“But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” – Titus 3:4-6
Kindness is the state or quality of treating another as kin. God treats us as kin. The whole phrase translated in the passage as “the love of God our Saviour” is derived from the Greek term “philantropia”, which refers to the generosity and fondness or affinity that God has towards us. God is fond of you. He has affinity towards you. Fondness is a great liking that makes you susceptible. It could be presented from a pejorative stand point as a weakness. When you are fond of someone, you are predisposed to them; your mind is already made up. God’s mind is already made up concerning you. The philanthropy of God is His fondness, affinity, predisposition toward you in His generosity in its most extreme degree.
The philanthropy of God, His generosity, fondness and affinity have appeared for mankind. The incarnation is the philanthropic mission of God to rescue humanity. God saved man by donating Himself. In the ancient liturgies of the Church, God is addressed as the Lover of mankind. This was at the forefront of their portrait of God. To what extent is He the Lover of mankind? “Philantropia” speaks of His compassion, or more precisely, His mercy.
Paul says that the philanthropy of God appeared not by works of righteousness. Righteousness is not awarded as a result of our toil; it is not a reward for good behavior. The equity of God reveals how He perceives us. When we use words without the revelatory concept, we will superimpose what we think they mean and we will use them with a misconception. One of such words that have been misconceived is the term “righteousness”. Righteousness is equity. It speaks of what we are worth to God; what we are as relates to how He sees us. The righteousness of God is revealed; it is how He perceives you.
When Paul speaks of the washing of regeneration, he is talking about being immersed into the realities of regeneration. When he speaks of the philanthropy of God, he immediately introduces us to God’s mercy. God demonstrated the philanthropy of His mercy, richly, abundantly, generously through Jesus Christ. Paul explains the event of the incarnation as the philanthropy of God, as the mercy, the “eleos” of God. “Eleos” means to co-suffer. God possesses impassability; this implies He cannot suffer. Not that He is untouched.
Passability, suffering, misery is imbedded in the human nature. For God to co-suffer, He voluntarily chooses to descend into our nature of passability, to sympathize with us. When we shed tears, He tastes the salt. His love for us costs Him; He invests Himself in His love for you. He gives Himself with the warmth of devotion to descend in solidarity with humanity in their fall.
What does God see when He looks at our world? Jesus Christ is the statement of faith of what God believes. He equally reveals what God sees and the way He sees it. For example, in Matthew 9:36, the abundance, generosity and riches of God’s mercy is revealed. It says, when Jesus saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them (Matthew 9:36; Matthew 14:14, Matthew 15:32). He was moved with compassion towards the people not in response to anything they did. Compassion means co-passion, that is, to suffer with. It comes from the root word splankna, which refers to the entrails of God; an inner movement within His entrails; in other words, God’s feelings. In the ancient world, the entrails were thought to be the seat of emotions. God is touched by the situations in which we find ourselves. He is predisposed, He has affinity, fondness, a great liking, a weakness for man. This is our God! He sees you in the conditions in which you are in and He is not indifferent.
In view of His great mercy, you are not going to faint; you will not have your resources exhausted. He knows your state. He is touched with the feelings of our infirmities. We bear the infirmities but He feels it. The gods of human mythologies despise man and are so powerful and so separated from our suffering that we have to pray, to hope to seize a glimpse of their attention. But in the self-revealed portrait of God in Christ Jesus, we see that God enters our passability, descends into it kenotically, to feel the infirmity of our suffering. He descended into our human suffering to feel it because whatever divinity touches is healed. As He is touched with the feelings of our weaknesses, He heals the condition and brings us to wholeness. This is what is called mercy.
This article is an extract from the series, “On Divine Philanthropy” by Dr. Shawn Smith. For the complete series, please, visit gcmonlinestore.com