For the love of bugs
I have an objection to Christianity that I’ve never heard any atheist voice. And I think I know why. Here it is:
If the Christian God is so great…knows everything about everything and everyone, created the universe out of nothing and is in control of every quark, is perfectly and completely good, holy (and wholly) beyond description…why would he even give a damn (remember, this is the atheist talking) about us grossly inferior human beings? Why would a being so incomprehensibly greater in nature and power want to have anything to do with creatures that are like tiny, annoying stink bugs in comparison?
I hate those damn, I mean, darn stink bugs. Don’t you? But if it’s true, as I believe it is, that compared to God we are just like those insufferable insects, if not worse, then what the Bible teaches about God’s love for us is akin to us loving annoying stink bugs enough to die for them. Uh-uh. That would never happen in our world. So, reason, the atheist might say, requires one to reject such a ridiculous notion.
It is ridiculous, from our perspective. And that’s why it’s so hard for people, including me sometimes, to believe that this great God actually, sincerely, perfectly, and unconditionally loves them. I don’t love stink bugs…nor flies, mosquitos, gnats, or any kind of bug. I kill them, and I enjoy doing it. (Oh, the carnage in my kitchen in the summertime.) Why would God not only not swat a stink bug like me into oblivion but instead love me so much that he would become a stink bug himself so that I could spend eternity with him?
It’s incomprehensible, but why should we expect it to be otherwise? Can an insect comprehend why we do anything we do? The very fact that God is so much greater than we means that we are inherently incapable of understanding much of the whys and hows of what he does. If we could, we could conceivably be gods ourselves.
But since we can know with great confidence THAT he exists, and THAT he is incredibly powerful, and THAT Jesus of Nazareth is God in the flesh and taught and demonstrated his great love for us while he lived among us as a fellow bug, we can believe and trust though we cannot understand.
Though I haven’t run across any, there are probably some atheists who have this objection in their arsenal, along with the hiddenness of God and the problem of pain and suffering. But I suspect that for most it never occurs to them because they have a deficient apprehension of both the greatness of God and the smallness of man. The dichotomy is missed and the chasm misjudged, so their view of man’s relationship to God is misrepresented and mistaken.
There’s a parable Jesus told which speaks to this dichotomy overcome and chasm bridged by God’s love for those made in his image, however distorted. A self-righteous Jewish leader thought it ridiculous that Jesus would allow an immoral woman to wash and kiss his feet. But Jesus challenged the Pharisee’s reasonable evaluation with a story about a moneylender who forgave two debts, one exceedingly greater than the other. Which debtor would love the moneylender more? he asked. The answer is obvious, but the real lesson, I believe, is not that the more one is forgiven the more one loves. It’s that we are all immeasurably inferior to God and cannot hope to have a relationship with him unless he reaches down in forgiveness and draws us to himself. And that it is those who recognize how great their debt is, and that they cannot pay it, who will respond to him in love.
Our debt is great, the disparity is great, but the Father’s deep, deep love for us is greater still. And for all who see it…when the light comes on for all who have the eyes of their hearts open…they are like stink bugs to a flame.