I Don’t Believe in that God Either

1364043_24141534I have had a recurring conversation with my friends, family, and neighbors over the past few years. Often what happens is this type of a scenario. They either know or find out I’m a pastor and eventually ask this question:

“So you believe in…[insert any idea / caricature / or type of god here]”

Essentially they are asking about who I have given my life to following. They wonder if I am following a god who lives in the clouds. If I believe in a god who is prejudiced, hates, and unloving or a god so uninvolved in the world that he becomes non-existant, etc, etc. In essence, they often ask if I believe in a caricature of God that they have either been taught, or have experienced through society.

The point is that these friends and neighbors cannot reconciled this caricature with reality. And so they wonder, “how do you follow a god like this…” And so my standard response is this: “Oh I don’t believe in that god either” To which they are often surprised. You don’t believe in a god who hates, who is distant, unloving, uninvolved, or prejudiced? I respond with no. I believe, follow, and absolutely trust in the God who looks, lives, and loves like Jesus Christ.

I share that the perfect representation of God is Jesus Christ (Colosians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). Which in “un-theological language” means that not only does Jesus look like God, but God looks like Jesus. Which means that God is “Jesusy”. So when we see the supreme act of Jesus Christ, dying sacrificially on the cross for all people and being raised again, this is who God is. Someone who cares so much about injustice, sin, and evil that he enters into it, experiences the full brunt of it, so that we might be freed from it. This is the God I follow. Not some silly caricature of an old man sitting in a rocking chair in heaven. But a God who brings heaven to earth with the way he loves, and lives in the person of Jesus Christ.

So when my family, friends, and neighbors ask about what type of a god I follow – I love that question. Because I get to tell them that God looks like Jesus Christ. And that is a great place to start because people may be frustrated or turned off by church, nominal Christians, or caricatures of God but people are drawn to Jesus. So I always just start there and say, “If you want to know who I have given my life to following, and who I believe God is, look no further than Jesus Christ”

I think it’s the best and only place to start…with Jesus.

Lent, Suffering, and Bonhoeffer

“Only the suffering God can help.”  Dietrich Bonheoffer.

1208573_69660271This is brilliant, true and full of hope for us during Lent. During Lent the disturbing reality is that we focus on a God, who in the person of Jesus Christ, was beaten, broken, and buried. This is the God we follow, one who died. Is it any wonder Paul said preaching the cross was foolishness…The world follows power, display, and strength; our God demonstrates sacrifice, weakness, and a willingness to enter even into death.

This though is why only the suffering God can help. We do not follow a God who is above suffering, empathy, and distantly removed because of his power. Instead, we follow a God who knows what it is to be beaten. We follow a God who knows what it is to be broken. We follow a God who knows what it is to be buried.

So if you have ever felt beaten down by life…have hope. If you feel broken in body or soul…have hope. If you have lost someone, or feel like you yourself are being buried under darkness…have hope. Because our God felt all those things, but broke through them to show us the way. Our God didn’t stay in heaven removed from the muck and mire of humanity and our struggle. Our God chose to enter into our struggle, to empty himself of all power and privilege to join us. This is why only the suffering God can help, because only the suffering God can understand what we go through. So you are not alone. God knows what it is to feel betrayal. He knows what it is to look forward and see darkness. He knows what it is to die. But the message of Easter is he also knows about resurrection. He is the resurrection and the life. It is through him that all of the world is changed, in a blinding moment of new creation, new life, and a new future. He enters into suffering to lead us out…so may we reflect and remember that this Lenten season. Let us not rush past the suffering to the resurrection of Easter. Let us remember that only the suffering God can help…