OK, as is often the case, I am a bit slow. When it comes to blockbuster movies for example I usually end up seeing them later on, for example on an airplane flight. That was the case today when I finally got around to seeing The Avengers. The action flick helped to pass time on an otherwise monotonous journey.
It is yet another action film, this time featuring a number of super heroes taking on the forces of darkness. But there was a scene in it which caught my attention. The bad guy was forcing the masses to bow down before him, to kneel in submission and subjugation – of interest this scene took place in Germany.
One guy dared to resist this tyranny, and he was promptly destroyed by this real bad dude. It made me think right away of some spiritual realities. There is of course a really big bad guy who is seeking to do the same thing. Satan wants all of mankind to kneel before him in terror, fear and total submission
He spreads hatred and horror as he seeks to enslave each and every one of us. He wants us all to bow the knee to him in complete subservience. And his rule is based only on fear, terror, intimidation and evil. He wants everyone to come under his domination, and to remain his slaves forever.
But there is another one who seeks our fealty – but he seeks it in a much different fashion than Satan. God of course deserves our complete loyalty and love, but he never coerces us or forces us. Love by definition cannot be force fed on us, but wooed from us. As C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:
“God created things, which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automation — of creatures that worked like machines — would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for his higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to him.”
Loving God is the freely chosen response to the great love which God has already lavished upon us. Love relationships involve willing give and take, and that is the complete opposite to what Satan is on about. He wants us to bow in terror and fear. God wants us to bow in loving submission and out of gratitude for who he is and what he has done for us.
True, as the living God and creator of all things, we all owe him our complete submission, obedience and worship. Those who refuse to acknowledge him and serve him can of course take nothing away from him. As Lewis wrote, “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”
But the gentleman that God is means that he woos us by love, and does not beat us into submission. He patiently waits for us to voluntarily bow the knee in a love relationship with him. He lovingly seeks to have us enter into a personal relationship with him, and his patience seems endless.
And the truth is, every one of us will bow before him. Those who receive him now as saviour will do it willingly and joyously. Those who reject him now will later bow to him as judge, and we will then see the folly of rejecting his amazing offer of love to us.
Scripture makes this truth quite clear. Paul famously writes in Philippians 2:9-11: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Or as he states in Romans 14:11, “It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God’.” How can mere creatures expect anything else before our creator? But we do have this choice to make – we can do it now because we want to, or do it later because we will have to.
Because he is who he is, everyone must ultimately bow the knee. But the free offer of a loving relationship with him is something all believers now enjoy, and seek to share with others. Some years ago Bob Dylan sang “you’re gonna have to serve somebody”.
Yep, that is certainly the case. If it is not the God of the universe, then we will serve our sin-drenched self, which really means serving Satan. Our sinful condition is one of servitude and bondage. We may think we are free, but we are in reality minions of Satan.
We remain his slaves, in bondage to sin, until we come to the place of agreeing with God and accepting his love offer to us. But this surrender to God is the best thing we can possibly do. It takes us out of our dead-end bondage and into newness of life.
Those who know Christ and his love are only too glad to surrender all to him, to bow the knee joyously. Such bowing before him is the only thing that really lifts us up, frees us, and makes us fully who we were meant to be. It is a readily chosen submission.
As Francois Fenelon once said, “What are you afraid of? Let God act. Abandon yourself to Him. You will suffer, but you will suffer with love, peace and consolation. You will fight, but you can carry off the victory, and God Himself, after having fought with you, will crown you with His own hand. You will weep, but your tears will be sweet, and God Himself will come with satisfaction to dry them. You will not be free any longer to give yourself up to your tyrannic passions, but you will sacrifice your liberty freely, and you will enter into a new liberty unknown to the world, in which you will do nothing except for love.”