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Can God Be Vulnerable?

Let me pose a “does a tree falling in a forest with nobody around to hear it make a sound” kind of question: Can God be vulnerable?  Well, on the one hand, obviously not.  He’s all-powerful.  Immortal.  Transcendent.  By nature, one of the most obvious things about God is that He is immune to any weakness, pain, or rejection.  But if this is true, then He isn’t affected by anything that happens to us.  In which case, He’s indifferent to us.  In which case, He can’t be a God of infinite goodness and love.  So, on the other hand, being a God of love, obviously yes.  He can—He has to be—vulnerable.  Uggggggh!  Which is it?

Of all the students I ever taught, few grasped the true point of their Sophomore religion class as fully as one girl did.  I will never forget the essay she wrote toward the end of that year.  It blew me away.  Not only had she exquisitely mastered the content, but, far more importantly, she made a profound connection between this content and her own life and faith.  Which was the true point all along.  Not just to know about God.  But to know God.  Personally.  As the best theologians do, she made the critical connection between knowing more about God and knowing God more intimately.  So naturally, I assumed she would be first in line to sign up for the elective course I was teaching her Senior year which would explore this connection more deeply.

But she never did.  Even after I did everything in my power to convince her how good it would be for her.  To this day I have no idea why she didn’t want to take the class.  And I have no idea why it bothered me so much that she didn’t.  In fact, it still bothers me to this day!

It’s not like I needed more students to sign up for the class.  So many signed up that one section had turned into three.  This created a disruption in scheduling which had members of the Guidance Department dropping not-so-tactful hints of ways I could trim the class lists to make scheduling more manageable.  So, her not taking it actually made things easier.  And it wasn’t like I would miss her participation in the class.  There were plenty of other kids I adored who had already signed up that I knew I would—and did—make those classes a pure delight to teach. 

But for some reason, it really hurt that she wasn’t taking the class.  It felt like a rejection.  Not personally—I still had a great rapport with her.  Not professionally—as a teacher, I wanted to have an impact on my students’ lives, of course.  But her Sophomore class had done that in a way that couldn’t be topped.  Whether she took the class or not didn’t have any real impact on me.  I still got paid.  I still felt completely fulfilled as a teacher.  I still was experiencing so many other wonderful things that made me completely content.  I didn’t need her to take that class.

But it bothered me because I knew how much she would get out of it.  How much she would be missing.  It bothered me because I let myself care about my students’ spiritual welfare.  If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t have been vulnerable to feeling any hurt.  If I didn’t care, I would have barely noticed that she wasn’t taking the class. 

I know this is a silly and trite way to illustrate my point.  But on a cosmic scale, God does something similar.  As the transcendent God, He is completely fulfilled in Himself.  He doesn’t need our love or affirmation.  What He offers us is pure gift.  Totally for our good.  But, out of the unfathomable greatness of His love, He is intensely interested in our well-being.  He cares about our response.  He lets it affect Him.  Out of the unfathomable greatness of His love, He allows Himself to be vulnerable to all the ways we might reject His grace.

How does He do this?  How can the transcendent God make Himself vulnerable to us and all the ways we might and do reject Him?  The Cross.  As the eternal God whose being is infinite, He can experience in that moment of complete vulnerability the effect of every sin ever committed.  As the lover of our souls, He is willing to. 

This is how God can be vulnerable.  On the Cross, both His infinite nature and His vulnerability shine through.  

Hanging in agony on the Cross, God lets Himself become completely vulnerable to every way we choose to reject Him. 

Hanging in agony on the Cross, God absorbs into Himself all the pain and hurt sin causes. 

How do you feel about God being vulnerable?  Does it comfort you, or scare you?  Go to the “Contact E.J.” page of the Raising Jesus website and let me know what you think.  I’d love to hear from you!

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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