I’ve come to believe that what each of us considers “God” is actually, in large part, a projection of ourselves. We think of God as sharing our opinions of things – right down to our judgments of others; of pasts, presents, and futures; and of ourselves.
It can be disrupting to find out otherwise, to find out that God has a very different take on…well, practically everything.
The classic example is revelation of sin. “No, that is not okay, and it cannot continue,” says God in your life with the gentleness of one who no longer condemns (Romans 8:1), and we have to obey and adjust. This is not a chore; it is freedom. How wonderful that he is holier than we are!
Or God might nudge us onto a plan that is different from ours. Isaiah 55:8: ““For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” And we are reminded that God’s plans are higher and more trustworthy than ours. Again, a relief. How awful it would be if we were in charge of all the drawing boards.
These are the common ways in which we think of God as “not like us”.
However, I am constantly discovering even more.
1. He is kinder to me than I am on myself.
I’ve always had a problem receiving grace. Instead of celebrating my identity in Christ, I have a habit of thinking I need to clean everything up in my life before he’s willing to look at me.
One of my old students was like that. When I tried to share the gospel with him, he dismissed the idea of unmerited grace. “You earn things,” he insisted. “That’s how it works in this world.” I wanted to say Good luck, because the standard God requires is unreachable by human effort.
But it goes to show that we all stubbornly cling to our old value system of earning things, and beat ourselves up when we don’t. Am I wrong? Doesn’t something in your soul stop and blink at the heading of this section, that God is actually kinder to us than we are to ourselves? Some of us don’t think that’s right. Something deep in us worries we can’t be trusted with that kindness. Sure, God is harsher on our sin than we are. We can handle that idea. But grace? We worry that it will incentivize sin.
I do need to keep my life clean.
But I do it to live a life worthy of the calling I’m already given (Eph 4:1), not to earn the calling.
God, meanwhile, is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and rich in faithful love” (Psalm 103:8). How many of us actually live and think as if that were true? Do you find it easy to accept God’s grace and forgiveness?
2. He is far more competent.
God’s plans for our lives are not dependent on us. They require our involvement, but ultimately, every battle is the Lord’s and every good work of his is both predestined (Eph. 2:10) and destined for completion (Phil. 1:6). We can’t screw it up. Try though we may.
I’m really good at doing stupid things. So it’s a cool bucket of mercy to know that God is bigger than my failures. Yet, when I fail, my heart does not move according to this knowledge. It worries instead. Flagellates itself. The knowledge that God is not like us, fixes all this. He is bigger than my failure.
3. He does not bind us to our past.
We have a thing with seeing ourselves as connected to our past, a product of it. Basically, we see our past as our present. Oftentimes, other people also view us through the lens of our past, as if we never really left it.
God does not do this. The cross has crucified the past along with its weaknesses and darkness. The empty tomb has created a new present and a bright future for those who follow him. He does not see us as we were; he sees us through his son Jesus, through whom we have been made new.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17)
The knowledge that God is not like us, changes us. It reassures us. It pulls us out of sin, and then out of the accompanying shame. It pulls us out of our failure and sets us on solid ground of mercy.
I’m glad today that he is not like me.
I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!