The Tears of God

Who has believed our report?
To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender young plant
Like a root out of dry ground
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him
Nothing in his appearance made us desire him
He is despised and rejected
A man of sorrows
Acquainted with grief
Like one from whom men hide their faces
He was despised
And we esteemed him not
Surely he has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows
Yet we considered him stricken
Smitten by God and afflicted
But he was wounded for our transgressions
He was bruised for our iniquities
The chastisement for our peace was upon him
And by his stripes we are healed
Isaiah 53

It was four below zero this morning. A perfect day for a roaring fire in the stove. I was stacking wood and listening to Christmas music when I heard Away In a Manger. One of the verses goes like this:

The cattle are lowing
The poor Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes

Baby Jesus doesn’t cry?
Of course he does.
Like every baby, Jesus cried at birth.
Like every baby, Jesus cried when he was hungry.
Like every child, Jesus cried when he was hurt or unhappy.

The baby Jesus who doesn’t cry is the “Halo Jesus.”
The problem with the “Halo Jesus” is he is not human.
A baby who doesn’t cry is not human.
A person who doesn’t cry is lacking in humanity.

Jesus cried. He cried as a baby, as a child, and as a man.
Jesus cried. He was man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.
Jesus cried. He shed the tears of God.

God in Christ shed tears.
This is an astounding acknowledgment.
Nothing that is common to man was kept from God in Christ.
Not birth, not death; not trial, not temptation; not sorrow, not suffering.
And not tears.

Some theologians have argued for for the doctrine of “Divine Impassibility.” This doctrine, which states that God is incapable of suffering, was first developed by early theologians who were heavily influenced by Greek philosophers; it was later adopted by Calvinist theologians. Well, I have bone to pick with these theologians. They have woefully underestimated the Incarnation. Christ is not God masquerading as human. The incarnation is God made fully human. And tears are part of the human condition. Thus in Christ we find, not divine impassibility, but divine suffering. We find the tears of God. And these tears are integral to our salvation. For as Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed, “Only the suffering God can help.”

(It’s interesting to note that as a direct result of the Holocaust, divine impassibility is now rejected by most theologians. Apparently the notion that God adopts a passive attitude toward human suffering is no longer tenable in light of the Holocaust. But as far as I’m concerned it was a doctrine that always flew in the face of Scripture. In the development of divine impassibility we find patristic and Calvinist theologians incorporating Greek philosophy at the expense of the evident anthropomorphic picture of God given in the Old Testament, not to mention the damage it does to the doctrine of the Incarnation. To the demise of divine impassibility, I say, good riddance.)

It’s not the stoic Greek philosophers who reflect the heart of God,
It’s the weeping Hebrew prophets.
Not Zeno the Stoic philosopher,
But Jeremiah the weeping prophet.
The prophets wept because God weeps.
Jesus wept because God weeps.
The Word became flesh that God might join us in our tears.

But the tears of God are not tears of mere commiseration.
These are holy tears that lead to our liberation.
Liberation from the dominance of sorrow.
God in Christ did not join us in sorrow merely as an experiment in empathy;
God in Christ joined us in sorrow that he might lead us to the joy that comes in the morning.

Jesus has entered fully into the new morning of resurrection.
The rest of creation groans, eagerly awaiting the promised liberation.
In the meantime, we who suffer are comforted with the knowledge that we not alone in our suffering–
Jesus joined us in our suffering and shed the tears of God.
In those tears we will ultimately find joy unspeakable, full of glory.

In the First Advent God in Christ joined us in our tears.
The Son of God was born in tears, like every baby is born.
In the Second Advent God in Christ will join us again;
This time to wipe away all or our tears.

O, Lord, when?

Michael Been

The truth can change a man
In the wisdom of his days
It whispers soft but constantly
You cannot live this way
For deceitful words are costly
And actions even worse
The abuse that has been suffered here
From childhood laid its course

We witness not a fallen world
But falling everyday
And nature joins our great dissent
With quakes and hurricanes
But I’ll meet you on the stormy sea
And I’ll hold the winds at bay
And we’ll pull the oars inside the boat
And gently drift away

The past lies in slumber
The future, no claims
The present is ours
It’s cleaned by the rain
My pockets have emptied
But my heart overflows
Consumed in the fire of love’s fearless power
I long for Your face in that great final hour

Once I spoke in riddles
But now I speak it plain
The tears of God are pouring down
In remembrance of that day
So let the children fly
And question all they see
They’ll grow up wise and penetrate the life that lives unseen

How will I know you?
What will you look like?
When will the dream end?
When will the sun arise?
Where does the line form?
Where does the wheel turn?
How will I know you?
When will we ever learn?

Merry Christmas! (First Advent)

Maranatha! (Second Advent)



In case you’re wondering, I’m quite happy today. I am thoroughly enjoying the Christmas season.

Here’s a picture from our staff Christmas party last night.