A few weeks ago, I was hanging with some fellow clergy and a few lay people involved in various United Methodist Churches around the Chattanooga District. There was a wide range of ages represented, as well as a diversity of backgrounds. As we talked, one of the people present, who calls herself “unchurched,” asked the question, “If God is ‘Father,’ then who is ‘Mother’”?
All together, every pastor in the room said, “God!”
Now, this is just one example, but it is very revealing of our modern attitudes and views towards God. To put it quite simply, we define God according to our own (very limited) worldview. For some, God is male. For feminists and perhaps others, God is female. Some may consider God to be a parent, while others, who perhaps have had a bad relationship with parents, do not want to think of God as either Father or Mother.
We say that God is Baptist or Jewish or Republican or Democrat. Whatever might be most convenient for the point we need to make, we fit God into that mold and then spread it around as if it is pure fact.
Then, after a while, we become so convinced of the veracity of the god we have created, that we begin to judge others based on the values and mores of “our” god. All the while forgetting that “our” god is not THE God at all!
It is truly amazing, and terribly saddening to me to think how many disagreements among Christians stem from our own misguided perceptions of who God is and what God is about. We have forgotten that there is only one true God. We have lost touch with the simple fact that this same God is the creator of ALL things (yes, that means all people, too). We take for granted that God has been pursuing humanity since “the Fall,” and that God wants so terribly much to be in relationship with EACH of us, that God sent Jesus Christ to die on a cross so that WE can live eternally in God’s presence!
We should be united by this fact, our shared identity as people claimed and pursued by God’s love. But instead we get caught up in these awful fights about our differences. And we say things like, “God wouldn’t want it THAT way!” And “God could never love somebody who would do THAT!”
Now, such statements may or may not be true, but the point is, we don’t know! God is SO MUCH BIGGER than we can ever think or imagine! God is at work in the world in ways that are far beyond our comprehension, and beyond even the abilities of human reason. God is bigger than our politics. God is bigger than our denominations. God is bigger than our disagreements. God is bigger than our morals and ethics. We have no idea how God feels about other people, anymore than we know how God feels about us. All that we can know is that God loves God’s entire creation, and we are called to live in that same love.
So, next time you think you know what God is up to, stop. Lift up a prayer of thanksgiving for the God who is so much bigger and so much better than we can imagine, and then share a little of God’s love with your neighbor!