How do you see yourself? How you see yourself will determine the kind of person you are – how you will interact with others – and – more importantly – how you will relate to God.
How do you see other people? How we view one another has a huge impact on how we deal with one another. It impacts all our relationships or sometimes our lack of them.
Now I want, without I hope being irreverent, to turn the question heavenward and ask – how does God see himself – and how does God see others? Through what kind of window is God looking as he looks at us. Through what kind of window is God looking as he looks at our community and our world today.
This is of vast importance to our relationship with God – and indeed how we ultimately see ourselves and others – so we need to get it right – and I’m not convinced that we or the church in general always have – sometimes with disastrous consequences.
Traditionally, the Church has focused primarily on God as Judge and as to how we, as sinners, can be Justified before a Holy God. This picture of God is, of course, taken from the arena of the Law Court – and has, I would suggest been the overwhelming focus, at least in my experience and upbringing, of what we call the conservative evangelical church. So foundational has this view been that we have ended up with church buildings which mirror a court setting and institutions such as “church courts” and “deacons courts” among many others. We also have a clergy dressed in the black gown of the judge. Is it any wonder so many see and relate to God through this picture?
Another popular picture has been of the Slave Market. The picture here of you and I as slaves to sin – from which we require freedom and Christ as our only means of Redemption.
Yet another is the picture drawn from The Temple – the concept of Substitution – Christ our Passover Lamb – out prefect spotless sacrifice.
And yet another is from the Battlefield – where Christ is seen as the all Conquering victor over sin, hell, death and the grave.
I think these 4 – but particularly the first – God as Judge – make up about 99 percent of evangelical preaching, teaching and theology.
Now all of these are, to one extent or another, good, right and biblical – but I personally have come to the conclusion that alone they are incomplete and indeed inadequate in answering the question – How does God see himself – and how does God see us?
How so – you might ask? For this reason –
Our first fleeting glimpse of God – our first source picture transcends what God was [ if we can use that term] before time existed. None of the things we have mentioned existed before time – he was not Judge or Justifier – Redeemer, Sacrifice or Victor [Although there is a sense in the eternal that all of these things existed].
So what did exist? An incomprehensible relationship of love and communion in what we might term The Family of the Trinity.
This truth and revelation releases to see God through a new set of pictures – pictures of Family and Relationship. These, in my experience at least, have been sadly missing from most evangelical preaching, teaching and theology. It is not that the pictures and truths we mentioned earlier are thrown out – not at all – but they are brought into harmony with the God who existed before time began.
Just before Jesus left the world of time and space to return to the father he prayed – not once but 3 times in the space of a few moments –
“And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”
John 17:22-24 (NKJV)
This Oneness of which Jesus prays is Trinitarian language – “in me” – “in them” and it is relational – “with me”.
But above and beyond that it is the language of love – “You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”
Everyone is not made to be a theologian – or a preacher – or a missionary – but everyone is made for relationship – everyone – and in that we reflect something of the relationship that exists in the Trinity. You and I were created for relationship – primarily a love relationship with our creator.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
1 John 4: 7&8
It is possible to miss the most important things for things of lesser importance? I think it is and we are all, as is the church in general, guilty of doing that in this arena.
The central truth of time, eternity, of all true theology and pure Christianity is –
GOD IS LOVE
Love is the essence and power which flows between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in a relationship of family perfection and complete harmony.
And built in to our DNA as human beings individually and collectively – created in the image of God, however imperfectly we mirror His perfection are these relationships , relationships which are which are a reflection of the Divine –
Fathers and Mothers
And then when we turn to the Bible and God’s revelation of himself and his relationship to us we see these, so often obscured truths, revealed very clearly –
It starts with a courtship and marriage. If you don’t believe me read through the Song of Songs. Or ask the prophets –
“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.”
Jeremiah 31:3 (NKJV)
And as the drawing love of the Divine Lover touches the heart and soul of the beloved – the love is consummated in covenant marriage – where He makes this vow of faithfulness to his beloved –
“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
And when we break the marriage covenant He is heartbroken. In language that is so explicit as to be almost embarrassing to the “conservative” mind, he writes of a wayward wife –
“On a lofty and high mountain You have set your bed; Even there you went up To offer sacrifice. Also behind the doors and their posts You have set up your remembrance; For you have uncovered yourself to those other than Me, And have gone up to them; You have enlarged your bed And made a covenant with them; You have loved their bed, Where you saw their nudity. You went to the king with ointment, And increased your perfumes; You sent your messengers far off, And even descended to Sheol.
Isaiah 57:7-9 (NKJV)
Pictures of God as a wounded lover are scattered everywhere throughout the bible.
And from the picture of the Bride and the Bridegroom – from the Husband and His Wife – we could move on to pictures of Children, Families, Older Man – Mature Women – all a reflection of relationships, mutual respect, love, acceptance and a nurturing and encouraging of one another within a loving environment.
I truly believe that the Holy Spirit of God longs to see the church return home to a place based on the biblical concept of relationships within a family.
So back to the questions we started with – How does God see you? He sees you through the window of his everlasting love.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Saviour; Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honoured, And I have loved you.
Isaiah 43:1 – 3-4 (NKJV)
How do you see yourself? We should, we need, to see ourselves as God sees us – primarily as eternally loved children of The Eternal Father – the one whose name is Love. In that and that alone lies eternal worth and security.
How do you see other people? We should see our brothers and sisters in the same way God sees us – loved and valued beyond measure – and the generation in which we live as those lost to the Divine Lover. And we should love them the same way we are loved.
Catherine Mowry LaCugna wrote –
“The heart of Christian life is the encounter with a personal god who makes possible both our union with God and communion with each other. The mystery of God is revealed to be a matter of invitation and incorporation into divine life through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit; at the same time it is also invitation and incorporation into new relationship with each other, as we are gathered together by the Spirit into the body of Christ.”