Pepperoni on the whole thing, sausage on one half, mushroom on the other. Thin crust, extra cheese, and throw in a couple of the spicy dipping sauces. And why don’t you make it the combo that comes with a couple of cans of Mountain Dew…”
Just imagine if you could order children the way you order pizza. Imagine if God knew you were trying to have a child and approached you to ask what you’d like. “Just run through this checklist and put together your order.” What would you want your child to be? What traits would you choose? Beautiful? Brilliant? Athletic? All of the above? Tell you what: You probably would not choose kids that are below-average or physically disabled or mentally handicapped. You would probably not even choose kids who are just plain normal. You would want your children to be the best and brightest, to stand out in every way possible.
New advances in technology make it seem like we will soon have to grapple with questions like these. As we get to the depths of the human genome and as we learn more and more about reproduction, we gain new abilities to custom-order the traits we value most. The ethical implications are profound and, to my mind, terrifying. But, of course, we tend to allow technology to run rampant and worry about the ethics later on.
There is a real attraction when it comes to customizing children because in some way we believe that our children are a reflection of ourselves. Beautiful children make their parents feel beautiful. Brilliant children make their parents feel brilliant. Ordinary children make their parents feel, well, ordinary. And what parent wants children who make them feel ordinary? Or, even worse, who wants children who reflect poorly on their parents?
“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints…” (Romans 1:7a). I love this little line from the introduction to Romans. Paul writes to the Christians at Rome and reminds them of two simple truths: They have been loved by God and called by God. They were called because they were first loved. And why were they loved? Why are we loved? Well, that’s the great mystery, isn’t it? But we see hints all through the Bible.
What we find is that God loves us because he loved us. God loves us today because he set his love on us in eternity past. Any love we have for God today is a response to the love God had for us yesterday and for a billion yesterdays before that one. But why were we loved in eternity past? Israel once wondered the same and God told them, “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you…” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). That’s no real help, is it? All God does is reaffirm his pre-existing love. “I love you because I loved you.”
The church in Corinth wondered this as well and God told them, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are…” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). Well, now we know that it was not because of what we are that God loved us, but because of what we are not. It’s not like in the distant past God surveyed humanity, saw the beautiful and brilliant, the good and the godly, and chose to love them. It’s not like he filled out a checklist to filter out everyone but the ones with the highest abilities or the greatest goodness. No, he chose the foolish, the weak, the despised, and the lowly. He set his love on them. And then, at the right time, he called them—he brought them from death to life.
God could have chosen anyone. He could have set his love on anyone. He could have been drawn to people with only the highest qualifications. He could have custom-crafted people that would only ever make him look great.
But he chose you. He chose me. And he chose us not because of what we are, but because of what we aren’t. He purposely chose the weak in order to better display his strength. He purposely chose the bad in order to better display his goodness. He purposely chose the foolish in order to better display his wisdom. As Michael Kruger says so well, What makes the gospel good news is that God decided to pour out his love on people who had nothing special to offer. He decided to pour out his love on people like you and me.
(I should note that much of what I’ve written here has been inspired by Michael Kruger’s excellent lectures on Romans.)
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