Angry God. Law-and-Order God. Distant-and-unapproachable God. Righteousness-means-unable-to-relate-to-you God.
Or what about the Insider-God who picks favorites and you’re not the right kind of person to join the club. Or maybe the punctilious God of minor legalities, who’d like to save you, if only you could cross a few more Ts and dots a few more Is.
So many pictures of God are out there, captivating the hearts and spiritual imagination of so many people. A panoply of gods. These many gods have personalities and qualities that flow down into the lives of their followers.
If God is righteous, and righteousness is being perfect in every way, never bending or accommodating, then God’s righteousness starts feeling like stainless steel, cold and precise. Followers of this God mind every sentence of scripture, turning story into measuring stick, with a reverence for the letter of the law that blinds them to the spirit.
If God is judge and judgement means seeing every error and doling out retribution, then God’s judgement is only ever something to be terrified of. Of course, followers of this God start judging everyone and everything around them in an effort to avoid being judged themselves.
If God is holy and holiness is unable to even look upon sin, then God’s holiness starts looking more and more like hatred, and followers of this god start hating in an effort to be holy.
The picture we hold of God shapes the way we see others and gives us justification for the way we treat them.
But what if God shows up and challenges the pictures? What happens when God contradicts the God-talkers and priests and preachers? In John’s Gospel Jesus does exactly this. Jesus entered the religious conversation, and said, “Do you want to know what God is up to? I can show you. I only do the things I see my father doing.”
He wasn’t claiming to be teaching new things about God. He was claiming to be a window through which you could actually see God.
Jesus isn’t the softer side of God. Jesus is everything we need to know about God. The picture he painted contradicted the popular wisdom about God. It contradicted the religious experts. It still confounds today. Everything changes if God looks like Jesus.
Join us as we study Jesus’ teaching in John 5:16-30 in our continuing series on the Gospel of John.
Photo Credit: Lawrence OP