I love living in the city. And it’s not just because I spent my whole life in cities because I did spend a fair amount of time in the country when I was younger on my grandma’s farm. There is just something about the city and it goes beyond the flashing street lights and the convenience of being able to drive 5 miles in any direction and get pretty much anything material I want or need. I think it goes much deeper than that. Some people live in the city and become numb to the sounds and sights and smells and I think that’s unfortunate because, unless you’re really paying attention, you miss something that is integral and almost awe-inspiring about the city and that is motion.
A city, by nature, is always in motion from the cars cruising the streets at 3 AM to the goofy teenagers in Wal-Mart at all hours of the night. Someone’s credit card is always being swiped, some road is being driven on somewhere, and the wheels of that car must be in motion in order to create the friction to make the car move. Even the asphalt and pavement of the city is constantly in motion. Temperature affects expansion in concrete so that it expands or contracts and if you pour two sections of concrete sidewalk too close together, they move towards each other until there is enough tension that they begin to crack or even break.
Now, please don’t mistake me here those of you who love or live in the country. It has its place and there is constant motion there as well but I think the city almost embodies motion It’s almost as if the city, in its material parts, were alive and motion seeped out of every one of its pores. It is for this reason that I love living in the city.
All my thought process lately has me thinking about motion. I know people who can’t stop being in motion and so they bounce their legs up and down at rapid pace so that, if you’re sitting next to them, you don’t have to worry about the vibrating massage function of the chair that you’re sitting in. They provide that for you. Some might see this as an imperfection or as a character flaw but it just means that these people are unable to completely stop moving; they must always be in motion somehow. And if man is created in God’s image and God created us a specific way, each and every one of us for His glory, then I have to believe that He is strong even in these things perceived as flaws (1 Corinthians 1:27-30). So, it is not merely a nervous habit for these people but their way of constantly maintaining momentum in life.
Look at it philosophically. Aristotle observed that everything that exists is in motion and that everything in motion had a reason to be in motion. That is, something set it on its course. He also realized that created an infinite regress which causes all sorts of problems. In short, you cannot have an infinite regress because you cannot have an infinite number of objects. To sustain such a belief is absurd because you can’t take an object out of an infinite set and have it still be infinite. Anyways, what Aristotle then proposed was that the regress back in time of things being set in motion like dominoes was that there had to be one single cause that set all things in motion. It is often referred to as the “Prime Mover” as the first who set things in motion. Personally, I call Him God.
Is it so hard to perceive God as one of motion? He spoke the entire universe into creation, into motion. He created light and separated the light from the darkness. Separation, for me, implies the light moves from the darkness. I see something similar when God separated the water from the expanse. When God created, He created with words and set things in motion. The entire creation account can be viewed as everything, in its minute details, being set in motion.
Motion is so well governed that we, as humans, discovered that there are certain things about motion that do not change. We ascribe these to a man you may have heard of by the name of Sir Isaac Newton. In fact, he was able to discern three laws from his studies. First, any object in a state of motion remains in motion until an outside force acts upon it. Imagine a baseball game. When the pitcher throws the ball it maintains its course in motion until the batter swings and applies force to the ball. The force of the swing acts on the ball and the motion and direction of the bat is then transferred to the ball, radically altering the rate and direction of its motion. Second, when a force acts upon an object in motion, its velocity changes because of the force of motion applied. Finally, the most famous of the three and that is for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. This means, in our baseball example, the force applied to the ball is equal to the force of the ball as it exits the surface of the bat. Or, think of a rocket during lift off. The force being applied down by the rocket causes an equal amount of force upward which causes the rocket to soar off into the sky.
All of this is to say that we live in a world where motion is governed, a translation of forces, and God has created the earth in this way. But it’s not just the world or inanimate objects. As God’s children, we are called into motion as well.
There are many examples from which you could draw this conclusion. But before I go there I think it’s best that I preface this. I’m not proposing a new way of thinking but giving you a different lens through which to view things. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9) merely new ways to translate age-old ideas.
With that being said I would like to point out that there are a lot of commands given in the Bible from God to His people. What I don’t understand is the emphasis on the command. I think when we focus on just the command we give into rigidity and start sliding towards legalism if all we focus on are the commands given by God and we completely ignore that God puts people in motion when he calls them to do something. Let me give you some examples.
When God called Abram (who later became Abraham) he said:
Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
–Genesis 12:1-3 [ESV]
We notice from the get-go that Abram is told one very simple thing. If you strip away the blessings and everything else, God at the core of His message, is simply telling Abram to “go”. While I believe this is amazing and it is incredible what God would do with that blessing thousands of years down the road in Jesus, I think we tend to become myopic in saying that Abram was called simply to “go”. It was the first domino to be toppled, if you will, because Abram was set in motion and continued to do so. If the motion had not continued beyond the initial force to push him, we would have seen a much different story.
Jonah is an interesting example because he is a perfect example of what happens when you set the motion of your life against the direction that God is pushing. Jonah was called: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:2) But instead, Jonah goes in the exact opposite direction and heads out on a boat for the city of Tarshish. A great, violent storm impedes the forward progress of the boat and Jonah’s secret is laid bare to the rest of the people on the boat whose lives were in danger because of him. He is tossed overboard but, rather than drowning, God puts him back on track and in the right direction by having him swallowed by a giant fish. Jonah understands the whole time that he was going against the push of God’s call. Like Netwon’s 3rd law pointed out, for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. Jonah’s disobedience caused God’s violent but guarded pursuit of Jonah.
What about the New Testament? Are there any stark examples of God and motion there. I think so. My first example is known well as the Great Commission. For the sake of this idea we’re pursuing, let’s call it the Great Call to Motion. Here’s what Jesus says:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
–Matthew 28-18:20 [ESV]
Once again, we see this word “go”. There are other verbs in this commission, all of which are in command form. Jesus tells them to disciple, baptize and teach based on His commands. This is not meant as a simple call but a push in the direction they should go and they are to continue to be in motion, doing all these things until they are called home by the Father. Why do I say this? Jesus says in the final verse of Matthew that he is with the disciples always to the end of the age. What Jesus is calling for is a continuing outward motion to the nations where we would all proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is all to provide you, perhaps, a different perspective on the attributes of God but also to the nature of God’s calling. This world is filled with motion, in fact, it is in constant motion as it rotates on its axis as it circumnavigates the sun. Our world was created by God who understands the necessity for motion not only in the physical things but in our lives. And it’s important also to remember that the things to which we are called are not just a call to do, go, say, etc. Those calls are merely the push in the direction we should go. To simply follow the commands are to risk falling prey to legalism which is rigid and stiff. I think of motion in the terms of the fluidity of water as it flows downstream. It will follow the straightest path possible but when there is an obstacle in the way it will find a way around it whether that be around it, over it or, if it’s blocking the flow completely, build up and crash through it. When God calls us, there will be obstacles but He will always provide us the strength in our motion to get through it.