Embracing God beyond words

DAY 27 REFLECTION: Embracing God beyond words

It’s curious that so many Christians seem so sure about a God that they are so unsure about. Good definitions have explanatory power, yet many definitions for God are unable to explain anything. For example, he is sovereign except when he chooses not to be. He is loving except when he’s not. He is forgiving except when he isn’t and is simultaneously portrayed in the Bible in a variety of contradictory ways. 

Biblical descriptions of God are reflected in the times and cultures of when the passages were written. In churches, God is described in ways that are consistent with their organizational business models. A question for Christians to therefore reflect on is: if God is infinite (e.g., omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent), how can human words, pictures, and concepts possibly be used to describe this universal lifeforce?

In art, God is often depicted as a powerful European-looking man-like being. This is not surprising since the Catholic church was based in Europe. The Sistine Chapel’s The Creation of Adam was created not because Michelangelo had an inside track on what God looked like, but because he had to paint something, and this was what he decided on. 

In the Old Testament, in Genesis 1:27, the Bible says that God created man in his own image. With the Bible as our guide, there seems to be a pretty big difference between being created in God’s image as spiritual beings and what people have done over the centuries to recast God into a human image that is often used by religious leaders to manipulate their flocks and judge people.

In the New Testament, God is described as love (1 John 4:16). Still another way the Bible portrays God—in the same sense as God being love—is through David’s love story to God in Psalm 23. Here, the qualities of God are those of abundance, stillness, restoration, comfort, goodness, and mercy.

Even when we choose to quote the Bible to describe God, the words themselves will inevitably fail us. They clarify and at the same time obscure. This problem illuminates why Christians should be skeptical of those who claim they can describe or speak for God with self-proclaimed authority. When religious leaders try to do this, they mislead people, and sometimes deliberately try to manipulate them. 

The Bible says that God is spirit and is to be worshiped in spirit and truth.(64) Jesus spoke of this spiritual interconnection when he said that the Father was in him and he was in the Father.(65) Paul also described this human–spiritual interconnection when he wrote that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female; that we are all one in Christ Jesus.(66) 

With greater consciousness, Christians can more directly experience these interconnections. As Christians we can love the spirit of God with all our hearts, at a level beyond the limitations of words.

64. John 4:24
65. John 10:38
66. Gal. 3:28