Whenever I travel by plane there is a moment before landing where I grow tense, anticipating a hard approach to the runway. My “touch-down” checklist goes like this: check belt, make affirming smile at nearby passenger(s) followed by wink if a child or confident head nod if adult. Then clutch armrests, take a deep breath and hold until plane is safely upon the ground moving at a reasonable speed. (I’ve watched a lot of dramatic airplane movies, it doesn’t help my imagination). After landing I relax, smile, offer positive gestures or approving comments towards nearby passengers. It really wasn’t so hard after all, in fact, I feel pretty good about the whole thing now. Are you familiar with this experience?
These feelings in a plane may be similar to our feelings about approaching God: both can be confronting. Anxious concerns over past wrongs or things neglected to be done right… where does someone begin to approach God? Yet, my experience of God takes a different track at this point. It isn’t so much that we approach God but that He has and is presently approaching us…He does so everyday even in common places. God has approached humanity through Jesus and is presently approaching us by means of His Spirit. The shoe is on the other foot entirely, God waits for our response to His approach. While “bracing for impact” we suddenly find the approach already prepared by Jesus, the plane safely on the ground, we are free to move about the cabin. It’s as if we had been anxiously anticipating a cold shock like when jumping into a pool but then are surprised to find the temperature pleasantly warm. This has been my experience of knowing God, the Bible records others found the same.
Jesus perfectly reflects how God approaches humanity with love. He consistently approached people with a message that displayed God’s love and grace, welcoming all to enter into God’s good plans and purposes for the world. Those most needy to approach God were quickest to jump in. Tax collectors, prostitutes, sell-outs, and the morally corrupt… Jesus’ message was joyfully received.
Then is there danger in our approach to God? The danger is only that we would fail to receive God’s approach to us. Jesus even vigorously confronted the self-righteous offended by the scandalous message of God’s loving approach to us. Yet, this is why people celebrate the good news of the gospel. God approaches us with love, He waits for our response.