As we went around greeting friends and making new ones we kept hearing the same phrase – ‘we’re so glad you’re here’. Person after person. Old friends and new.
Now, we hardly ever say that in England. Not because we’re not glad that people are there, but we’re just not so effusive, especially after one minute of chatting to someone. So it felt odd. Lovely, but odd. It felt odd that someone who hardly knew us could be so glad of our presence. Were they just being kind? Are they really glad? If we chat for much longer are they going to want to retract their statement?
It strikes me that that’s actually how we often think of God. He says he loves us, but does he really? We can sometimes think that God in some way has to love us. It’s the deal he’s set up. Everyone who trusts in Jesus is saved, so he has to take in some dregs alongside the really cool people that he’d much prefer to hang around.
It was pointed out by the author Helena Sorenson in a seminar at Hutchmoot (and forgive me Helena if I butcher what you were saying!) that the doctrine of being ‘in Christ’ can be used in such a way. It’s almost like God has been tricked into loving us because we’re in Jesus, or he’s reluctantly saying ‘yes, I guess I’ve got to let you in since you’re on the list because of him’. He loves Jesus and sees Jesus, and we get in because we’re somehow hidden from the Father’s view. But he’s not going to go as far as to say ‘I’m so glad you’re here.’
And yet, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, we are in Christ. Our sin is dealt with in him and we are made perfect in him. But God knows us and he loves us. He loves you. He loves me. He looks straight at us and says, no sings, ‘I’m so glad you’re here’.
“He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
This isn’t a description of a God reluctantly taking us in. This is a description of a father deeply loving his children. He’s so delighted that his children are there that he writes a song about it.
As a dad I’m learning more and more the pure delight of watching my children doing pretty much anything. To see them attempt a picture when they’ve just learned how to hold a pencil. To watch them copy a cricketer they’ve seen on TV, mimicking his poise and control. Hearing them sing absent-mindedly to themselves. To see my littlest swaying to the silent music in his head. I know what they’re like. I know their brokenness and sin. And yet I’m so glad they’re here.
On that great day when we meet God face to face, I don’t think it’ll take even a minute before he says ‘I’m so glad you’re here’. Because he is.