“L’amour de Dieu est Folie!” (The love of God is folly). At different times in history, this is how God’s people in France would greet one another on Easter Sunday. The love of God… it’s a little crazy.
“God is love,” of this many profess they have no doubt. God loves everyone because that’s who He is and what He does. But speaking so broadly of this love I confess the trees often feel lost for the forest. “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16) is generous and incredible and beautiful and special.
Even so, when I imagine God loving the whole world, I see countless bodies of people across time and cultures – but they have no faces. Because I don’t know the whole world. I wonder if it’s easier to imagine sacrificial love for people without faces. I can conceive of God loving the whole world when that world is faceless and neutral.
When I start considering the actual world, with all its subdivisions around geography and politics and sports teams, education, skin tone, or gender – things get more complicated. God can easily love some of it I’m sure. God can love people broadly. I think of toys that my kids pick up in sweeping handfuls – are they picking up each of the toys or are they picking up all of the toys? If God loves the whole world . . . is there really anything to Him loving me?
It is said that Karl Barth claimed his life’s work in theology and ministry could be summarized as simply and yet frustratingly as, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Notice that Barth does not focus on the general idea that God loves everyone, but on the specifically remarkable idea that God loves me. God loves everyone – how wonderful. God loves me – how impossible!
And yet joy is only known as I perceive gladness in your specific-to-you-face having encountered mine. Does God know what He’s doing, loving the likes of me? Is He glad to or does He just happen to? Does He still? Will He always? Is it my face that spreads His smile wide?
God on high, weaver of astrophysics and dispenser of justice to nations, proper receiver of all praise whose first incarnate breaths were filled with the evidence of livestock, knows your face and finds delight in it (Psalm 139). Because the love of God is folly.
God Almighty, omnipotent, perfectly kind, and fully knowing all that can be known, fit His existence into DNA and went through diaper rash, loose teeth, learning genealogies, bullies, and puberty – not to mention the recorded three years of His public adult ministry – in order that the love of God may be displayed (Romans 5:8) in broad daylight, and my face was in view?
Consideration of the love of God has led many to sadness, guilt, shame, even despair and definitely performance anxiety – which would be appropriate if God had been showing us pity in a begrudged rescue effort. This is where we find ourselves in need of a Joy Reset!
Yet when Jesus shares the heart of God’s rescue efforts in Luke 15, what we hear is jubilation and glee, ecstasy and pride, raucous celebration, fervent partying, and victorious joy, “Rejoice with me!” Did you hear that? “Come, share joy with me,” it could be rendered into our English! This is where the joy of the Lord, our fuel for life itself, starts.
What brings this ecstatic delight? Jesus scandalously declares that God rejoices loudly, even extravagantly, upon the turning-towards-Him of any individual person. Not the years of devoted ministry. Not the miles traveled for the sake of the lost. Not the dollars sacrificed or the hours spent in intense study. This one moment of turning back to His face is in fact the fulfillment of His heart’s desire. There won’t be another moment in your lifetime when He’ll be any more delighted and proud (Luke 15:7).
Maybe you’re the kind of person who is used to people celebrating when you walk in the room, but for the people who often came near to hear Jesus explain God’s ways, that wasn’t the case (Luke 15:1). Lives of historic faithfulness weren’t to be found there. If you’re the sort who wonders what you bring to the game, if God would pick you for his team, I have some good news: He’s not picking teams and He doesn’t need anything you can offer (Romans 8:29). Your face is the delight. Your life was a priceless treasure before you took a breath.
If you’re the sort who was told God’s gonna use you since you were a toddler, I have more good news: the work of your hands or the efforts of your mind are to enjoy and share His gladness over, not a resume eyeing a career in eternity. He doesn’t need you for a new tool in the box or a better hire for the endless job; He wants you as you because He loves you, simply you. There’s a story to tell in good works and grand efforts for every sort of people (Ephesians 2:10), but it all begins with love for you, simply you, and how He’d like you to know and live there with joy.
If you’re reading this and just shaking your head, thinking to yourself or maybe even daring to whisper “That’s a little crazy,” then you’re starting to get it – l’amour de Dieu est folie. As you tumble down the rabbit hole and discover the world of undiluted grace and joy in full bloom, I encourage you to give up on keeping your sensibility and any hint of stoic-informed discipleship which is sooner offered an employment contract than adoption papers.
Should we experience life growing out of this love and joy, perhaps it is something we’d call delightful, even abundant. Could we enter into the foolishness of God, maybe then we can say, as did the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland, “We’re all mad here.”