I alluded to this observation by Mike Mason in my Pastors Conference address and thought it might be good to give the quote. This comes from Mason’s helpful book The Mystery of Marriage:
“If man really is fashioned, more than anything else, in the image of God, then clearly if follows that there is nothing on earth so near to God as a human being. The conclusion is inescapable, that to be in the presence of even the meanest, lowest, most repulsive specimen of humanity in the world is still to be closer to God than when looking up into a starry sky or at a beautiful sunset.
“Certainly that is why there is nothing in the New Testament about beautiful sunsets. The heart of biblical theology is a man hanging on a cross, not a breathtaking scene from nature. For the Bible is centrally concerned with love, and the wonders of nature (by comparison with the wonder of human relationship, healed and restored in Christ) touch only remotely on love. We cannot really ‘love’ a sunset; we can only love a person. If we can be said to love things in nature at all, it is only by a sort of analogy with the love we bear for one another, and supremely for God Himself.” (The Mystery of Marriage, 38-39)
It’s easy to feel close to God while watching a sunset or gazing on a breath-taking scene, and it’s easy in part, because sunsets and water falls and mountains don’t contradict us or say thoughtless things or offend us in uncountable ways . . . like people do. But I am called to love people. And that is hard. It would be a lot easier if they simply shined brightly, made everything else look beautiful, and kept their mouths shut.