God Emptied Himself to Fill Us with His Love 


For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

16426631334_bfea4fff56_wOne of the amazing things about our God is God’s willingness to empty Himself in love for us and for our salvation. The theological term for God emptying Himself is kenosis. Though He is the King of Heaven, Christ comes to earth as a servant of humanity. St Nicholas Cabasilas comments that Christ does not act like an enthroned despotic master who summons his slaves to do his will, instead He leaves His throne behind and comes to earth as a servant to seek His lost creatures and to love His creation:

“Just as human affection, when it abounds, overpowers those who love and causes them to be beside themselves, so God’s love for men emptied God (Philippians 2:7). He does not stay in His own place and call the slave, He seeks him in person by coming down to him. He who is rich reaches the pauper’s hovel, and He displays His love by approaching in person. He seeks love in return and does not withdraw when He is treated with disdain. He is not angry over ill treatment, but even when He has been repulsed He sits by the door (cf. Revelation 3:20) and does everything to show us that He loves, even enduring suffering and death to prove it.


Two things reveal him who loves and cause him to prevail – the one, that he in every possible way does good to the object of his love; the other, that he is willing, if need be, to endure terrible things for him and suffer pain. Of the two the latter would seem to be a far greater proof of friendship than the former. Yet it was not possible for God since he is incapable of suffering harm. Since He loves man it was possible for Him to confer benefits on him, yet it was not possible at all for the divine nature to suffer blows. While His affection was exceeding great, yet the sign by which He might make it plain was not available.

[Cabasilas’ point is that while God was quite able to love us from His heavenly kingdom, that was not enough for God. God chose to show His extreme love for us by coming to earth to suffer for us. In heaven, God cannot suffer pain, so God became incarnate in order to be able to suffer for us because of our sins!  God offers proof of His love for us by showing He is willing to suffer for us.]


It was necessary, then, that the greatness of His love should not remain hidden, but that He should give the proof of the greatest love and by loving display the utmost measure of love. So He devised this self-emptying and carried it out, and made the instrument [i.e. Christ’s human nature] by which he might be able to endure terrible things and to suffer pain. When He had thus proved by the things which He endured that He indeed loves exceedingly, He turned man, who had fled from the Good One because he had believed himself to be the object of hate, towards Himself.


But this is the most astounding thing of all. Not only did He endure the most terrible pains and die from His wounds, but also, after He came to life and raised up His body from corruption, He still retained those wounds. He bears the scars upon His body and with them appears to the eyes of the angels; He regards them as an ornament and rejoices to show how He suffered terrible things. While He discards the other features that belong to the body and possesses a spiritual body without weight or dimensions or any other physical condition, He has by no means discarded the scars, nor has He wholly rid Himself of the wounds. He saw fit to cherish them because of His affection for man, because by means of them He found him who was last, and by being wounded He laid hold on him whom He loved.  (THE LIFE IN CHRIST, p 163)


Cabasilas believes that not only does God suffer pain for us through being flogged and then nailed to the cross, those wounds and scars have become a permanent part of His body, even His resurrected body. In fact, Christ cherishes that He was able to suffer for us in order to save us.  His wounds which heal us (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24) are also a sign of His love and what was necessary to save us from sin and death.  Such is God’s love for us humans.

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