The Image of God

In this world where religious people often paint a picture of a fallen God, there is nothing that speaks more deeply to me about God than the things that I read in the gospels. When I wonder what God is like I am reminded that Jesus Christ told his disciple Phillip that anyone who has seen Him has seen God. Jesus began his ministry by saying that He had come with:

        •   good news for the poor;
        •   freedom for prisoners;
        •   sight for those walking in darkness;
        •   liberty for those being oppressed and
        •   a message of favor and acceptance.

These words teach me that many have a skewed image of God. Some well meaning people simply teach bad news about God and paint him as one who causes bad things. These folks walk in bondage and seem to embrace a blind darkness about the true nature of God revealed in Jesus Christ.


  1. I agree with what you are saying here. What do you make of the passages in Paul's letters and in Revelation that do talk about intense judgement and the blood to the horses bridles and such? I am wrestling with this right now.

    1. Thanks Ma for the comment and the question. Judgment seemed to be a predominant theme in the Hebrew culture. Here is the passage that I think about when I contemplate that:

      When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village. -Luke 9:51-56

      James and John advocated violence and judgment but Jesus rebuked them.

    2. I do like that passage, it says a lot doesn't it? Do you see the retributive images in the book of Revelation to be symbolic of the spiritual battle or do you think the disconnect lies with the author (John I mean not the Holy Spirit)?

    3. I think that Revelation is best interpreted by what Jesus teaches in chapters 24 & 25 of Matthew. Some believe that the fulfillment of those prophetic events happened when Rome sacked Jerusalem in the first century while others see it as some time in the future.

      For me, I am not one to use prophetic parts of scripture to construct an image of God. I think that prophets often imprint their own understanding on the things that they believe that God has spoken to them. Here is something I wrote about that a few years ago about the fifteenth chapter of 1Samuel:15..

      Samuel said to Saul, "I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'

      Reflecting on this passage let's consider two ways to understand it literally:

      1) The passage is literally (and historically) accurate in that Saul and the Israeli army followed Samuel's instructions and committed genocide against the Amalekites. Furthermore Samuel believed what he said was divinely inspired.

      2) The passage is literally (and historically) accurate in that Saul and the Israeli army followed Samuel's instructions and committed genocide against the Amalekites. Furthermore Samuel not only believed that God actually spoke to him but in fact God did speak to him and he accurately understood what God said.

      Do you see the difference in the views? They only differ in the way that God's interaction with Samuel is understood. One view says that if the scriptures say that God told Samuel then he actually told Samuel. The other view understands that, while Samuel actually believed God ordered genocide, Samuel may not have actually heard God's voice on that issue. One view paints a black and white view of these interactions and the other accepts a bit grayer view of it.

      Using one view it would be accurate to say that God once ordered genocide.. using the other view one could only say that men once believed that God ordered them to commit genocide. I think that it is an important difference because of the way that one view portrays God as a somewhat tribal and nationalistic deity that is not concerned about humanity as a whole but just special people belonging to a particular race.

    4. I was just discussing with someone recently about people who say God told them this while others would say God told them that....and they are different things, you know? So who is really hearing from God? Does He say different things (contradictory) to people or is it the receiver of the message who scrambles it?

    5. I think that these are sometimes modern day manifestations of how people apply their own understandings and imaginations to life situations then credit God with telling them to do something. I do think that God still speaks to his people but maybe not always in the ways that we think. When I was pastoring I often had questions about the "God told me" stuff. My advice was usually to hold those words with an open hand and seek other confirmations to prove them to be true.


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