Thursday, December 14, 2006

God's Gracious Address to Us

I was reading CD IV/3.1 and came across this creative passage, reflecting God's gracious address to humanity in Jesus Christ. It brought me to tears. I shall quote below (please excuse the masculine language, a poor translation of the German):

We might imagine the conversation to which [the address of God to humanity] gives rise and some of the forms which it necessarily takes.

The man to whom it is said thinks and says that he is not this new, peaceful, joyful man living in fellowship. He asks leave honestly to admit that he does not know this man, or at least himself as this man.

The Word of grace replies: "All honour to your honesty, but my truth transcends it. Allow yourself, therefore, to be told in all truth and on the most solid grounds what
you do not know, namely, that you are this man in spite of what you think."

Man: "You think that I can and should become this man in the course of
time? But I do not have sufficient confidence in myself to believe this. Knowing
myself, I shall never become this man."

The Word of grace: "You do well not to have confidence in yourself. But the point is not that you can and should become this man. What I am telling you is that, as I know you, you already are."

Man: "I understand that you mean this eschatologically. You are referring to the man I perhaps will be one day in some not very clearly known transfiguration in a distant eternity. If only I had attained to this! And if only I could be certain that even then I should be this new man!"

The Word of grace: "You need to understand both yourself and me better than you do. I am not inviting you to speculate about your being in eternity, but receive and
ponder the news that here and now you begin to be the new man, and are already
that which you will be eternally."

Man: "How can I accept this news? On what guarantee can I make bold to take it seriously?"

The Word of grace: "I, Jesus Christ, am the One who speaks to you. You are what you are in Me, as I will to be in you. Hold fast to Me. I am your guarantee. My boldness is yours. With this boldness dare to be what you are."
Man: "I certainly hear the message but..." In this perplexed and startled "but" we see the attack, and who it is that is attacked.

--Karl Barth, CD IV/3.1, p. 250 (emphasis added)