Only non-living things belong in a box and God is very much alive. We would do better to study God so we can better understand ourselves that to study ourselves to better understand God.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:1-2 (ESV)
When I was at Bible College I heard, read, and discovered a lot of stuff that I wasn’t comfortable with, and if I am being honest, am still pretty uncomfortable with. The strangest and most life-changing of these things didn’t have to do with the world, or the Bible, or humanity, they had to do with God Himself.
Only Non-Living Things Belong in a Box
I had grown up hearing how God was infinite and beyond measure. I heard that He was unchanging and perfect and all-knowing. He knew everything and could do anything. Then I took a course on the book of Jeremiah and the professor shared passages about God changing His mind and hoping for things to happen, things that didn’t happen. I wanted to explain away those ideas, but then I realized that I had unwittingly put God into a box that limited what He could do or be.
I had shoved Him into the box of being infinite and so had started to see Him like a law of nature or physics, not someone with a mind and a will. Only non-living things belong in boxes, everything that’s alive will try to escape (even cats when it is forced upon them). This box of the infinite, ironically, had limited my idea of God and God is not dead.
God has more personality than you
When God created humanity He created them in His own image. This means a number of things, and in part it means that God is more human than you or me. I don’t mean that in some sort of, “we are all part of God” or “God is just a man” idea. Actually, those thoughts are exactly the opposite of what I mean.
We naturally take our own characteristics and attempt to place them on God and base our understanding of God on ourselves, but that isn’t how it works. We are based on Him. He isn’t based on us. We are based on Him. We have hope because He has hope. We have love, anger, joy, peace, frustration, because He has those things. His personality is perfect, full and uncorrupted by evil, which actually means He has a bigger personality than you or I! We would do better to study God so we can better understand ourselves, than to study ourselves to better understand God.
We would do better to study God so we can better understand ourselves than to study ourselves to better understand God. – Evan Oxner
Know God, not just about God
I grew up learning a lot about God, but spent very little time getting to know God. Yes, there is a difference and it is a pretty significant one. It is entirely possible to know about someone without having any kind of personal relationship with them. When we know intimate details about someone without knowing them, It usually means we are treating them like an object, or that we’re just kinda creepy. However, knowing someone involves interaction, back and forth, connection, and the personal decision by both people to be part of the connection.
How I felt about God, how I understood God, and how He affected me changed drastically when I invested in actually getting to know God. Even today as I am writing this, I am reminded that I have been seeing God as an object lately, and I need to spend more time getting to know HIm.
Love is sacrifice not indulgence
Basic Christian doctrine holds that God is Trinity: three persons, one being. I’m not sure exactly how that works, and God is much more complex than I am so it makes sense that I can’t fully understand Him. But, one thing about the Trinity that seems to be more accessible and essential to understand is love.
Love is the central expression of how the three persons of the Trinity relate to each other. This love isn’t self-indulgent or erotic, it is self-sacrificing. The greek word for this love is Agape, and it is a complete giving of oneself for the benefit of someone else. That’s how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit love each other, and also how He loves us.
Our world likes to parade love around as being sex, romance, or tolerance, but the love of God is something more terrifying than those things. The love of God is self-sacrifice. That’s the love we were created to reflect. It’s a love that’s not about me. It’s a gut-wrenching love that exists to give, not to receive. Knowing that about God, then knowing Him, is terrifying in part because of what it now means about me…
Previous: Part 1 – Introduction
Evan Oxner is the author of Let’s Be Blunt : What’s Really the Point of Christianity? and the lead pastor at Amherst Wesleyan Church in Amherst, Nova Scotia. He insightfully explores questions about God and life in much more detail in Let’s Be Blunt. Find more about Pastor Evan Oxner’s book and free study guide, along with more about him at www.evanoxner.wordpress.com.