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Sunday, February 27, 2011

The God I Love

We love God. He's a nice guy. We love a nice God. We can recount many warm things that He has done for us. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound! Unconditional love. Joy. Peace. Oh, lots of good stuff. We love God. He's nice.

Of course, if God isn't as nice as that, we may not be quite so convinced. I know people who, presented with a different view of God, have said, "If God is like that, I don't want anything to do with Him." The discussion will inevitably revolve around a concept of God that differs from their own. Maybe you're pointing to the biblical doctrine of election. It's in there. I didn't make it up. Someone once asked Jesus, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?" His answer? "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:23-24). Jesus's words, not mine. "Oh," I will undoubtedly hear, "if God is like that, I don't want anything to do with Him."

It makes me wonder. If you were to find out that "this" was the true nature of God and "this" was something that you found distasteful, what would you do? Would you side with the skeptics? "If God is like that, I don't want anything to do with Him." Or would you adjust your taste (so to speak)? You see, if this is so, then "the God I love" is "the God of my choosing" rather than "the God who is".

I've had to adjust my view of God many times in my time as a believer (which is not a short time). Some were large adjustments. Some were fine tuning. Some made me wonder, "Am I willing to go with a God like that?" Of course, as my understanding has changed and my perceptions matured (some say "rotted"), that question has all but vanished. (Hey, what does "all but vanished" mean? I mean by that "It's essentially completely vanished", but "all but" would suggest that it did everything but vanish. English -- a strange language. Anyway ...) I've surrendered my view of God to whatever He is. If it's comfortable, good! If it's not, so be it. Because I'm convinced that whatever He is, it's good. Thus, any discomfort is a failure on my part, not His. And, to be quite honest, even though my initial hesitant steps in new perceptions might have been uncomfortable, I've never found a course correction that I didn't eventually embrace. That is, my perceptions of God just keep getting better and better. On the other hand, I know plenty of people who view my perceptions of God as both heretical and horrendous. So be it. My aim is to love the God who is, not the God I love.

What about you? Is there something out there, some potentially Christian view of God, that you would say, "Oh, no, if God is like that, I don't want anything to do with Him"? Are you loving the God who is, wherever that leads, or are you requiring the God of your choosing, the God of your design, the God who makes you feel comfortable? You know, I hope, that such a God is, by definition, not a God, but an idol. And I'm pretty sure you're aware of God's perspectives on idolatry. Today is a good day to worship the God who is for who He is. In this case, we can truly say, "It's all good."

8 comments:

traineralakemp said...

I must admit that lately I've had this experience. I haven't gone so far as to question my involvement in Christianity, I love Jesus too much for that. But it has led me to question certain systems of belief, and whether or not they have any biblical foundation.

Is this not another option? Instead of just assuming that if something about God is hard to swallow therefore it must be Biblical, could we not also question the system that led us to this conclusion about God? And by "question" I don't mean what the skeptics mean, they say they're questioning it but really they've already thrown it out the window and are not longer considering it. I mean truly question, reason through, re-examine. What do you think?

Stan said...

I have no problems with questions. Indeed, I question anyone who doesn't have any.

But the post was about accepting God on His terms. Most of us prefer to accept God on our own terms -- "the God I love."

traineralakemp said...

You mentioned John 8 in the other thread. Ironically, that's the passage that has jumped out the most at me lately regarding how I think about God.

If I take the Reformed understanding of John 8, a very hard to swallow, and I think unlikely, picture of God (and Jesus) is formed. This is because in the same teaching, Jesus both tells the Jews that they should believe in Him and that they can't believe in Him (unless God "gives", "grants" or "draws"). And since they don't believe in Him, it's very obvious that it hasn't been granted unto them, and they cannot believe, but He tells them that they should.

It paints a picture of Jesus resembling a petulant child, telling people He knew that couldn't believe that they should, even though He knew, and was teaching them, that that was impossible.

It forced me question the system and look for another, more consistent, explanation of John 8 and I think there is one.

Marshall Art said...

Considering how hard a time I have being a Christian, I think I could be put in the category of believing the God that is, rather than the god I would prefer. I don't mean to suggest that being a Christian has to be hard in order for one to believe they follow the God who is. It's just the way it is for me. I hope it's easier for most people than it is for me.

Stan said...

I think you mean John 6?

Without debating the merits of your view regarding John 6, here's the intention of this post. If you discovered that Jesus was indeed saying "no man can" and that the only way to either come to Him or believe is if it is gifted -- if you became convinced that this is indeed the plausible understanding of this passage and, therefore, of how God works -- would that mean that you need to move on? Would you conclude, "Sorry, don't want anything to do with a God like that." I can understand that it would certainly mean that a conclusion that "It paints a picture of Jesus resembling a petulant child" might have to change (because I hold no such image), but would it mean to you that you wouldn't be willing to accept a God like that?

If that is the case -- if you would say, "If God is like that, I don't want anything to do with Him" -- then you, too, are operating on the concept of "the God I love" rather than loving the God who is. (Mind you, there are lots of folk who would sternly, even indignantly tell me that my kind of "blind belief" is dangerous and stupid and those who would only accept a God who meets their criteria are the wise ones.)

Stan said...

I am personally of the opinion, Marshall, that anyone who takes the effort to really think things through will have difficulty getting their minds around the God of the Bible. First, it's not possible. The finite cannot grasp the infinite. Second, He is so "other". We understand "human" and "sin" and "the lie", but He is something else. So to really come to grips with God as He is, I think, ought to be somewhat difficult for humans. I suspect that if it's easy for some, it's because they're not really working at it.

Dan said...

There's more than one way to skin a cat and there is more than one way to abandon the one true God for an idol. Early in my Christian walk when I was transitioning from a worldly thinker to an increasingly Biblical thinker (I still have a long way to go) I fell in love with Peter in John 6, I think it is. After Jesus told his followers something that they found to at odds with the "god they preferred" many who up until that moment "loved" Jesus, abandoned him. Jesus then looked at his disciples and asked "are you going to leave too?". Here, I loved Peter's answer: "To whom shall we go?". This is a seminal question. The fruit of the seed of the answer to this question will determine whether we worship a symbol of Jesus into which we put all of our ideas of what our god ought to be like, or if we worship the God who is. It is so amazing to me that those who abandoned Jesus were so close and yet were entire universes apart. Still, for any one of those who stayed to be able to say that it was because of their superior insight, understanding, knowledge, smarts, or even humility would be a reason that they could boast. And that just won't do.

Great post.

Stan said...

Right after Jesus tells His listeners, "The reason some don't believe is that no one can believe unless it is granted to him by the Father." Then we read, "After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, 'Do you want to go away as well?' Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.'" (John 6:66-69).

That really is what it boils down to, isn't it? Where else can I go?