(Based on Why Christian? By Douglas John Hall & Simon and DJ by Mark A. Olson)
The way I know God is through the stories of Jesus. The sacred texts in the New Testament especially Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John reveal much about God’s holy reign of healing, forgiveness, justice, love, compassion through the life, and mission of Jesus. They teach us about Jesus and his passion, death, resurrection, and ascension. They teach us about what God is – one who suffers with; one who brings new life again and yet again; one who opens life to the power of the present and active Spirit.
However, curiously, Jesus also reveals what God is NOT. I invite you to wonder with me just a bit.
First, the God Jesus reveals is NOT interested in displaying God’s own power over others or the world. God is NOT a god who wants to shape everyone up. The stories of Jesus reveal a God of service and care for others. Jesus was despised and rejected by the powerful and glorious. Jesus called and built relationships with outcasts, sinners, and broken people and loved them.
Second, the God Jesus reveals is NOT one of moral religious codes. Rather Jesus challenges those who are self-righteous and make themselves out to be morally superior over others. Jesus reveals God’s longing for compassion and love be extended for all. Hall writes, “God is not interested in outward acts of personal moral uprightness but in the motives of our allegedly good behavior and — in one word — our capacity to love others; which means what it says, to love them, not merely condescend to them; and to love them rather than just ourselves for seeming to love them!” (Hall, p. 30, emphasis within his text.) God is a God who loves people just they way they are.
Third, the God Jesus reveals is a God who does NOT give permission that anything goes. To be disciples of Jesus and to really love others is much more demanding than “doing good deeds” or “just being nice.” To really love requires speaking truth with compassion. It means living into generosity, hospitality, forgiveness, and compassion that hold us accountable to each other, to justice, to righteousness, and live the love of God in the world. God is revealed in the living and dying of Jesus for the sake of others. To live with this grace of God flowing through us for the sake of the world means a lifetime of complexity and continued transformation if living and dying, and with grace, living again.
Perhaps it is difficult enough to wonder about this all-loving God, much less reflect on what God is not. Yet, I believe that Jesus reveals a God beyond what our human capacity can truly understand. It is important to note that we are made in God’s image. God is NOT made in our image, for our image if challenged by our own limited capacity to fully understand the mysteries. We live only into the glimpses.
So, what do you think? Who is God for you? Who is God Not for you? Hard questions? Yet, I invite you to wonder with me.