Friday, May 18, 2007

Who are we, anyway?

Lately I have been reading a book by Miroslav Volf called Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace. In it, Volf goes into who we are. He is clear in pointing out that with respect to God, we are receivers. We have nothing to offer God that He needs. We have nothing that isn't already His. We cannot even be unless God gives us the gift of our next breath.

As Volf points out, this brings us very close to Luther's notion that we are "beggars all". Many might suppose that being such is utterly demeaning and denigrating our dignity as human beings, that to respond in faith to such a being is wrong. Volf responds:

But that feeling of diminishment and humiliation comes from wrongly conceiving our relationship to God. If we were independent from God the way we are independent from each other, and God expected us to just receive, God would be like an overbearing father who always knows better and will not let his daughter do anything on her own. But we are not independent in relation to God. Our power to be and to act comes from God. Faith merely recognizes this. Hence faith doesn't tell us how little we are and what we can't do. On the contrary, it celebrates what we most properly are - God's empowered creatures- and it frees us to our greatest accomplishment.
So we are receivers with respect to God. But that reality doesn't threaten our dignity; it makes it. If we fear looking small and silly, then we might consider how it appears to God when we struggle to assert ourselves independently from God.

No comments: