What is your picture of God?
Take a few moments to seriously ponder this question. It’s ok. I’ll wait.
Well? What images or words or experiences came to you mind? This is a spiritual exercise of examination and, like I tell my students I tell you, the more you put into this the more you’ll get out of it. I put forth this simple practice because I have come to believe that our capacity to love and be loved hangs on this primary question: What is your picture of God?
If our mental picture of God is skewed, our relationship with God, with ourselves, and with others will be skewed as well.*
Maybe you need a little help igniting your imagination. Check this checker board:
We’ve got hot Jesus, newborn infant Jesus, party Jesus, all-too-holy Jesus, wrathful God, distant God, old-guy-in-the-sky God.
We’re not done yet.
There’s angry judge God, killjoy God, demanding father God, disconnected, distant, disinterested God, accuser God, uninvolved, unapproachable, unloving God.
We’ve got theologies that teach God predestines all things, including pain and suffering (i.e. Calvinism); that God set the world into being then detached himself from it (i.e. Diesm); even that God gleefully dangles sinners over the fiery pits of hell (thanks, Johnny Edwards).
See where I’m going with this?
So I ask again, what’s your picture of God?
How you view God is so very important. I don’t know how you were raised, what experiences you’ve had to go through, or what teachings you’ve been given that have shaped your view of God. But I do know there’s a time and place for deconstruction. If your perception of God is anything like the checker board above, if it’s akin to the aforementioned theologies then, dear reader, lean in. Listen. If we’re to have a restored image of God we need to demo some of these falsies (enter Chip Gaines).
God is Love (1 John 4:16). This is the most basic, yet most profound truth on the character of God. And it is the perfect starting point for our imago dei renovation project. Love is the very essence of God. It’s with this proclamation where people frequently argue, “Yes. BUT. God is also just.” or “God is also a God of wrath.” I get it. As we read the biblical narrative there appears to be stories that reveal God as something other than love. So it does make sense that this is a common knee-jerk response. However, what we must understand is that God’s character is not a competition within itself. God is LOVE. God the father, God the Son, God the Spirit exist in perfect love. And this triune expression of love is generously shared with humanity.
Think about this. God IS love and this love was sent to us through Christ, who IS God. You see, long ago God spoke in various ways. Through prophets and stuff like that. But then, in the last days (don’t panic, this isn’t some Tim LaHaye Left Behind language. “Last Days” simply refers to the days of Christ). In previous days God revealed himself various ways.
In the last days.
Then enters Christ.
No further revelation of God could possibly come! Christ represents the full image of God.
God once spoke through prophets and stuff. But then, Jesus. Full stop. God spoke variously, from time to time. But then, in the last days, through Jesus, God spoke his final, definitive word.
What does this all mean? It means everything! God is love. And if we want to understand this God, then we look to the person of Jesus Christ. This, my friends, is our answer to the question, “Where’s the Father?”
In the person of Jesus Christ, especially in his dying for us on Calvary, we see what true love is like, for here we see what God is like.*
Jesus is the image of God. (Col. 1:15) If we want to know the father, if we’re still pondering this particular WTF, we look nowhere else than to Jesus Christ (John 14:9). Every image, picture, idea, word we have of God must be centered on Christ.
What images first came to your mind when I asked you of your view of God? Did you see hot Jesus? Homeboy Jesus? Angry judge? Detached father?
What do you see now? If Jesus is the full revelation of God, how can this deconstruct those false images that may be lingering in your mind?
The root of all healing and growth in life is found in being rooted and grounded in the truth of who God is.*
So let the picture of Jesus be your tools of reconstruction. Just as our faith is not rooted a staunch proclamation of the inerrancy of scripture but in the person of Jesus, so too our view of God is grounded in the person of Jesus.
In Christ, you are a new creation.
In Christ, you are made a child of God.
In Christ, you are redeemed.
Where’s the father? Look to Jesus. Let the love that is revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus be your foundation. For this love is your life.
* Greg Boyd, Repenting of Religion. Read it. It will change your life.