Years ago a parishioner told me of things he had done in the past that he knew were wrong. He was certain that his actions had hurt God who in return would doubtlessly punish him.
I asked him why he thought that God would punish him. “God cares about us and how we treat one another,” he said. “God has to be upset with me and I’ll have to pay the price.” “In fact,” he continued, “I feel like God has already pulled away from me.”
Our image of God determines how we believe God acts.
If we picture God as a super human being, God will act the way human beings act – only with super-human strength. His patience will wear thin. On occasion he’ll decide that he needs to show who’s boss. He’ll feel ignored or slighted or jealous.
If we think of God as somehow separate from us – out there somewhere, we can imagine God being, at times, closer to us than at others. We can think of God caring more for some people than others.
A young man once adamantly informed me that he would picture God any way he wanted and no one would push their idea of God on him. He was right, of course. Still, the image of God he chose would affect him and, through him, the people around him. Willy nilly, his choice would have consequences.
Next time you hear someone talk about how God will treat someone they dislike, someone who’s done them wrong or disagrees with them, notice what image of God they turn to. Almost always it will be the super human God; the God “out there.” Rarely will they turn to a God who intimately knows and loves their enemy. Rarely will they turn to a God constantly creating every atom of their enemy’s being.
Christians too often have several gods and they put the one on the altar that gets them the result they want.
The image of God we choose makes a difference. And that brings us to Jesus.