When somebody sins against you and leaves a deep wound, do you find it hard to forgive? When a deadline at work is weighing on you or you are experiencing a life-altering event, do you find it difficult to be truly present with those around you? If you are anything like me, you would answer yes to these questions and a host of other similar questions.
Yet when we consider God, we recognize that He is quick to forgive – no matter how great the sin. No matter how deep the wound. We also recognize that the God of the universe is wholly present with us in every valley and mountain-top even though He is attending to the administration of a highly complex universe. How is God able to forgive the darkest of sins, and we struggle to do so? How is God able to be wholly present despite all the things He attends to, and we are unable to be present as lesser things occupy our minds? The answer is simple. Literally. Or, more precisely, simplicity.
At least, that’s the theological word for it. God is simple. We are complex. To help explain what we mean by God’s simplicity, read the following phrase a few times and spend a few moments sitting on it: God is always everything that God is.
Whenever God acts, every divine attribute and characteristic is being fully expressed in that action. In contrast, whenever I act, sometimes my love is expressed more than my anger. Other times my anger is controlling my actions and words. Sometimes, I allow my logical faculties to control my actions, while other times I am controlled by my emotions. As humans, we are made up of various parts. We are a complex of all our characteristics and attributes. God simply is who He is (Exodus 3:14). God never says, “I can’t believe I did that! That’s just not like me.” Understanding this idea of God’s simplicity has two major implications.
First, it is great news! Believing in God’s simplicity gives us greater confidence that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Who He is, He will always be. We can count on the fact that God will always act in accordance with His character (2 Timothy 2:13). No circumstance will change His character. No emotion will cloud His judgment. Now here’s the greatest part of that news. When God extends judgment on sin, not only is His anger and wrath being expressed, but so is His mercy, and love, and grace! That’s how 1 John 1:9 can say, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins…” Humans, on the other hand, are far more fickle. I have a sense of justice that I would like to be expressed just like God does. But I also have competing emotions. Sometimes, I let my selfishness rule the day. So instead of extending forgiveness, my sense of justice is expressed in making another person pay for the way they have hurt me. God is simple, so we can be confident that He does not operate this way. God’s mercy, working in concert with all of His other attributes, including His justice, is what drove Him to put His own son, Jesus, on the cross. His justice wouldn’t allow sin to go unpunished, but His mercy wouldn’t allow repentant humans to receive their just punishment. God is simply awesome!
The other major implication of God’s simplicity is that it frees us to be complex humans. As you are processing just how difficult it is to forgive that person in your life, know that you have a complex of emotions and characteristics that ebb and flow in prominence in your life. On top of that, these emotions and characteristics have been marred by sin. Of course, it’s hard to forgive the way that God forgives, and Jesus calls us to forgive! This doesn’t let us off the hook – we are still called to forgive. But don’t be discouraged if it takes longer than you would like to get to the point of truly extending that forgiveness. As you work through that forgiveness. Or as you seek to be present at home while things at work are occupying your mind, bring that to the Lord. Confess your limitations because you are human, and God is God. Ask that you would walk in step with the Holy Spirit who is able to equip us despite our deficiencies. And praise God that He is simple! He is who He is. All of who He is. Always. He is simply God.