Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Intimate Union

Brennan Manning makes the point in the fourth chapter of The Furious Longing of God, 'Union' that unity is part of God's design for his creation. Jesus prayed for it and the perfect image of this union is God walking alongside Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Jesus' mission was to restore this unity. Manning writes:

"the outstretched arms of Jesus exclude no one, neither the drunk in the doorway, the panhandler on the street, gays and lesbians in their isolation, the most selfish and ungrateful in their cocoons, the most unjust of employers and the most overweening of snobs. The love of Christ embraces all without exception." (pgs 59-60)

Why is that so hard to embrace? It sounds nice and looks good on paper. But living this out? Our fallen nature likes to draw lines in the sand that divide us for any number of reasons- skin color, politics, denomination. This division, this disunity is never what God planned for us. It does not reflect the love of Christ.

But in order to be united with one another, we must first enjoy union with God.

Ultimately, it is God's furious desire for us to be one with him, and all the rest of our relationships hinge on that. The father in the parable of the Prodigal Son saw his son returning "while he was still a long way off" implying that he was keeping watch for him. Paul taught in Athens that God places us exactly where we need to be so that we can "seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:27)  James, the brother of Jesus promised that if you "come near to God... he will come near to you." (James 4:8) In fact, the Bible is often described as 'God's love story' where the repeated cycle of rebellion, repentance, and restoration shows God's love never giving up on his creation, always longing to be reunited with his people.

God is pursuing union with you. Let that sink in for a moment. The creator of the universe wants a intimate relationship with you.

Even more dramatic, every one of your relationships relies on this. Marriage, friendships, family, even strangers- how we approach each of these depends first on our relationship with God. Selfishness, pride, mistrust, hurt- all of these are symptoms of missing out on God's perfect union and the consequences can be seen in our broken relationships, hurt feelings, and bad memories.

It is no coincidence (there are no coincidences in the Kingdom of God, one of my friends is fond of saying) that this chapter falls right before Valentine's Day. The best Valentine you can give the one you love is to love Him first. Manning writes, "love by its nature seeks union." (pg 68) So he offers this sage advice, again perfect timing for Valentine's Day, "if I had to do it all over again?.. I would simply do the next thing in love." (pg 66)

God seeks intimate union with you. Welcome Him.

Consider this:

How often do you monitor your spiritual growth-Several times a day? Once a month? Every thirty days? Twice a year?

Would you, could you, devote not one more minute to monitoring your spiritual growth? If so, it's possible you just might find you like green eggs and ham.

This post continues discussion on Brennan Manning's book, The Furious Longing of God. Please check out Jason Sasyzsen's and Sarah Salter's blogs for more discussion. The "consider this" questions come straight from the book- use them as a springboard for your own thoughts and feel free to share them here.


Anonymous said...

I forget sometimes that my relationships are directly related to what kind of relationship I have with God. I don't monitor my spiritual relationship. Perhaps I should to see how I'm progressing or not progressing.

Dusty Rayburn said...

We are called and enabled to love Him because He first loved us. Oh what love that is! A love seeking complete and perfect union with each of us.

It's not about my abilities or accomplishments, it's all about His desire for us to be one with Him and He with us.

Jason Stasyszen said...

I heard someone say once that unity only comes in Jesus, and I believe it's true. The more we fight over doctrinal and theological issues, the more we stray from the love and unity in Jesus. It is incredible to think that He desires union. It's even more incredible to know He's provided the way through Jesus' blood and resurrection. Thanks so much, Frank.

Fatha Frank said...

Thomas, I don't know where or how I got the conviction, but I am always conscious of whether a particular relationship reflects God's relationship with me. I pray about it all the time when it comes to my wife and my kids and I ask forgiveness for failed relationships in my past. It's not something I necessarily "monitor" (which would defeat the purpose Manning is trying to make) it has just, over time, become part of who I am.

Dusty, thank you. Oh what a love it is to be sure. A love that is seeking and pursuing. Furiously longing.

Jason, I cannot tell you how sad it makes me that 2000 years after Jesus prayed for unity we are so disunified. It is something I pray about regularly.

Phil said...

I like your refrence to the Prodigal Son here. One of the greatest examples of unconditional love. Well actually I really enjoyed this whole post!

Fatha Frank said...

Phil, also check out Ezekiel 34:11-16 for another great picture of God's love. That was the original scripture I was going to go with but left it out for the sake of room. (Still worth reflecting on however!)

Thanks for reading, adn I'm glad you enjoyed it!

HisFireFly said...

"God is pursuing union with you. Let that sink in for a moment. The creator of the universe wants a intimate relationship with you."

That's the good news we seem to find so difficult to accept.

Well said...