Bishop's Message

The queue and the circle

Jan 2010    

GOD’S QUALITY LOVE

“The quality of God’s love for each of us is never diluted or diminished by our numbers. It does not mean that the more of us there are, the less God’s love and attention for each of us. No, He gives each of us undivided attention so much so that at times it may feel like all His attention is showered upon an individual. In truth, that is the way He relates to all.”

DO OUR PRAYERS have to line up in a queue in heaven to get God’s attention? How does God handle all the millions of petitions that go up to Him at any given moment?

Answers to these questions depend on our view of God, and of time and eternity. They depend on our own experience of God and our observations of those around us. Early in my Christian walk, I had the distinct impression that I was one of God’s favourites – not because of what I was doing for Him, but more because of the experience of grace upon grace, the steady stream of blessings that came my way from the heavenly Father. I suspected that God was treating me specially and wondered why – since I did not deserve to be treated so.

When I walked further in the Christian life, I realised that I was surrounded by God’s favourites. Soon, on deeper reflection, I came to realise with conviction that everyone is God’s favourite (though many remain prodigal). He loves every human being with perfect love and has time for each of His creatures. He longs to lavish His generous love on everyone. He gives attention to each one. As our Lord reminds us, He showers His rain on all, both the wicked and the righteous (Mt. 5:45).

How does God manage to do this? How can He give undivided attention to all when there are so many – billions – of us? Any parent who has more than one child will understand the challenge. John Wesley’s mother, Susanna, had 19 children, many of whom died, but she still had a large brood to take care of. To give attention to each, she set aside contact time once a week for each child. She was a wise and loving mother; yet she was unable to give undivided attention to all her children all the time.

How, then, does God do it? The Bible declares that as far as the Lord is concerned, “a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day”. (2 Pet. 3:8). God’s time and timings are different from ours. He is able to operate in time and history; yet He is not bound by time as we know and experience it. He dwells in eternity – and how can we really understand eternity because we are creatures bound by space and time?

How then, does a God who is able to move back and forth from the two realms of time and eternity relate with us and our prayers? C. S. Lewis offers some interesting insights on this in his classic, Mere Christianity: “Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life does not consist of moments following one another. If a million people are praying to Him at ten-thirty tonight, He need not listen to them all in that one little snippet which we call ten-thirty. Ten-thirty – and every other moment from the beginning of the world – is always the Present for Him. If you like to put it that way, He has all eternity in which to listen to the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as His plane crashes in flames.”

Lewis suggests that God has the leisure of eternity to examine and respond to our prayers. Think about it. How this really works is the subject of speculation and imagination on the part of philosophers and theologians. Even if we are not so inclined, we can still draw some simple lessons for our everyday lives.

WE CAN REST ASSURED that God is never in a hurry. He is not harassed or stressed by challenges, demands and problems. He is never too busy to listen with careful attention to our feeblest prayers, or to notice the simplest of our acts. He is not distracted not to feel with us our pains and sorrows, or to count every tear that flows down our faces (Ps. 56:8).

How does God do it? He does it by relating to us from His eternal perspective. He has all the time, so to speak, to attend to each of us. He gives undivided attention to each of us all the time – that is the incredible and wonderful truth. As C. S. Lewis says, “He has infinite attention to spare for each of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created. When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only man in the world.”

This, of course, is not an invitation to an individualistic approach to salvation or Christian discipleship. It is not a call for a private and self-absorbed kind of Christianity. However, it is a reminder of the personal nature of our relationship with God in Christ that anchors all our other relationships.

In other words, the quality of God’s love for each of us is never diluted or diminished by our numbers. It does not mean that the more of us there are, the less God’s love and attention for each of us. No, He gives each of us undivided attention so much so that at times it may feel like all His attention is showered upon an individual. In truth, that is the way He relates to all. In His unhurried eternal leisure He can turn our words around and examine them eternally or take an act of our worship and endlessly dwell on it with divine pleasure. Our urgent cries for help receive His eternal attention. And He has all eternity to respond to each of our needs and aspirations. You cannot receive more attention or caring and careful love than that.

We do not queue up in God’s presence, waiting for our turn to receive His attention. Instead we stand in a circle of love. And God attends to us with full attention given to one and all – all the time. Only He can do it.

REACH OUT

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