you have written it differently? When I ask myself this question I realize things have to be the way they are. They have to be this way because God is Love.

The Bible makes it really clear that God didn't create love, nor does he just show love, but he IS Love; love flows from his character and he delights in loving his creation. The thing about Love is it loves to be loved in return, so God gave us hearts with the capacity to give and receive love.

I guess, theoretically, God could have made us without hearts. But he's not the kind of God who wants a bunch of tin men running around who periodically show robotic affection at the whim of their Programmer. To be sure, robots are the key to eliminating world hunger, avoiding devastating wars, and abolishing slavery. But they are also the key to wiping out all of life's vibrancy because love births passion and vitality.

So if I were God and I could choose between a colony of robots and a community of people, I would choose to create people. The human heart's capacity for good is worth the risk that it will choose to do evil. But if I were God and my creation didn't choose to love me I wouldn't stand by and watch them self-destruct; I would do something about the mess human hearts have made.

I am a Christian because God did do something about the mess our human hearts created. He put on skin and spent 33 years living, dying and rising from the dead in the midst of our mess so that he could redeem it. Today he longs to pluck us out of the pit and breathe healing and purpose into our pain. He offers us a second chance, new life, and an eternity free from pain and sorrow. His hands are extended, their scars crying out for our love. How will our hearts respond?