For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3.16)Pure Love
In John 3.16, Jesus summarizes the rationale for His birth. His incarnation and mission are conceived by pure love. Believing this is the first rung in faith’s ladder. What’s more, faith in this negates discounting Christ’s virgin birth as naturally impossible or ancient myth. The prospect of human congress bringing Jesus to the world introduces happenstance He’s conceived for reasons beyond love—libidinal drive, marital obligation, or familial longevity, for example. Raising the odds Jesus is born of human intent acknowledges the chance there was never a plan for our redemption. It opens the door to theories that Jesus was no more than an extraordinary teacher and belief in His divinity evolved after the fact. The minute we credence anything other than pure love is responsible for Christ’s birth, our entire faith unravels.
Now let’s be reasonable. Is it not equally imaginable God’s strategy begins by endowing a naturally conceived infant with divine nature? Of course, it’s possible. In fact, the Christmas story lends credibility to not ruling it out. When Mary questions how can she be pregnant, the angel tells her, “Nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1.37) But God living in one of us is hugely different than God living with us, as us. The former includes margins of error the latter mitigates by defying nature from the get-go. And since defying nature is central to everything Jesus teaches, the Virgin Birth makes better sense. A second look at John 3.16 reveals why. Challenging us to accept Jesus as “His one and only Son,” conceived by pure love, enables our belief in God’s pure, absolute, and unconditional love for us. It’s the key to life.
Wisdom and Knowledge
Accepting the Virgin Birth daunts us in the same manner the Creation does. It asks us to ignore everything we know is empirically true in nature to believe it occurs as Biblical writers say. Rather than taking it at face value, many find it easier to disregard it as an ancient tall tale born of inferior knowledge. Yet this is no more legitimate than refuting proven facts to interpret Scripture literally. Each attitude exposes an all too human compulsion to exclude one for the other, when both are essential. They function on entirely different planes and achieve entirely different ends. Solomon realizes this, which is why he explicitly prays, “Give me wisdom and knowledge.” (1 Chronicles 1.10)
Knowledge explains how. It informs. In contrast, wisdom reveals why. It instructs. Each provides benefits we must seek and accept at no expense of the other. In terms of the Virgin Birth, whether we comprehend how it can be true has no bearing our capability to understand why it must be true. God sent His Son to live among us because He loves us. His plan is spawned by pure love. If we have to remove doubts about the Incarnation’s factuality to accept this, then that’s what we must do. In matters of faith, understanding why takes precedence over knowing how every time.
First John 4.14 and 16 makes the connection: “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world… And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.” Defying our assumption that knowledge precedes understanding, the Virgin Birth asks us to understand pure love’s revelation in Christ’s birth in order to know the purity of God. As God Incarnate, Jesus becomes Innocence Incarnate. He is conceived, lives, and dies without sin specifically to restore our innocence and reconcile us to God. And once we understand this, we return to a place of innocence where we know and rely on God’s love instead of our wits. We stop reasoning and start believing.
It’s all there in John 3.16. God loved us so much—more than we’ll ever understand—that He conceived His one and only Son in love. Regardless if we comprehend it, because we believe it, eternal life is ours. Human nature opens a very short road paved by jaded knowledge that leads to a dead end. The pure love revealed in the Virgin Birth opens the endless opportunity to lead an unnatural life guided by faith. It teaches us the value of understanding more than we can know, rather than knowing more than we can understand.
When the angel informs Mary of her pregnancy, she asks, “How can this be?” We may ask the same question. Yet not knowing how it’s possible doesn’t preclude our understanding of why it must be.
(Next: Defying Politics)