God is not like us — and we tend to forget it. We tend to measure things by fairness and what another person deserves or has earned. We, for instance, can understand why (even if very rare) someone would sacrifice a life for a person who was positive “righteous.” We would have a hard time finding any good in someone like Jimmy Carter — and you Blue folks love him, while some of you Red folk … — giving his life for some death row inmate who had done some abominable evils.
That does not make sense. “What a waste of life,” we might say. Now if someone gave away a kidney and died for it to preserve a good man like John Ortberg we might say “That’s a noble sacrifice.”
This sort of thing is what Paul is playing with in his head when he compares God’s incomparable love and grace for humans with the very normal sort of love humans have. Humans give their lives, even if rarely, for good people. They don’t give their lives degraded and debased humans.
But, God gave his own Son (this is a “Trinitarian decision within the perichoresis” and we need to avoid pitting Father against Son here) for humans, and Paul’s not afraid to spell out just what humans are like. Thus, Romans 5:6-8.
He uses a few ignoble terms for humans — not because they are not Eikonic but because they have messed themselves up and bear responsibility. Here they are:
1. Powerless (asthenon) (5:6).
2. Ungodly (asebon) (5:6).
3. Sinners (hamartolon) (5:8).
4. Enemies (echthroi) (5:10).
Folks, it’s a good time for us to pause, right now, and think for a few moments of what we would be like without the intervening, good, gracious love of God in our lives and how that has reshaped us into the sorts of people he wants us to be. We are not perfect, we are not glorified Eikons, and we are not Christ-like as we will be, but still, we are profoundly new because of God’s gracious intervention.
And if we have to ponder a moment of what we were, we would do so because of Paul’s wise words here.
The gospel message is that God is not like us, but we are called to be like God: and that means we become agents of God’s embracing grace.
One further thought: God is not like us, and that’s a good thing.