A Seeming Audacity: To Smile in the Face of God

Originally posted as commentary on George MacDonald's Sermon The Child in the Midst. The original post can be found at WorksOfMacdonald

Written by
Dave Roney
Feb 12, 2020
Dave Roney

"To receive the child because God receives it, or for its humanity, is one thing; to receive it because it is like God, or for its childhood, is another. The former will do little to destroy ambition. Alone it might argue only a wider scope to it, because it admits all men to the arena of the strife. But the latter strikes at the very root of emulation. As soon as even service is done for the honor and not for the service-sake, the doer is that moment outside the kingdom. But when we receive the child in the name of Christ, the very childhood that we receive to our arms is humanity. We love its humanity in its childhood, for childhood is the deepest heart of humanity—its divine heart; and so in the name of the child we receive all humanity.

If there is in heaven a picture of that wonderful teaching, doubtless we shall see represented in it a dim childhood shining from the faces of all the disciples, of which the center is the Son of God with a child in his arms. The childhood, dim in the faces of the men, must be shining trustfully clear in the face of the child. But in the face of the Lord himself, the childhood will be triumphant—all his wisdom, all his truth upholding that radiant serenity of faith in his father. Verily, O Lord, this childhood is life."

-George MacDonald

A Seeming Audacity: To Smile in the Face of God
by Dave Roney

In his introduction to Unspoken Sermons, MacDonald wrote (as I would suppose in retrospect) “These Ears of Corn gathered and rubbed in my hands...”  The “Ears of Corn” are not the Sermons themselves; they are the truths of God discovered in the face of Christ Jesus; the “gathered and rubbed” are the Sermons, the “in my hands” his understanding of the astounding truths.  Those who have studied these “Ears of Corn,” these Sermons, know their profound depths and how densely packed is each Ear with its many “kernels.”  The reading for today is part of the “Ear of Corn” titled “The Child in the Midst.”  I will focus on but one kernel contained in it, a precious truth, the last sentence in the daily reading:

“Verily, O Lord, when Thy tenderness shall have made the world great, then, children like Thee, will ALL men smile in the face of the great God.” (CAPS added for emphasis)

For those unaccustomed to the style of this 19th century Scotsman writing in Victorian English, allow that I take the liberty to recast the sentence thus: “Truthfully, O Lord, Your great tenderness will in the end make the earth great, at which time ALL people will be just like You, and then EVERY person shall smile face to face with their great God.”  This sentence could, with [brackets] be expanded to include many things which it does not actually say, but which are everywhere apparent in the Sermons; the universal Fatherhood of God, His great Love, the call to Christlike obedience, and the coming Redemption of all things, for example, themes developed throughout this and the other Sermons.

Consider the major elements in the above sentence: First, the tenderness of God is prerequisite to all which follows; second, this tenderness shall inevitably change the world (and by “world” I understand it to mean the entire created realm and all contained therein); and third, when people have thus been changed they will be able to look into the smiling face of their Heavenly Father and return His smile.

As to the first thing, what is this “tenderness” of Jesus our Lord?  Whatever it is, it is the same as that of His Father and ours; for the Father and the Son are “one,” the Son being the exact representation and the express image of the Father.  We need only study the Gospel accounts to see that what GMD here terms as tenderness is a synonym for the Divine sacrificial and “self-forgetting” Love; and everything which GMD spoke or wrote sets forth this love of God.  It is not the wrath of God which shall restore, reconcile, and redeem “the world” but His supra-abounding Love.  When all other attitudes and forms have served their purposes and passed away this one thing shall remain eternally; for God IS Love.

Then, as to the second thing, this Love of The-God-Who-IS-Love will completely change the entire world, even as it is now doing in part, then, on some grand coming Day of days, it shall be done in full; for all things are from, and through, and to Him, including the things in Heaven and on Earth and under the Earth, all things whatsoever and without any exceptions are His: Every vestige of sin and death, of brokenness of mind and will and heart, every noxious plant and ruined galaxy, all things for which the Love of God has provided Ransom shall be Reconciled, Redeemed, brought back into a Right Relationship with the One Who created them by His great Love.  For many years the theologians have taught us that God created the cosmos “ex nihilo” (out of nothing); I prefer that the created things came from Something preexisting (for even we have a law that says nothing can come from nothing) and that “Something” was the very Loving Heart of God, and if that be true and the Heart of God is Love, then He sent His things out from Himself as doves which, though tormented for a while, shall in the end return to their great Nest, the Great Heart, there finding their rest and peace; for this purpose only, it is clear, all things were made.

Which brings me to the third of three observations, extraordinary, the finale made possible by means of the first two, becoming what is their goal and final resolution: According to the first point made, it is the Day when the Tenderness of God is made wholly manifest in His Face and the faces of His children.  It is likewise the result of the second point that, in Christ Jesus, our God and Father shall have fully Reconciled ALL things to Himself which through long ages had apparently been lost to Him and to the creature, in the minds of men, oft times believers, considered wasted and irretrievably so.  It is the Day when with unveiled faces the sons of men are able to look full in The Face, without fear, without doubt, lacking any trepidation, for we shall with renewed eyes see Him as He is; which is to say we shall behold The Lovely in all His loveliness.  The shroud of misconceptions will be trampled underfoot, the veil of partition then in every respect be rent, and into the Holy of all Holy Places, the seat wherein dwells the Excellency Who IS Love, shall then the glorified feet of child-saints tread, go running to the unshielded Majesty, crying out with joy and with arms as well as hearts opened wide, in voices ringing the far stretches of Heaven and Earth, shouting “Abba!  Daddy!  Poppa! Father!”

Brothers and sisters, take heart!  Though the world misrepresent Him and make Him the Ogre, though the theologians paint Him with dark and muddy colors, though in our own hearts we do not yet fully know Him as we are known by Him—take heart!  Where sin and death and utter brokenness had entered in and set a high tide mark on the world, as though the ruination caused by a great surging tsunami, the Flood of supra-abounding Grace has overflowed the whole creation, washing away every stain, setting all things right, redeeming and healing and breathing Life into the corpse-like creation, delivering it, all within it, from the brutal groaning and travailing, bringing it to glorified hymnic life.  It is not Christ alone Who is resurrected and made new; I speak of the Day when everything which God has made without any exceptions shall blossom in never ending, super-abounding, resurrection Life!  To say, then, and following the anthem of Romans 5:20, where sin abounded, bringing in its train death and destruction, chaos, suffering and travail, Grace has supra-abounded and brought redeeming Life.  

Thus we end here our brief thought concerning a single kernel on this Ear of Corn.  The thought is a transcendent one, far removed from what our experience and logic tells us, reaching beyond what our minds are able to think, going further than our wildest best imagining can carry us, to be for now only partially known, and that dim perception possible only by our hearts made good.  There is a Day, like none other, when Adam's children shall look into the Face of their true Father of fathers, their great God.  He will gather them all to His bosom in an eternal embrace, the display of indefatigable and inexhaustible, infinite, Love.  To begin, He will smile upon them, on us, on every creature-son.

And now, the glorious and inconceivable thought: The children of God will look full into The Lovely Face; it is the Face of the Father-Who-IS-Love; from The Face will beam the Resplendent Smile, reserved for the Day of Christ, hidden for long ages, which no man's eyes have yet beheld, nor could we in our present form endure; for to see Him now, His Face, that Smile, would cause us like the Apostle to “fall at His feet as though dead.”  His Face shall be the brilliance of Fire, which will no longer burn us, for our dross is by then gone, the Fire having done its work of discomforting will then do its eternal work of comforting; our faces will be like His Face, we will “will shine like the stars forever.”  It is a Day when, face to Face, we shall finally see Him as He IS, for how He IS is how we then ARE.

This is the kernel from the Ear of Corn, gathered first by MacDonald and rubbed in his hands, now rubbed somewhat in my own; hopefully you will take it and rub even more wealth, more light, more love, from it.  There is a Day coming that no power of darkness, nor the sum of them though they come from every hellish corner, will be able to prevent.  It will be that day when Death has died, when Light shall have flooded the cosmos, when joy shall prevail and be full.  Though they with clumsy hands and error-laced minds, with hearts still hard against the thought that God IS Love may resist the irresistible, our Lord will prevail: It is the Day when we shall all “...smile in the face of the great God.”

Read more of Dave Roney here.