…our God contracted to a span,
Incomprehensibly made Man.
— Charles Wesley, ‘Let earth and heaven combine’
It’s quite normal these days for people not to believe in God. For example, I met a man at a party in Chile when we were visiting our daughter a few years ago. He asked me what I did, so I told him I was a pastor. He said, ‘So you believe in God? I am an atheist.’ I sized the situation up as quickly as I could and suggested we have a chat over a bottle of wine. (We were in Chile, after all!)
My new friend readily agreed.
We had a good conversation (he spoke English quite well, which was good as my Spanish was pretty ordinary back then).
Predictably, neither of us convinced the other. But honestly, I wasn’t trying to convince him; I was just trying to build bridges. And share a bottle of good Chilean wine.
He was surprised that I thought that God could save people who weren’t Christians. That God could save even atheists. He asked me if I taught that, and I said that I did.
Whatever teaching he had received about God, it seems that it was of a God who is remote and implacable. A God who sees your sins and takes note of each and every one. A God who balances the books at the end of your life by throwing you into hell.
He had rejected that God. I told him that I have too. In fact, I also didn’t believe in the God that he didn’t believe in. I joined him in his unbelief in that God.
The God I do believe in is not remote; I believe in Immanuel, God with us. I believe in the God who came to us in Jesus Christ. A God who took risks to win our hearts.
A human God, who needs his mother Mary to feed him with her milk and to change his nappy. A human God who passed through the vulnerable years of childhood, and who was once twelve.