“As God delights in his own beauty, he must necessarily delight in the creature’s holiness which is a conformity to and participation of it, as truly as (the) brightness of a jewel, held in the sun’s beams, is a participation or derivation of the sun.’”
– Jonathan Edwards (The End for which God Created the World)
Though it is a constant theme in Scripture, many Christians recoil when confronted with the idea of God’s Delighting in His Own beauty. We simply don’t like it. We want God to delight in us above all things. I want Him to be all about me – my world, my life, my concerns, my beauty, my standing, my reputation, my health. Me and me alone. What a shock it is to our system when we discover that God is all about God – first and foremost; that His desire to glorify Himself takes precedence over every other concern.
When we consider this, we immediately try to “humanize” the idea. Is God not arrogant? How could he demand so much attention without being guilty of selfishness. We mumble inside our hearts, “God is just an attention hog, that’s what He is. Always demanding our love, demanding our devotion, demanding our worship. He’s just a big old baby! And if we don’t give Him what He wants then He pouts and thinks about ways to smite us into oblivion.”
Though deeply flawed, it is very natural to think this way. When we truly contemplate God’s demand to be glorified, it only makes sense to go this direction with our thought. But let’s consider just a couple of things that may help us to move in a better direction.
First of all, let’s understand that God’s love and worship of Himself is not selfish or arrogant, but supremely sacrificial and otherly. I once had a pastoral colleague tell me that he hated the idea of God seeking His own glory. He said that he refused to teach this doctrine to his people because it perpetuated selfishness and made God out to be nothing more than a Narcissistic deity who cared nothing for others. Is this true?
Just so you know, in Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hero who was renowned for his astounding beauty. In fact, according to most traditions, Narcissus was so beautiful that he fell in love with himself, constantly gazing at his own reflection in a pool of water. Eventually, so obsessed with his appearance, Narcissus fell into the water and drowned.
Is this God? Is God like Narcissus – self absorbed and arrogant?
This is where the Christian doctrine of the Trinity becomes so imperative. Understanding that God is tri-personal – three persons and one God – affirms that God is communal – in and of Himself. This explains how God has always been loving, and that His love is not contingent upon having a creature on which to bestow that love. God is love, and always has been. God is perfectly able to express that love within the Godhead – the Father loving the Son, the Son loving the Spirit, and so on. Therefore, God’s passion for His Glory is no self absorbed passion no more than His love for Himself is a self-absorbed love. The scripture bears this out for us. When faced with the Crucifixion, Jesus said, “for this purpose I have come unto this hour. Father, glorify your name (John 12:27).” Also, in John 17:1, Jesus prays, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.”
Do you see it? We could go on and on to make this point. The Holy Spirit glorifies the Son. The Son glorifies the Father. The Father glorifies the Son and so on. So then, God’s divine compulsion to Glorify Himself is other-ly, sacrificial, and supremely loving. God is not Narcissus, we are. We are the ones who stare at our own reflection. We are the ones who are self-absorbed. When God commands us to Worship Him, it is His invitation for us to enter into community, into self-forgetfulness, and into divine love. Yet, we refuse. Because of our sinful condition, we are addicted to staring into the proverbial pond, fawning over our supposed beauty, preening in self-delight; so much so that we eventually fall headlong into the siren call of those waters, drowning ourselves inside ourselves.
Moving further, let’s also understand that God’s invitation, His command, that we Glorify Him, is not an unloving desire. When God created us, He made us after His own image. This is a mysterious idea. We may never fully understand in this life, nor in the life to come, what it fully means to be created in God’s Image. Yet, we can know this: Just as God Glorifies Himself and enjoys and finds pleasure in that Glory, so He has also made us to Glorify Him and share in the pleasure of that Glory. In other words, we were designed to Glorify God. It is our greatest pleasure and joy. Just as fish were designed for water and birds were designed for flight, so we were made to Glorify God and Love Him supremely.
Think about what Edwards is saying. We are like diamonds that are created for the light of the sun. The brighter the light, the more brilliant the diamond shines, which gives glory back to the wonder of light and color. In the same way, God has made us, to shine like stars in the universe. As we Glorify Christ, we come alive – we are doing what we were designed to do. God glorifies us with His Glory that we might more perfectly Glorify Him. And this is our crown…our design…our ultimate purpose. Thanks be to God, who has sent us Christ Jesus, so that we might be given the desire and ability to glorify God, and in so doing, discover our deepest joy.
Blessings in Christ!