For it is God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
Our brains are instinctively programmed to recognize faces; it’s that psych-101 gestalt thing. It’s why the fronts of cars seem to have personalities or why we can see “the man in the moon,” or like Cliff Clavin on Cheers, can imagine that a potato is the spitting image of Richard Milhous Nixon. It’s in us to humanize things. The verse above talks about what it would mean for God to humanize Himself, to give Himself a face. I mean, how really does that face appear to us?
People I now consider very dear friends cautioned their friend, now my wife, to rethink dating me, because at the time I was not a Christian. Their concerns were genuine and motivated by care. I knew about these concerns (she had told me about them and how she took them seriously) and I remember the feeling of judgment hurt deeply. In the end, however, her love for me—which, like all true love, was unmerited and undeserved—won out. I will be eternally grateful for that, because all conversations and books aside, it was her love for me regardless of my not being a Christian, which brought me to Christ. Her acceptance of me as I was was life changing and in it I was touched by “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” as I had never seen it before.
Theologian Jürgen Moltmann, described love “as an event in a loveless, legalistic world: the event of unconditioned and boundless love which comes to meet man…unloved and forsaken… and gives them a new identity….”
As we recognize one another through faces, God comes to us in the same way, in the face of Christ that comes to us as love “in a loveless, legalistic world.” It is a real human face, one that does not assess, judge, or condemn. It is the disfigured face that could have called down legions of angels in his defense, but chose humiliation and death on the Cross, at the hands of those he loves. And it is this face, one of love without conditions, that takes our voids, the absolute nothings we have to offer, and creates out of them new lives free from judgment, through which the light of Christ’s freedom and peace can shine out of the darkness. And that face changes everything.