Annelise on Amazing Grace
Annelise is a former Christian who now worships the God of Israel alone
My family grew up singing songs of thankfulness and surrender to God for saving us from guilt and allowing us to live in His kindness. Many of these were based on verses or imagery from the Hebrew scriptures. We were also taught that instead of punishing us as our rebellion deserves, God humbly chose to be born like us and experience the consequences of sin for us. One song I remember describes God as a ‘servant King’, who generously veiled His glory and came not to be served but to serve. The helplessness of a baby and the heavy sorrow of bearing sin for all humans are described as an undeserved gift to us from God.
This image becomes stronger in the lives of Christians when experiencing guilt and forgiveness. As humans we bring disobedience and weakness before God in His perfect holiness. So there is thankfulness for grace and the beauty of learning to live in His righteousness, which Christians believe comes actually through faith in Jesus.
I spoke sometimes with Muslim friends, who felt it was degrading to describe God as a man. The smallness of a human amidst creation, our humble state before God, and the disgusting or mundane nature of some aspects of everyday life seemed to them inappropriate to attribute to the One, Majestic God. But I felt that the depth of a costly gift like the one in the Christian view of Him in fact showed the majesty of His love.
I won’t describe here why I believe Jews can’t accept Christianity, or try to show that it isn’t true. What I want to bring across though is that nothing is lacking if it isn’t.
One of the biggest questions to grapple with, for someone who has known God’s love and grace and doesn’t hold any longer that they came through Jesus, is this: So what does His love for us actually look like?
There are many songs and prayers in the Jewish Scriptures, and in the worship offered by traditional Jews today, which thank God for this love and salvation. We can’t understand how or why He would love us, but through the prophets God spoke of His compassion for Israel and humanity in very deep language. His people thank Him for saving their nation in the past, and for how He will restore them in future. With awe we hear His promise to wipe away sins, because His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts. The grace of that gift draws us to repentance, to thankfulness and love, and to new ways of life. The gifts of His love for us are countless. The choices in each day and moment to be led only by what He wants us to do, nothing different, are a deep and secure experience of nearness to Him. And even though it is yet to flower in fulfillment, the beginnings of the redemption are real in the forgiveness, righteousness, and knowledge of His ways that God has put already in our reach.
As to the idea about a man who was ‘one with our Creator and suffered for us’, a story like that cannot be beautiful if it is not true. The merciful salvation promised through the prophets will be breathtaking whenever and however it is ultimately revealed.
But if God did not command Israel to see a particular suffering human as Himself, then the love we owe Him alone is being accidentally offered by Christians to a man who was just like us and experienced what it is to owe thankfulness and worship to God as well. Our God will be glorified in the earth when distractions like that fade away and the realities of His actual gifts are seen openly throughout nature, history, and our lives. But the truth that Christians (and others) have already acknowledged about how much He has loved us, how near He is to us, and how much we owe Him as servants and children, will never fade away. They will not be out of reach for anyone who turns to Him on the paths He has given and commanded us to come by.