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Miserable Sinners, Powerless Worms and God’s Amazing Grace

4. As I suggested in (2), Lewis points to how we love ourselves to indicate how we ought to love others. But what about turning that around? Certain other people love us, and we love at least certain other people, for what presumably are lovable traits.

Now, here, a theologian compelled to defend his presuppositions might retort we are terrible creatures who love each other because of a terrible appreciation for terrible traits. God’s salvation will restore us both to true lovableness and to a proper appreciation of what is lovable.

(I have often been appalled by preachers who seem to believe we praise God best by roundly condemning the creature he made in his image. I have detected, I think, more than a whiff of misanthropy in the air.)

Now, I agree one of the effects of sin is to derange our values such that we can endorse sin and despise goodness. But completely? Are everyone’s values utterly perverted in every respect?

If so, how could anyone come anywhere close to the Gospel? Why would anyone seek out Jesus himself, as people clearly do in the gospels? Yes, “the Father draws them,” but they don’t seem to be miraculously attracted to traits everyone else around them finds ridiculous or horrible. Jesus is widely admired, even if he isn’t understood, obeyed or followed.

To me, it squares better with experience, reason and Scripture (just for starters, Jesus loved the “beloved” discipline long before he was entirely sanctified; he clearly loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus who were not close to perfect; and he even looked on the rich, young ruler with love) to say God has given us human beings enough of his goodness that we are, indeed, lovable.

5. Part of the confusion here might connect with the widespread misunderstanding that God’s love is entirely to be construed as selfless, as agap¯e, when God’s love is actually depicted in Scripture as ranging across the various forms of love described in the various Greek terms available: we are friends of God, the Bride of Christ and so on. Jesus went to the Cross “for the joy set before him”: the joy of magnifying his Father, yes, but also the joy of redeeming those he loved (Hebrews 12:2).

Now, to be sure, those he loved (namely, us) were sinners and therefore in some important sense repellent to him, as our loved ones are repellent to us when they sin. But those loved ones aren’t only and always repellent to us. Why should we think we are, or ever were, to God?