I recently found myself telling a friend, who is facing challenges on his faith journey, that we need to seek God for who he is, not for the blessings we desire from him. His response was that he might not like that kind of God – and I agreed that there was a risk involved in the search. I might have done a better job in adding some of the benefits of this approach – so, feeling restless to do so, here goes.
If we seek God for who he is, then we are at less risk of merely projecting our own wishes onto him. We’re more likely to be challenged by his nature and by his commandments.
We may rest assured that God is love, and that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves.
Yet we may also be utterly challenged by Jesus’ teaching that there is a judgement to come – that some will be saved, and others rejected. We may not like this – and it doesn’t fit comfortably with 21st century western thinking – but it’s a consistent theme in the Gospels. If we seek God for who he is and put aside our desire for wish fulfillment, we are on much safer ground.
We are free to marvel at Jesus’s supernatural powers, to rejoice that he healed people of sickness, gave sight to the blind and enabled paralysed people to walk. We can thank God that he gave such powers to his disciples, who also exercised them. Would you like such power as well? Great – so would I!
Yet we should also marvel that Jesus willingly endured persecution and death. If you think “but he rose again” – let us recall that the disciples also willingly endured persecution and death, but were not resurrected in this life. Would you like to do the same? Do you hesitate? – so do I!
We may rejoice that Jesus was eager to minister to the poor and made a point of not favouring those who were wealthy or well-connected, that he mixed with “tax collectors and sinners” and welcomed the prostitute who anointed his feet with expensive perfume – but he also said, “Go and sin no more”. So how are we doing, both in loving the poor and in “sinning no more”?
Whether your prefer to worship God with hands held high in a big tent with thousands of others, or kneeling in an incense-filled sanctuary, or in the silence and simplicity of a contemplative space, it matters little – as long as our focus is on who he is. Perhaps then we may be reminded not only that “God is love” but that “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come”.