This is the third installment of a series of blog posts examining what you might call an “expansive gospel.” To get the context, check out the original post here. Last time I wrote about the good news that God is; now I’d like to expand on that by considering the good news that God cares.
Some people have a hunch that there’s a God, but they think maybe God is distant, disengaged, or remote. Maybe God is impersonal, like a force – or “The Force” for fans of Star Wars. I can understand the temptation to believe in an impersonal God; after all, an impersonal God gives you many of the benefits of spirituality without that pesky sense that God cares one way or another what you do with your life. It’s like having a landlord who (thankfully) built your apartment building and makes sure the water and power are always working, but who never charges rent or cares how you treat the place or other residents.
The downside of an impersonal God is not immediately obvious, but it is real and consequential. The deepest longing of every person is to know and to be known – to find belonging in caring and mutual relationships. But an uncaring God makes himself unavailable for such relationship with you. A distant God is less like a college professor who has no office hours for students and more like a dysfunctional parent who gives birth to you only to then abandon you to the wildness of this dangerous and unwelcoming world. And when you think about it, why would a God who doesn’t care go to the trouble to create the world and put you in it?
While you cannot know God the way you know the capitol of Arkansas or the answer to a math equation, you can know God’s character. While our feeble human minds cannot fully grasp the extent of who God is, God has dumbed things down a bit for us so that we can know him enough to trust him and believe he has good intentions for us. We can know that God cares.
The good news is that God is personal, God is near, and God cares for the world (and for you). God didn’t create the world and then step away; God continues to relate to his creation.
The good news is that God cares. God cares about you, those you love, those you hate, and those you’ve never met. God extended his love by creating the world, by continuing to relate to the world, and by longing to be in a love relationship with everyone in the world. Not everyone loves God back, but fortunately the good news is that God’s perfect love is not contingent on our imperfect love.
Why should you care that God cares? In other words, what makes this such “good news?”
First, a God who cares is way better than a God who either doesn’t care (apathy) or has some other sentiment toward you (such as hate or contempt). Those are the options, and your life is better with a God who cares. A God who cares is the very best alternative.
Second, a God who cares pierces the deadly loneliness that visits each of us from time to time. If you’re paying attention to life (versus just sleepwalking through day after day), you’ve noticed that life is wrought with challenges and can be painfully lonely at times. The wonderful people who surround you sometimes take a day (or a week) off from being so “wonderful;” after all, they are imperfect humans just like you. Some of those wonderful people move away or die. And some people who surround you are not all that wonderful – they make life worse instead of better. So it’s incredibly comforting to know that there is a God who created you and who cares for you.
Third, a caring God provides not just comfort, but also guidance. Have you ever heard parents at a ballgame tell a kid who just struck out or missed an easy fly ball, “It’s okay Johnny.” Such words are meant to comfort, but they do nothing to help Johnny do better next time. My kids call this kind of empty comfort “baby talk.” Such a parental attitude doesn’t treat the child as a capable and responsible person, but as a helpless victim of circumstances. God cares so much that he doesn’t just provide the comfort of “it’s okay,” he also offers guidance, instruction, and wisdom for how to live well. It’s good news that God cares enough to reveal how life works so that we can experience true wellbeing and contribute to our own flourishing (as well as flourishing for others).
The list could go on and on as to how God’s care is truly good news, but for now, let me invite you to reflect on God’s care. Use these questions to help:
- Imagine for a moment what the world might look like if God were cruel instead of caring. What would be different in your day-to-day life?
- What are three ways God has shown you he is a caring God?
- Who is the most caring person you’ve ever known? What did you like about this person? What good did it do you to have a person who cares?
- How caring are you?