Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I must admit that my life has not be as filled with spiritual studies as I had hope they would be this summer. As with many of us, the affairs of this life have become great and numerous. Between the birth of my first son, renovating our home, and starting back to work teaching a new grade level, I have watched my time slip away from me. While I know the interruptions are only for a season, I miss the luxury of time to sit, read, and learn more about the story of God.
However, I thought it time to write a short post about something that has been on my mind this summer. It is a single question: how do we really know who God is? I wonder how the 1st Century Clement of Rome or a 12th Century monk would describe God. Did they envision the same God that I envision now? To this end, part of my studies are aimed at helping me understand how people have understood God throughout the centuries.
Who am I?
But I am faced with the most perplexing philosophical question. How can I truly know who God is when I cannot explain why or how I am me? I mean, I am me–I have been all of my life. I see the world through my eyes and hear it through my ears. Yet, I cannot see through your eyes any more than you can see through mine. I can share my thoughts and feelings, but only I can truly experience them. I am stuck experiencing reality from a very limited, and very singular, vantage point.
Of all the people throughout the world and throughout time, why do I experience life at this moment, in this place, and through these eyes? When I look at someone else, I know they are not me. I also know that I am not them. Yet I don’t know why or how it came to pass that I am me.
Not even being able to explain how I am me, how do I seek to understand a God who transcends both space and time and everything else that we know? Where I am finite, he is infinite. He is everywhere and always. How he experiences the universe is fundamentally different from me. The closest analogy I can think of is of a bacterial cell on my desk trying to understand who I am and why I do the things I do. Likewise, we are so vastly different from the God who created us.
God Shares Himself With Us
Yet God has communicated with us. In his wisdom, he has sent angels, prophets, and messengers to reveal himself to us. Moreover, he descended into human form and lived among us. All this to reveal himself and his desire for us in a way that we can understand.
When I read the Bible, I want to envision that I understand God based upon how he has revealed himself. But then I picture trying to communicate to that bacterial cell. How can I express my life and world to that cell? Considering how different it is, how much could it really understand?
God has revealed himself through scripture and through Jesus Christ. However, he did not reveal all of himself because we cannot fully comprehend a being so drastically differently from ourselves. But he has revealed much to us. Our job to learn and understand what he has revealed and then to respond to it.
Undoubtedly, we make many mistakes along the way in trying to understand. That is why we must show patience and love to others who are also trying to understand who God is as well. Yes, we will encounter people who have completely wrong ideas about God. Yes, we will meet brothers and sisters in Christ who hold to doctrines we know to be false. However, if we cannot approach each other love, why should we think that God should approach us in love.
We are woefully ignorant of this world, of ourselves, and of God. Rather than becoming arrogant, we ought to be humble. Imagine putting the most educated person in the world in the same room with the least educated. Now imagine that first person mocking the second. From God perspective, it would be like a child boasting because he has two pennies while the other only has one. I am much closer in likeness to the geniuses of our day than I am to God.
Love Other Who Are Also Learning
I encourage you to keep studying and learning about what God has revealed of himself. However, I caution you not to become prideful or arrogant in your knowledge. Remember that love ought to be the primary way that people describe how we interact with others. It is should be the first thing that people think as they watch you or me. And why? Because of all the characteristics and attributes that God has revealed of himself, love is front and center. No, it is not his only characteristic or attribute, but he has revealed in numerous ways that it is primary.
May the Holy Spirit stir your heart to levels of love you didn’t know existed. May he grant you the wisdom to better understand this world, yourself, and our God.