Wisdom and the Love of God

Cultivating Wisdom (29)


Taking the easy way
Many Christians today hold a view of God’s love that is distorted by sentimentality. “Sentimentality” means that one’s perspective on God’s love is defined by shallow, uncomplicated emotions.

This superficial perspective is illustrated by an incident that occurred in a local church. A volunteer mother was in a Sunday School class for first graders with her daughter when the teacher of the class told the boys and girls to put up their toys because it was the time to listen to a Bible story. The volunteer mother’s little girl threw a fit, insisting upon continuing to play with her toy. The mother said to her daughter, “That’s O.K., honey, you just keep playing. After all, God wants you to be happy.”

Humbly and within Limits

An exercise in right thinking (5)


I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
-          Ecclesiastes 3:10, 11

…we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.

-          1 Corinthians 8:1

It behooves prudent and temperate people to believe what God has said, but not to ask about the modes and causes of actions, inasmuch as they are beyond us. Let it be said to busybodies, “Show me by your reason the essence of things visible. Tell me by what skill he fashioned his handiwork in it polymorphic variety.” Though you were to search out that sort of thing, you will still find yourself at a loss and distressed that you don’t understand the transformation wrought by rebirth, though you may know the reason for birth.
-          Gregory of Nyssa, On Holy Easter 665

But in this and man similar matters nothing else is granted to our knowledge except to proclaim the power and greatness of the Creator who has dispose everything in number, weight, and measure, and in the mean time to say with the illustrious teacher of the nations: we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when what is perfect comes, then I will know just as I am known.
-          Anonymous, Liber de Ordine Creaturarum

Wisdom and Falling in Love

Word decay
It’s not uncommon for a word with a lofty genesis to become reduced in stature over time by irresponsible or inappropriate usage.

This has happened with the word “awesome.” This word initially meant a bone-deep, shivering reverence which comes from a sense of dread. It was a word that could be used to describe Israel’s response as it stood at the base of Mount Sinai while the “awesome” God above shook the mountain with thunder, cloud, and a continuous, ear-splitting trumpet blast.

This once lofty word, “awesome,” is now used in so many trivial ways that it has lost its fearsome grandeur. Example: “This food is awesome.” How does food (or anything, for that matter, other than God) elicit a sense of dread?

Sometimes this deterioration takes place when words are imbued with a perversion which was not a part of their original meaning. This happened when the sleazy clothing of sex made the word “erotic” mean something slimy. When the Greeks in the day of Jesus employed the word eros, they meant “being in love” as opposed to raw sexuality. The Greeks (and the Romans, too) had a separate word for “sexual desire.” As C. S. Lewis points out in The Four Loves, “Sexual desire, without Eros, wants it, the thing in itself; Eros wants the beloved.”

Christian Wisdom, Love of God and Love of Neighbor, Affection (2)


A portrait of friendship
A picture of a beautiful statue of polychromed and gilded wood entitled Christ and Saint John the Evangelist can be found in Stephen N. Fliegel’s A Higher Contemplation: Sacred Meaning in the Art of the Middle Ages. This statue depicts Jesus seated beside the Apostle John whom Jesus loved. John has his head resting upon Jesus’ shoulder. This 14th Century sculpture is from Swabia, Germany, and stands 92.7 cm high (approximately 37 inches).

Fliegel comments on the sculpture: “This emotionally charged moment has been isolated by the sculptor and turned into an object inspiring prayer and meditation. Jesus is shown tenderly taking the hand of John with his right hand, while placing the left arm over the shoulder of John to offer comfort. This image would have invoked great passion, devotion, and unspeakable emotion.”

The expression on Jesus’ face is one of love, pleasure and friendship. This sculpture captures the fact that Jesus was John’s friend.

Christian Wisdom, Love of God and Love of Neighbor, Affection (1)

Loving kindness
A Sunday School teacher once explored the Old Testament term “loving kindness” with her class. She asked the boys and girls how they would define loving kindness. A little boy raised his hand and explained, “If I were hungry and mother gave me a piece of bread, that would be kindness. But if she put a lot of peanut butter on it and slapped on some jelly and made a sandwich with another piece of bread, that would be loving kindness.”

The Hebrew word, esed, translated as the term “loving kindness,” appears in the Old Testament 245 times in 239 verses and is translated “loving kindness” in the King James Version 29 times, almost always in reference to God’s love for His covenant people. The English Standard Version often translates esed as “steadfast love” as well as “everlasting love.”

Learning to Listen with Our Eyes

Cultivating Wisdom (25)

Pat answers
Once a small child came home from kindergarten, ran into the kitchen, and excitedly confronted her mother with, “Guess what happened in school today.”

The harried mother hovered over her pots making every effort to get dinner ready. “What?” the mother said, not looking at her child.

The little girl repeated: “Mother, guess what happened.”

The mother, her attention still directed at the pots, said irritably, “I’m listening.”

The little girl said, “But you’re not listening with your eyes.”

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