Friday, September 28, 2012

The Faces of God

A little girl recently asked her mother why God made sickness. The mother, understandably, found it hard to formulate an answer to this question. I think anyone, regardless of their education or sophistication, would find it hard to answer that question. Especially to a little girl.

I was thinking about this and I realized that answers to these types of questions, especially to children, in some very real sense create God. God may well be an ontological reality, a being in relationship to the actuality of time and space. But the only God we can know and interact with is the God that has been created in our minds via language. God may even be able to work, directly and indirectly, to shape and mold our image of God, but our perception of God will always be, for us, the only God we can interact with. So the answer to the question of why God made sickness necessarily implicates God, and creates God, in relation to the answer.

Think about the various answers that could be, and have been, given to the little girl's question. These answers come from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds and reflect a huge diversity in terms of world view. Even in the Christian and Jewish scriptures there is no cohesive picture of God, but rather we see a God who is seen and depicted by the various authors speaking out of their own time, place and situation.

And so God is created and recreated across time and place and given form and meaning by the language of the prophets, the mystics, the seers and all who would speak and think and write about the divine. Assuming God is a being, with a "self" and a purpose, how would God deal with this? How would God accomplish God's purposes, whatever they might be, knowing full well that to some God wears the face of anger and vengeance, though tempered by mercy and love. To others God wears the face of a kindly grandfather, giving good gifts but unaware of, or unable to do much about, the sickness, pain and death. To others God wears the face of indifference, unmoved by the cries of creation, watching time and space unfold according to a plan laid down before time and space came into being.

But yet I believe God must be wise and good enough to wear all of these different persona's and even take responsibility for the necessary results of those personas and fold those results into a deeper reality that lies behind the reality that we create by our perceptions and our language. God allows God to become the God we create, because that is the only God we can relate to.

Some folks, and I am one, believe that God went so far as to literally become a human being. This God/Man has since become about as multifaceted as the God he called Abba, but I do think he did something that has yet to be fully understood. I suspect that from the rubble and ruins of failed attempts and disastrous misunderstandings something new will emerge that has a face, not of our own creation, but one that arises out of the communal body that has become God's own body. And this face will be the true face of God, and with this body God will heal all things, including the sickness that so troubled the little girl.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How Do We Respond?

To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.

I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind. Luke 6:27-36 (The Message)