Stained To Save Us

Stained To SaveGod has a problem.

When men fell into sin, He only had a few choices:

  • He could let them die
  • He could force them
  • He could act to save them

His only option, consistent with His character, was to act as a savior. But He can only remain a savior if He remains in a relationship with men. This relationship, however, is fraught with difficulty, because even the best of men are fallen, prone to evil, and often fall short of reflecting God’s perfect love.

CS Lewis first directed my thoughts to the problems that present themselves when fallible, finite men coexist with Omnipotence.

“For He seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye. He allows us to neglect what He would have us do, or to fail. Perhaps we do not fully realize the problem, so to call it, of enabling finite free wills to coexist with Omnipotence. It seems to involve at every moment almost a sort of divine abdication. We are not mere recipients or spectators. We are either privileged to share in the game or compelled to collaborate in the work, ‘to wield our little tridents.’ Is this amazing process simply Creation going on before our eyes? This is how (no light matter) God makes something—indeed, makes gods—out of nothing.”

– C.S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night and Other Essays

A Sort of Divine Abdication

It’s these words that always caught my attention:

“It seems to involve at every moment almost a sort of divine abdication. We are not mere recipients or spectators. We are either privileged to share in the game or compelled to collaborate in the work, ‘to wield our little tridents.'”

God has given all men the autonomy to do with this world what they will (Psalm 115:26). Every one of us makes an impact on this world with our words and actions. The rub comes when God’s representatives throughout history—Israel, prophets, or Christians—use their God-given power and autonomy to misrepresent Him. God has partnered with men—through spiritual gifts and powers—to accomplish His will in the earth, but men have often used these powers in unloving and violent ways, thus maligning God’s character.

A Thorn In God’s Side

Thus, in aligning His purposes with humans, God has placed Himself in a position where He can be incredibly misunderstood. Indeed, like CS Lewis says, we have not fully realized the problems God faces by empowering fallen humans to work on His behalf. Doing this might seem less than ideal but, as noted above, it is the only way the God can stay in meaningful relationship with men in order to save them.

“When God confers divine power on select people, he does not meticulously control how they use it.” – Greg Boyd

God Is Not a Micromanager

The story of Sampson stands as a grim reminder of this reality. When God gave Sampson his supernatural strength, He didn’t micromanage how Sampson used that power. Instead, He allowed Sampson to use that power in violent ways. Similarly, though Jesus rebuked James and John when they urged Him to do the same thing, God didn’t interfere with Elijah’s violent misuse of power when he called down fire from heaven to incinerate the enemy.

Stained To Save Us

The reality of the way God interacts with humans goes a long way toward explaining the apparent violence of the Old Testament God. True to the life of Jesus, God has always been willing to take our sin—our violence—upon Himself, regardless of how it made Him look, regardless of the stain smeared on His character.


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