Some truths are so simple that we miss how profound they really are. One plus one is two. A simple truth that is foundational to all mathematics. The sun rises from the east and sets in the west like clockwork. How much of our day, even our lives, relies on that simple fact. We count days by it. We can know what direction we’re facing from it. We can even figure out our latitude, how far north or south we are, even when there are no other landmarks to be seen. There is also a spiritual truth that is likewise so simple that we miss how utterly profound it is. What I have in mind is like a two-sided coin. On the surface they seem unconnected like heads and tails but taken together they change lives and even worlds.
The first side of this truth is something we don’t want to hear. Entire industries have been built to escape it. Advertisers avoid it like the plague. Alternate philosophies have been created to ignore this one reality. Yet deep down in our heart, in some moment of utter honesty we know it, even if we don’t want to admit it. We are worse off, more sinful and utterly selfish than our darkest fears. The message of the world is that we are a good person, that we deserve to be liked, even loved, for who we are. But we don’t. That’s the point. We don’t deserve anything from God and we are powerless to change that. No amount of sacrifice, religious ceremony or an ocean of tears can change that one basic human truth. We really are worse off than we fear.
The second side of this truth is something we can’t fully understand. It’s like discussing the universe with Einstein or Hawking, most of us can’t wrap our heads around what they discovered. The other side of our coin is that God loves us more than we can possibly imagine. Now, we think we know that, but I doubt that we really understand it. Consider Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.” (Ephesians 3:18–19a, NLT) We normally describe objects using three dimensions, yet Paul uses four to describe God’s love. God’s love is beyond our understanding, even beyond our imaginations, but that doesn’t make it any less real.
Grasping these two realities to whatever degree we are able brings us to our coin. One truth with seemingly opposite heads and tails. Some may argue that what we’ve been looking at is really two truths. Perhaps. What is important for us is what happens when you put them together like one plus one. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NASB95) Do you get that we don’t deserve His love? We don’t deserve forgiveness. We can’t earn the answers to our prayers. We don’t merit His favor or even life itself. We aren’t worthy to become His children. But God…things really change when sentences begin with those two words. But God continues to demonstrate His love towards each and every human being through the cross of Jesus Christ. God’s love is a cross-shaped love. Maybe that’s why Paul used four dimensions instead of three. Maybe it still seems like two truths to you, let me complete the formula. Unworthy selfish sinful humanity plus God’s indescribable beyond our imagination love results in grace. Grace that loves, forgives, answers, guides, and changes everyone that dares to hold on to Jesus and embrace His cross-shaped love.