Jesus must be the one I think of when I think of God. Jesus has perfectly revealed God to us (John 1:18; 14:9; Hebrews 1:3). Therefore, I find that it is helpful for me to think about God in the context of spending time with Jesus. Let me explain.
Most people, I believe, think about God from above. They think of God in the clouds–speaking and acting in complete transcendence. This way of thinking about God tends to remove him from the earth and render him incomprehensible. I’m going to call this the Psalm 115 way of thinking about God.
Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases. (Psalm 115:3 NRSV)
This is absolutely true. God is in heaven and he does whatever he pleases, but that does not mean that when I don’t understand God or his actions I simply say, “Well, I guess he’s God and I can't really know him and he can do whatever he wants. He’s in heaven and things aren’t the same there as they are here.”
I don’t believe that is a good answer, nor an acceptable answer.
I’m very familiar with that answer–that was my main answer for years. I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ll simply say that I had different presuppositions in those days.
These days I have one presupposition about God – He is just like Jesus. [tweet this]
Rather than thinking about God’s character from above, we need to think about it from below. Rather than thinking of God in the clouds, we need to think of God on wood – the wood of the manger and the wood of the cross. This way of thinking about God situates him among us (which was his choice) and renders him comprehensible (this too was his choice). I’m going to call this the John 1 way of thinking about God…and the John 14 way of thinking about God…and the Hebrews 1 way of thinking about God…let’s just call this the Jesus way of thinking about God…as a matter of fact, let’s just call this the right way of thinking about God.
Let me show you how this works. I stated above that I find it is helpful for me to think about God in the context of spending time with Jesus. In other words, what would I notice about Jesus if I spent time with him? What would make a lasting impression?
Think about this in light of 1 Corinthians 13.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NRSV)
Try to imagine spending a week with Jesus during the time of his incarnation. How would you characterize Jesus at the end of that week?
It was difficult being with Jesus. He was envious, boastful, arrogant, and rude. He insisted on his own way, and he was irritable and resentful. He also rejoiced in wrongdoing.
It was amazing being with Jesus. He was the most patient and kind person I have ever been around. He always rejoiced in the truth and was willing to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things.
You see, we all know that if we spent time with Jesus we would be overwhelmed by love incarnate. We would see the true nature of love in the person of Jesus–his way of being and his way of acting. There would be no question as to the character of Jesus. Therefore, there should be no question as to the character of God. God is just like Jesus.
However, when we think of God in the clouds we somehow become unsure of him. Gazing into the clouds we ask, "What is God like?" We could give answers like, "God is loving," but when God is distant and far removed we may question that answer.
Watch how easy it is to question God in the clouds…
We know that God is love, and that love is patient and kind, therefore, God is patient and kind.
This is simple logic and should be easy to grasp. Yet for some of us it is can be extremely hard to grasp. Do I think of God as patient? Sometimes. Do I think of God as kind? Depends.
Why is it hard to grasp? Because we only know how to think of God from above. We think of God in the clouds–speaking and acting in complete transcendence. Removed from the earth and rendered incomprehensible, this Psalm 115 way of thinking about God means that he is in heaven and can do whatever he pleases–even when it means that he is inpatient and unkind–and I'm on earth and incapable of ever really knowing him.
God has been perfectly revealed in Jesus. To see Jesus is to see God.
So, what if we say…
Jesus is love, and love is patient and kind, therefore, Jesus is patient and kind.
It’s the same simple logic, but now it becomes easy to grasp. Do I think of Jesus as patient? Absolutely. Do I think of Jesus as kind? Always.
Why is it suddenly so easy to grasp? Because rather than thinking about God’s character from above, I thought about it from below. Rather than thinking of God in the clouds, I thought of God on wood–the wood of the manger and the wood of the cross. This way of thinking about God situates him among us and renders him comprehensible. In Jesus I can truly know God.
I call this putting a face on God and I believe it is how God wants us to know him.
For it is God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6 NRSV)
[Photo: Tyler Lewis, CC via Flickr]