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Where Do We See God? (#GrowDeep)
by Rey Diaz
Posted on Tuesday, October 17, 2017
No one has ever seen God. Or have they?

“I saw God in the clouds."

rey and daughter

I didn’t know how to react.  Was this this just my child innocently interpreting sunlight coming from the clouds as a vision of God or was this what Joan of Arc experienced as God showed up in her life. Or something in between.  I explained to my daughter that no one can see God.

She asked me, “How we know God is real if we can’t see him.”

I asked her “Do I love you?”

She said, “Of course.”

I replied, “How do you know?  You can’t see love?  Love is invisible and immeasurable, but we know it exists and in the same way we know God exist.”

She smiled, “I do see love, and it is cute pink hearts.”

rey and family

Not the best theological argument for the existence of God, I admit, but it leads me to a truth I believe is scriptural - we are called to be a reflection of God to a watching world.

“Today I quit being a Christian."

Those were some of the most devastating words I ever heard as a seminary student.  Anne Rice, who had become a hero to me in high school and college for her defense of the Christian faith, said them.  In her book, Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession, she shared her powerful personal story about her relationship with Jesus. She grew up in the church, but left it as a young adult. In her fifties, she rejected her decades-long atheism and returned to church...for ten years.

And then she made this announcement on her Facebook page:

Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.

Rice’s statement stirred controversy (and broke my heart), but let’s be honest: the idea that Christians can be quarrelsome, hostile, and disputatious isn’t exactly surprising. How is it that people like Anne Rice—people devoted to Jesus—sometimes feel driven from Christianity.  Why is it that the first results you see when you Google the word “Christian” are all negative?  Is this really what Jesus intended for his disciples? I don’t think so.  But somehow Christianity has been branded and associated with this label.

rey lucy

Jesus had something entirely different in mind.  In fact, Jesus tells us how his disciples should behave and he makes no mention of hostility or disputation. He says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). The distinguishing characteristic of a disciple was not to be knowledge, belief, or church attendance, but love.  When the early Church started they didn’t have anything except “love one another.”  They didn’t have the New Testament, they didn’t have big churches, they didn’t have videos, media, or technology.  But they changed the world.  Not by what they believed, but how they behaved.  How they treated one another.  The world was drawn into this Jesus community because they “loved one another.”

By the end of the first century, the apostle John was the last of Jesus’ original twelve disciples still alive. He was an old man who’d witnessed great tragedy. Many of his friends had been killed for their faith. He’d seen fellow Christians persecuted and martyred by the Emperor Nero. He’d spent many years living in the city of Ephesus, taking care of Jesus’ mother until her death.  In the last years of his life, John wrote the following in a letter to young followers of Jesus. It’s his final reminder to them of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sin. Dear friends, since God loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:7–12

He could have given these young Christians all sorts of advice, but he focused on love.  It was the thing he most wanted them to remember. The love that God demonstrated to us through the sacrifice of his only Son on our behalf obligates us to love others.  We owe it to God to love one another.

When Christians love sacrificially, outsiders look at their communities with wonder: “Look at the way they love. Look how they serve the orphan and vulnerable.” That kind of love has the power to change the world.  Jesus calls his followers to build communities of world-changing love.

No one has seen God.  Not my daughter and not you.  The closest we have come to seeing God is when we witness true love.  The closest this world will come to seeing God is when they witness acts of sacrificial love.  When we love orphans, we are an accurate reflection of the love of God.

We can go a long way in changing the connotation of the word Christian if you simply made this our mantra “love one another.”  Years from now, a generation will look back on us, and what will stand out?  I pray that it will be a church movement that took a stand for the orphan and the vulnerable.  They will see god because they will see the love that flowed out from us.

 

 


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