I have always struggled to understand the relevance of the number 1. It seemed almost negligible in the grand scheme of things; whether in addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. So one could understand my obvious discomfort when we were taught about reciprocals in school. A reciprocal is either of a pair of numbers whose product is 1. What was the point? If you’re already bored, I implore you to keep on reading; the mathematical jargon ends here.
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:12 (NIV)
If you’re anything like me (human), you’d have at one time or the other struggled with the notion that God is largely unfair with His dealings and demands with and from His people. The audacity of someone to sit high and mighty and dole out a bunch of rules without giving a hoot as to the practicality of this way of life in this mayhem we call earth. In the above verse, Jesus taught on what I refer to as the principle of reciprocity; in simple terms, “Scratch my back, and I scratch yours.” While this verse does refer to our relationship with other human beings, it may hold yet another meaning.
Let’s illustrate how God holds Himself to the above portion of scripture using two virtues He demands of us; love and patience.
We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:19 (NIV)
The most recurring theme of the new testament is love. It features in some way in every portion of scripture. It is what shapes our Christianity, transforming it from mere religious dos and don’ts to life itself. But the question to be asked is how exactly can one love accurately? The answer lies in the verse above.
Of ourselves, we are selfish, hateful and wicked creatures, unable to completely let down our lives in the sacrifice of love the way God demands. Because of that frailty, God goes ahead to show us what true love means.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13 (NIV)
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us… For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Romans 5:8 & 10 (NIV)
First off, God says the height of love is when one lays their life down for a friend. Then He goes ahead to lay His life down for a bunch of people He refers to as His enemies. After this, He now says we can love (both Him and others) because He is confident that we have seen Him love (not just as God, but as the man, Jesus Christ).
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
James 5:7-8 (KJV)
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
John 15:1 (KJV)
Imagine a God who in a split second can speak anything into existence, a God not bound by time or space, one who could choose to just show up whenever, wherever and however He pleases. Imagine that God just sitting on His hands and waiting, seemingly helpless. Crazy huh?
The first words that God spoke to Adam were “Be fruitful…” It’d be several thousands of years later that a man would rise to the occasion and live out that order. In John 15, Jesus referred to Himself as the “true vine”. What reaches out to me in that statement was the qualifier “true”. It would seem that other men had risen and claimed to be a fulfilment of God’s mandate to Adam in Eden, but for those eons before Jesus showed up on the scene, each and every one of those men paled in comparison to the Son of God; the True Vine. Through it all, God sat as the husbandman, waiting. For He was sure of one thing – His word would not return to Him void.
James admonishes that as we look toward such a God who could wait so long before the fulfilment of a prophecy He had complete control over, we should learn His type of patience; not just a patience because circumstances are beyond our control, but a patience that knows the required times and seasons for events yet unfolding.
Why is any of this important? As a blueprint. For God will never demand a thing from a man without first demanding the same from Himself. If what we have received is His fullness, a fullness in which we receive His grace in the same manner in which He had it, then we must enter into all He demands of us. But we only do this on the strength of reciprocity.
Now, back to mathematics. Two things to note about reciprocals are:
The bigger a number is, the smaller its reciprocal.
The product of two reciprocals is always 1.
Whatever we see in God, we must take up a posture of humility; one that, while insisting on becoming what we see, also insists like John, that we must decrease, so He can indeed increase.
Secondly, everything we become in God is geared towards a singular purpose:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Romans 8:29 (NIV)
We conform to the image of the Son of God because God designed that everything in heaven and on earth be gathered into Him. All things must end in 1 – the Christ Himself – for He is the heir of all things (Heb 1:2).
Christ is the fullness and culmination of all there is in God. And we must lose ourselves till only 1 remains.
Not such a useless number anymore, huh?