Because of the blindness that characterizes our separation from God, however, we can see nothing but our own self-indulgent illusions. Left to ourselves, we have nothing but an empty world of social constructions to give us comfort. Left to ourselves, we have nothing but pride, and in that pride we are easily deceived by evil. Left to ourselves, therefore, we are lost in slavery to sin. Therefore, only God Himself can show us what true love is.
Now, if God were to appear to us in His full glory, we would surely drop down before Him in terror. But we wouldn’t necessarily love Him. True love, after all, is an act of self-sacrifice offered in free will, not something engendered by fear.
Psychologically, fear refers to a narcissistic concern about possible damage to our pride and safety. In contrast, fear of God refers to our humble awe before God’s great glory and mercy. Thus, whereas psychological fear pulls us away from God, fear of God leads us directly into the embrace of divine love.So, in order to teach us true love, God chose to show it to us through the life of a simple, poor man—a life which ended with the most humiliating execution known to humanity.
It was as if God said to all bystanders, those present and those yet to be, “If you can love Him, My Son, this humble, broken man hanging in weakness on that cross out of love for you, you can love anything. If you can love anything, you will know true love. And if you know true love, you will finally begin to know Me.”
After all, what, in all its blindness, does human culture tend to value? Well, look at politics, sports, and entertainment and you will see an insatiable thirst for wealth, glamor, power, competition, and revenge. So is it any wonder that to show us true love, and to bypass all human illusions, God came to us in poverty, simplicity, weakness, and gentleness?Christ took all of the insults patiently and quietly, without retaliation, all so that we could see the truth of the sin in our hearts—and repent it, in sorrow for the pain we cause to each other.
And that’s why Saint Paul said (1 Corinthians 1:23) that the crucifixion of Christ seemed like folly to the Greeks who valued the “wisdom” of natural philosophy; and to the Jews, who looked for powerful prophetic signs, the crucifixion was a stumbling block.
For neither natural wisdom nor power can illuminate their own darkness.
Baptism into Christ, therefore, calls us to a radical change in our being. In the language of computer technology, it’s like saying that true Christian faith is not just an “application” that we can run on our existing “operating systems”; true faith is a process that creates an entirely new operating system.