All men and women hunger for God. The hunger is masked and misinterpreted in many ways, but it is always there. Everyone is on the verge of crying out “My Lord and my God!” but the cry is drowned out by doubt or defiance, muffled by the dull ache of their routines, masked by their cozy accommodations with mediocrity. Then something happens—a word, an event, a dream—and there is a push toward awareness of an incredible Grace, a dazzling Desire, a defiant hope, a courageous Faithfulness. But awareness, as such, is not enough. Untended, it trickles into religious sentimentalism or romantic blubbering. Or, worse, it hardens into patriotic hubris or pharisaic snobbery . . . the awareness [needs to get] past subjectivities and ideologies into the open and say “God.”
Travel back in your mind for a moment to the beginning of time, before Creation, and imagine a God who is not a Trinity: a solitary, all-powerful, self-sufficient Supreme Being. He relates to no one, answers to no one, speaks to no one. He is independent and alone, living in secluded splendor.
His thoughts do not go beyond Himself, because He is all there is. He knows nothing of relationships, dialogue, intimacy, love, friendship, serving, or giving. He has no need to practice consideration, patience, respect, generosity, self-sacrifice, compassion, or kindness. He takes no one else into account, because no one else is there. His existence revolves entirely around Himself.
If such a God were to create a universe, would He make a world of people where it’s all about family, community, and relationships? Would He come up with the idea of something called marriage, where two lives merge and live together as one? Would He establish love as the supreme virtue?
It is highly improbable.
Would He give us the capacity for humor and enjoyment and laughter?
Would it ever occur to Him to become human and to share His glory with us?
It would never cross His mind.
If the Solitary Deity had created us it would be to obtain service and worship. It would be all about His supremacy and our subservience; He would be king and we would be servants. It is not people and relationships that would interest Him but compliance. This God would demand that we bow and obey—you get with the program or you’re in big trouble.
That’s the kind of universe we would expect from the all-powerful Unaccompanied Boss.
You end up with a heavenly Hitler.
But … what if this God were actually a Trinity: a community of love and goodness and creativity and joy? What if this Divine Being were made up of a Father and a Son who love each other with eternal passion in the abounding fellowship of the Spirit? His creative activity would be entirely different, would it not?
We would envisage such a God to make a world where people experience the joys of marriage and family and friendship, and where love is valued as supreme. A realm where there is joy and goodness and beauty and wonder. A planet of sunsets, strawberries, butterflies, waterfalls, roses, and hummingbirds.
Such a God would create people in His image in order to lavish upon them His love and goodness. And it would not be surprising that, if things went awry, He would respond in mercy and compassion, and, if necessary, act sacrificially to rescue His creation.
It is also conceivable that this Divine Community of love would go a step further and invite humans to be part of His family as sons and daughters.
A totally different scenario develops when we have a Father- Son-and-Spirit God, instead of a Celestial Caesar. The Trinity is more than just another item in the creed. It is bedrock truth about God that radically transforms the whole story.
The Solitary Deity ends up looking a whole lot like a Middle Eastern deity who rewards suicide bombers and terrorists with heaven.
The Triune God ends up looking like Jesus giving His life for His enemies on a cross.
This is the God Jesus made known to us—the stunningly beautiful God of overflowing love and joy, who is Father, Son, and Spirit.
–J. O. Schulz, What Jesus Wished People Knew About God
The late Christopher Hitchens, author of the book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything . . . said in an interview: “I think it would be rather awful if it was true, if there was a permanent, total, round-the-clock divine supervision and invigilation of everything you did. You’d never have a waking or sleeping moment when you weren’t being watched or controlled and supervised by some celestial entity from the moment of your conception to the moment of your death. It would be like living in North Korea.”
Mr. Hitchens presents a good case! However, it is most helpful to note how he describes the deity in whom he does not believe: an all controlling Divine Despot who is keeping tabs on everyone—the Heavenly Policeman.
To be honest, I find myself in hearty agreement with Hitchens on this point because, quite frankly, I don’t believe in that god either. Who would want to be a worshipper of such a god?
Such a deity, in fact, does not exist.
The God revealed in Christ shows Himself to be not a self- centered dictator but an other-centered fountain of goodness. He is not a tyrant, but a Triune community of love.
And that makes all the difference.
J. O. Schulz, What Jesus Wished People Knew About God
If God were as many perceive him to be, we would do well to reject him. A celestial caesar who is harsh, implacable, demanding, easily annoyed, fussy, vindictive, overbearing, and unforgiving is not worthy of worship. To those who turn away from such a deity, I would say, “You’re absolutely right. I can’t bring myself to believe in that God either.”
If, however, God were as compassionate, humble, kind, genuine, irreproachable, and furiously good as Jesus—that changes everything! We have never seen anyone as irresistibly wonderful as Jesus, and if God were like him—that would be the best news ever broken on planet Earth! Before a Christ-like God we would gladly bow, amazed and entranced.
The Christian message affirms that Jesus came not only to redeem but to reveal the true nature of God. Christ declared that if we have seen him, we have seen the Father. And what we see when we take a close look takes our breath away.
There’s a story that Jesus told that distils the key features of his vision of God into one concise parable. Christ’s narrative brings to light the unspeakable goodness of God’s heart. The story is loaded with spiritual dynamite that blows away the falsehoods that many have believed about God.
There is so much to be learned about God from the Parable of the Prodigal Son that I ended up writing an entire book on it. If people are to know God as He truly is, Jesus’ story is a fabulous place to start.
If you dare to let Jesus overhaul your view of God, you might want to check out the book, WHAT JESUS WISHED PEOPLE KNEW ABOUT GOD. You can find it on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, etc.
For the moment, let’s leave Jesus or Christianity out of the picture. What if you tried to just believe in God in general? What if you just tried to live a good life and pray to him? How would you get into a relationship with a God like that? Wouldn’t that be exploitation? God wouldn’t change—you would have to do all the submitting, all the repenting, make all the sacrifices.
But Christianity is different. Jesus Christ lost his glory and became mortal and died for us. In Jesus God says, “I will adjust to you. I will sacrifice for you. First I will give up my glory and immortality in becoming human in the Incarnation. Then I will give up all light and joy and my very life in the Atonement.”
He was nailed fast to the cross so he could not move. How is that for giving up your freedom? Christianity is the only religion that claims God gave up his freedom so we could experience the ultimate freedom—from evil and death itself. Therefore, you can trust him. He sacrificed his independence for you, so you can sacrifice yours for him. And when you do, you will find that it is the ultimate, infinitely liberating constraint. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
–Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical
In that terrific tale of the Passion there is a distinct emotional suggestion that the author of all things (in some unthinkable way) went not only through agony, but through doubt. It is written, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” No; but the Lord thy God may tempt Himself; and it seems as if this was what happened in Gethsemane. In a garden Satan tempted man: and in a garden God tempted God. He passed in some superhuman manner through our human horror of pessimism. When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay, (the matter grows too difficult for human speech,) but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.