A Theology of the Little Things

Our church, Cornerstone International, has recently begun a summer series in the book of 1 John. I had planned to kick off the study this past Sunday, 28 June, but had to hand over to another capable friend in the church due to the surprised early arrival of our son. Still, I have been reading and pondering the words in this first epistle of the ‘beloved disciple’, John. And, even more interesting is that, with the arrival of Caleb, God has already begun the teaching process in the first two weeks of his life, even using those ancient words of John.

Hey, could we expect anything less from our Father?!

So, what does 1 John and my son have to do with one another?

The passage that God has recently highlighted is the first verse of the whole letter:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life. (1 John 1:1)

When we read this verse, it probably triggers in our mind the very first words of John’s Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Therefore, we can easily see that John is keen on communicating that Jesus is the one ‘from the beginning’. Such a statement is one of eternality. Jesus, the divine Word, was with God and was God from the beginning.

And, even more, John says He is the ‘word of life’. This phrase is beautiful in itself. But I’ve taken time to write about this title elsewhere, so I won’t spend time on it here.

Therefore, getting back to the intent of this post – how 1 John 1:1 relates to my son.

No, I am not trying to claim that my son is the divine one who existed from the beginning. I’m not that crazy! But what I am noting is how God has spoken to me through this one verse and connected it to the care of my own son.

I am simply amazed that John pointed out how he and the other disciples go to hear, see, look upon and touch the divine Son. Can you imagine this? If we really ponder this kind of statement, there might be a moment where we receive tingles down our spine. It seems that the twelve did not really grasp everything prior to Christ’s resurrection and pouring out of the Spirit, so I imagine that John was kind of pondering what they had been a part of and it absolutely blew Him away. He might even be thinking, ‘If only we had realised it when we were with him those few years.’

I mean, come on. This is the eternal Word existing from the beginning. And they got to hear Him, see Him and touch Him. It’s amazing that God would use such small intricate details in communicating Himself to humanity. But, for some, they believe that, if God is going to reveal Himself, it has to be in some esoteric, sixth sense, or out of body experience? That’s the really spiritual stuff, right?

No. Frankly that doesn’t seem to be the pattern of how God works. He is an incarnational One, and this is true even prior to Christ. We see God’s presence in the angel of the Lord, the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, the tabernacle and temple where God chose to dwell, and so many other ‘incarnational appearances’ of the Almighty. It seems that Scripture testifies that God wants to be with His people. Sure, such apperances are veiled. But that’s a good thing, since, if we saw Him in all His glory, we would keel over and die (check out Exodus 33:20). Yet, the final words of the Bible conclude that God’s consummating desire is that He dwell among His people (see Revelation 21:1-4).

And, so, God re-impressed upon my heart the reality that He is in the small things, even the smallest of the small. You wouldn’t think that such things as hearing, seeing or touching another would be important, but they are.

So, here I find myself listening to the gurgles and cries of my son, looking upon his face in wonderment, touching his soft skin, and I’m thinking, ‘If John was correct in those first words of his letter, then this stuff is really spiritual. This is truly divine.’

Now, contrary to such beautiful truth, I can easily find myself losing focus and forgetting about the wonderment of listening, looking upon and touching our son. Many times, I want to change his diaper rather quickly, breaking the previous time record. Or I hope it only takes 5 or 10 minutes to rock him to sleep this time, rather than have to walk around the entire apartment for a good 30 minutes. But such chips away at the divine blessing of being fully present with my son in all of my senses, enjoying the sounds, sights and touch of this little one.

Some theologians have noted that, in his letter, John might have been combating the early seeds of gnosticism. Such a dualistic philosophy desires to divide the material from the spiritual. Therefore, they were the greatest proponents of the sacred-secular split. God is all about the spiritual, but He is not too interested in the physical. And you can see how this philosophy has somewhat pervaded the church of the present day. But the opening words of John in his first epistle completely destroy such an unbiblical notion.

For God, there is no sacred-secular split. It all belongs to Him. As David poetically sang:

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein. (Psalm 24:1)

And Paul even tells us that all of creation will one day be redeemed (Romans 8:19-23). It’s not just about saving souls. It’s about the restoration of all things (see also Acts 3:19-21).

Therefore, from the great prophetic utterances and miraculous healings to the planting of flowers and rocking your baby to sleep, all such actions invite our God to present with us. And, the thing is, He is already in our midst. It’s just whether or not we are willing to recognise such.

I’m glad Jesus, the God-Man, let His followers listen to Him, look at Him and touch Him. And I am glad our Father still desires us today to be involved in the spiritual activity of using our five senses to His glory.

With the next diaper change, I don’t want it to be a task to quickly complete so I can get back to the more ‘important’ things, whatever that might mean. I want to learn to revel in the privilege of such a divine and spiritual activity. And, hey, if Caleb is truly a gift from God, and I believe he most certainly is, then changing diapers can only be a very spiritual and godly activity. And remember, even Jesus would have had dirtied his diapers since he was fully human. Just ask Mary.

Therefore, we can be encouraged that God really does enjoy interacting with us in our real human activities. There is nothing too small for God to utilise in revealing His glory and grace and beauty and power. So, let us celebrate the small and the ordinary, for they are just as spiritual as the list of other things on our minds. And I think John is reminding us of such in those introductory words to his first letter.

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