If I want to get to know someone, there is no more important question I can think of than, “What is your God like?” I do not care if their understanding of God comes from the Bible, the Koran, or some other sacred text. Nor do I care whether or not they believe in a personified being that they call God or if they embrace something more nebulous like “The Universe.” The same is true if their conception of God originated as part of a Twelve Step group so it is, “the God of your understanding.” Wherever they get their idea of God from, the question that reveals the most about who they are as a person is, “What is your God like?”
Why, “What Is Your God Like?”
Why? Because ultimately, what you believe to be true about God defines the way you will live in the world.
If your God is vengeful, you will be vengeful. A dismissive God will prompt you to be dismissive of others. When you follow a God who is about right and wrong or in and out, you will become black and white or focus on whom to exclude.
The same is true the other way.
If your God is full of empathy and compassion, you will become empathetic and compassionate. When your God loves, you invite others close and declare their belovedness. Following a God who longs to see humanity thrive will transform the kind of society you want to be a part of.
Changing Gods Changed Everything
I know this personally. Seven years ago when I sat down to write my dissertation, I came to the painful realization that faith, as I knew it, made me a worse human being. As I wrestled with what I could write from a place of authenticity, I kept noticing Jesus talking about his oneness with the God he called Father. One of those places is John 17.
John 17 contains Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. It takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before Roman guards arrest Jesus. It is hours before his trial and crucifixion. In the prayer, Jesus makes his final request to the God he called Father. He prays, not only on behalf of his disciples but all who would follow in faith. In this prayer, Jesus declares that he revealed what his God was like to the disciples, and he hopes that they will now reveal that same God to others. The whole point of Jesus in John is to show what his God is like.
Think about that. By the time Jesus comes along, there are already four thousand years of Biblical narrative and the thing God still sees as most important is to send Jesus to reveal the nature and character of God. I found myself wondering what Jesus revealed about God and how that might align with or challenge my understanding of the divine.
What I discovered in the months that followed is that my understanding of God and Jesus’ take were radically different. The God I saw in the Bible and the one Jesus revealed was not the same deity. It is a realization that put me on the path that changed everything.
So what is your God like? Whose image forms you?