Finitude vs Infinite God

The state of having limits or bounds.
Our limits are a gift!?

Good Monday Morning to this week 43/2018

Recently I was sharing with a friend about the past few years. One thing that was highlighted was my awareness of personal physical limitations.

Psalm 103:15–16
As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

“Man’s like grass.” This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this. Think back to Isaiah 40:6–7,
all is like grass and its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass.

The sort of repetition highlights the importance of this picture. It’s saying something to us and there are a few points we need to take away, some even in contrast.  1) the finitude of man; and 2) the eternality of the gospel. 3) The finitude of the interpretation of the text written.

Finitude refers to the reality of man’s limitations. As humans we are not all-knowing, all-seeing, or all-powerful. We cannot plumb the depths of reality or understanding. Gadamer spoke of the experience of finitude as the condition of essential limitation. We have limits as finite creatures, even in our understanding and interpretation. What this means in terms of hermeneutics is that we cannot presume to have exhausted the meaning, understanding, and application of a text. This means we cannot exhaust the meaning, understanding, and application reading of the Bible. There is always more to discover, always more to consider, always another angle we have not yet perceived.

Because we recognize that we cannot exhaust the depths of Scripture we ought to be ready and willing to learn from those who approach the Scriptures from a different angle. Such approaches open up new worlds and ways of thinking. Listen to the voices of theologians from different cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and religious traditions. Look at the Scriptures through their eyes. If God’s Word is universally true and universally applicable then this means it speaks to all of us in ways relevant to our individual contexts. This means that how my friends in Ethiopia or Iran or Indonesia apply Scripture is going to be different and yet will be very helpful.

Courtney Reissig wrote an article on limitations:

Whether we admit it or not, we are often limited in what we can or cannot do. If we are parents of young children, we have limitations in our time, sleep, freedom, or all three. If we are married, we are limited in our ability to do something on a whim. If we have a cold or the flu, we are limited in physical activity. But sometimes our limitations come in more painful forms. If we are suffering from cancer, we are limited by chemotherapy and radiation. Sometimes our limitations can be discouraging and overwhelming.

Limitations Are Normal

While it would be easy to attribute every limitation we face to that fateful day in the Garden, some of our limits are inherent in our humanity When God created us, he made us in his image. But he did not make us exactly like him. We see this most notably in the limits God placed on Adam and Eve in the Garden when he told them not to eat from the forbidden tree. Adam needed Eve for the creation to be complete. We bear God’s image, but it is normal for us to be limited in some capacity as his created beings. The limitations reminded them to worship the God who made them for his own glory.

Limitations Teach Us Something

Created in the image of God, we learn from our limits that God is God and we are not. We serve a God who has no limitations.

Limitations Are a Gift from God?!

In our limitations, God gives us exactly what we need in order to make us more like him? Yes, one way of looking at it.  But there is also another way he uses our limitations. He uses them to bless us. Our limitations often unlock our usefulness for God’s purpose. God can cause our trials, disappointments, and even our sufferings to make them infinite in his narrative. So while we or many around see the broken, distressed, and hurting people as inconsequential, God blesses these same people that are weak or finite and strengthens them with his infinite strength.

Countless characters from the Bible, many of the most useful people in God’s story were the ones the world deemed unworthy, weak, and useless.  God chooses the weak ones to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27). The wisdom of God takes the limited and fits them.

Our limitations can be seen as gifts, rather than hindrances. God knows the extent and end of our limitations, and he makes no mistakes. Of course, the key to embracing our limitations is not found in our own strength, as if mere willpower would be enough to carry us through. Rather we find the key to our strength in the strength of Another, God,  and the Other.

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

So this very week, how about not putting too much focus on finding your strengths. Give attention to identifying and exploiting your limitations. What if they are not there in vain? Identify them. Accept them. Exploit them. Magnify the power of God with them. Don’t waste your limitations!

Wishing you a blessed week!
Philemon

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