The young man was perplexed upon hearing that God loves him but also allowed him to sin of his own free will. The statement by the guest lecturer was difficult for him to comprehend as a person who believed in God but had chosen not to act on his belief in God. How can a God who supposedly loves everyone allow the very same person to reject him? It simply did not make sense to him. As the presentation progressed, the young man felt compelled to raise his hand during the question-and-answer period and bluntly told the speaker, “I don’t understand how a God who loves us allows us to sin.”
Taking a deep breath as if he was about to plunge into the English channel, the speaker responded to the young man’s question as follows: “God’s love is infinite, and it is not bound by time or space; he has given us a choice to either accept or reject his love. This is part of the mystery of our faith.” Unfortunately, the answer did not go over well with the young man; he responded, “I still do not understand,” even though the response he received was not incorrect. However, it was not the answer the young man was prepared to receive at that time. He was desperate for someone to answer his question in an Incarnation-redemptive way, e.g., does God still love me, and why? Whether the response to the question was adequate or not for the young man, I do not fault the speaker for embracing the question.
Accommodation and the Creed of Love
We are infinitely loved by the Father, who, as Alpha and Omega, is not limited in his ability to love, nor is he dissuaded from loving us. We encounter God’s infinite love after the Fall of man in Genesis, where he proclaims his love for Adam and Eve by not destroying them but preparing them for what lies ahead in the coming of the new Adam, His son Jesus Christ. The significance of the first proclamation from God to Adam and Eve is the act of sacrifice, forgiveness, and reconciliation he expresses to them and where we encounter the fulfillment of these acts in the Word made flesh Jesus Christ.
A genuine outward expression of love toward someone who desperately seeks to be cradled and embraced by God’s love requires a loving internal explanation of the outward expression of love. This is, I argue, the beautiful symphony of faith and love that the Creed provides and is eloquently expressed and revealed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. If the Word of God is love expressed through Divine Revelation Incarnate through the Son, then the creed is the visible organic reality of this love we can receive, embrace, assent to, and live. This is where we begin to encounter God’s loving accommodation through His son and where we, hopefully, express a loving and earnest desire to be spiritually fed in word and deed.
Continuing with the young man’s story, after leaving the presentation unsatisfied with the response he was given, he expressed his frustration that he wanted someone to understand his struggle with belief and unbelief.
Teaching through the Heart
In the first book of Samuel, we are reminded that the Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. This powerful passage should serve as our foundation when we engage someone in a discussion about a potential relationship with Jesus Christ and our place within God’s salvific plan. The method of teaching through the heart involves an anthropological entryway, we are human first and foremost, and our humanity tends to take precedence over anything divine. This is part of the spiritual battle between good and evil; just as you and I try to find soft entry points when we attempt to engage someone about God, the Devil does the same thing, albeit in a non-loving convincing way.
We learn by understanding, and we understand by investigating truths meant to pull us away from spiritual confusion and desperation, where the tendency is to settle spiritually for something else other than Jesus Christ. Anyone who claims to be an evangelist and a catechist must never settle for anything less than the possibility of introducing the love of Jesus Christ to someone. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that it pleased God in his goodness and wisdom to reveal himself and make known the mystery of his will. Gaudium Et Spes reminds us that we can truly understand ourselves once we look at who Jesus is. The late and, in my humble opinion, great Cardinal George Pell adequately summarizes this entire journey as follows:
“We’ve always got to be looking for ways to better present the transcendent to the people who are praying in our churches and get them to open their minds and hearts to the greatness and goodness of God.”
Cardinal George Pell