God Stoops

God stoopsGod Is Like Nanny McPhee

The story of Nanny McPhee cleverly illustrates how God stoops to interact with us. Nanny McPhee shows up at the house of some very naughty kids who have driven away many nice nannies before her. She looks like an ugly witch, complete with a big nose, warts, and a huge front tooth. She, quite frankly, unnerves the children and scares them a bit. By pushing the kids’ behavior to the extreme, they soon discover how wrong and destructive their actions are.

Through these experiences the kids realize that Nanny McPhee has their best interests at heart. Gradually, as their wills come into line with hers, she becomes more beautiful. By the end of the story she looks like a lovely young woman instead of a witch.

The striking upshot of the tale is the realization that Nanny McPhee doesn’t change. Regardless of her startling and bizarre appearance, she is as calm, peaceful, and lovely at the beginning as she is at the end. It’s how the children see her that changes. She took upon herself the ugliness of the children and played that role for the purpose of freeing them from their naughty ways.

A God Who Stoops

The Incarnation shows that it is God’s nature to lower Himself to meet his creatures where they are at. By taking on the likeness of our fallen hearts—entering into our sin and taking our hell upon Himself—He becomes much less beautiful than He actually is. He even looks like a criminal and dies a felon’s death.

God stoops not only in the New Testament but throughout Old Testament as well. Since men fell He has consistently veiled His majesty and conformed Himself to our fallen condition so as not to overwhelm us. The condition of our hearts determines the extent to which God stoops to reach us. He is eternally the same but, like Nanny McPhee, He appears to us as ugly as our ugly hearts require Him to be, and as beautiful as our redeemed hearts allow Him to be. God comes down to our level in order to bring us up to His level.

As the definitive revelation of God, Jesus shows us that stooping is what God has always done. Jesus didn’t show us an exception to God. He showed us an unswerving rule of His very nature.

God Goes the Second Mile

In His saving work, God goes the second mile with fallen men. Even though we may have a dim understand of what He’s like, He still never leaves us. If you think about it, God only has a few choices. He can destroy us, force us, enable us, or act as a savior. The only option that is consistent with His character is to act as a savior and go the second mile with us just like He taught us to do.

So God stoops. He takes on the face of our fallenness, sometimes playing the part of a ferocious, nationalistic, warrior god (looking much like any other ancient near-eastern god) and sometimes taking on the semblance of a condoning god. He does this because, from the depths of our sin, that’s who we expect Him to be. We project this fallen view onto Him, so He takes it on Himself and plays that role because He wants to stay in relationship with us. He steps into our fallen framework, takes our ugliness upon Himself, and plays a role in the hope of bringing us at last to see what He is really like.

“When we see Bible authors ascribing violence directly to God, there we’re seeing God wearing a mask. There we’re seeing the Spirit of God being suppressed. There we’re seeing God humbling Himself and saying, ‘Despite the fact that you think I’m capable of this horrendous violence, despite the fact that you think I’m a typical ancient eastern warrior god, out of My love and faithfulness I’m going to stay with you, and I’m going to keep working with you. I accept you just as you are.’

“And so, as we look through the lens of the Cross, all of those portraits of God engaging in and commanding violence become literary crucifixes. They’re testaments to the truth that God has always been doing what He does in a supreme way on the cross. He’s always been stooping to bear His peoples’ sin and therefore taking on a semblance that reflects the ugliness of that sin.”
– Greg Boyd

This is the reason the Old Testament God condones (and even seems to celebrate) genocide, polygamy, divorce, concubines, and many other things, when we know through the lens of Jesus that He really doesn’t like these things at all. Yet that is what He needed to do to relate to His people in that time and culture. Furthermore, if we are to be like God this is what we must also do to embrace people in our culture and time.

God Is A Missionary

A story is told of a couple that went to Africa and blended into the native culture. To their horror, they discovered that the natives practiced female circumcision. Even though it grieved them, the couple had to participate in that barbaric celebration for a long time in order to earn the right to speak into that native culture and influence the tribe for good in the long run.

“God is a missionary to this barbaric, violent world. There’s a whole lot He tolerates, enters into, condones, and even appears to celebrate that He actually detests.” – Greg Boyd

How do we know that the Old Testament God isn’t really how He seems? We know because the kind and gentle face of Jesus doesn’t represent an exception to an otherwise bloodthirsty, condoning, and/or distant God. He reveals, instead, the fullness of what God is like and has always been like, regardless of the crooked nose and warts that we have projected onto Him.

A special thanks to Greg Boyd for many of these thoughts and such clear teaching on this subject

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