For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
Today’s passage is full of extremes: God loves us as high as the heavens; he throws our sins as far as the east is from the west. People worry a great deal about “extremism” in religion—and with good reason. Extremists tend to do extremely terrible things, often in the name of God. Yet there is another part of us that longs for the extremes of love this passage talks about. We long to know that absolutely nothing can stand in the way of God’s love for us. We are comforted, not frightened, at the prospect that God will not have second thoughts after forgiving our sins and say, “On the other hand, I just struggle with ambivalence about you.” We find ourselves consoled, not terrified, by the majestic realization that God’s love towers over all the rest of reality with a granite certitude. This is what marks the extremism of God off from the various little extremisms we human beings have about God. Our extremism is always rooted in fear. Even religious extremists generally talk like God needed defending—-as though we could harm him. But God, in his extremism, only talks serenely, not about himself, but about his fearless and endless love for us.