In Our Image

In my previous post on this topic, I stated, “The ugly truth is that our image (of God) often reflects ourselves.” It is this that produces a sort of “self-worship” in our conception of God. Let me offer an example common to contemporary Christianity.

Jim likes structure. He is a stickler for following the rules. It does not matter if it’s at work, on the ball field, or in church, he believes everyone should follow the rules to the letter. As a child he always colored within the lines and was distressed if he, or someone else, “transgressed.” He always drives under the speed limit and delights in frustrating other less “submissive” drivers.

When it comes to his spiritual life, Jim sees no difference. God is a God of order and rules. He is Holy and hates sin. Any infraction of those rules merits God’s swift justice. Jim loves this aspect of God’s nature.

Because of this perspective, Jim can tend to be legalistic. He is judgmental toward failure in others and can be merciless with his own failure. His Christian life is all about following the rules. God is a just deity who is most pleased with those who are most obedient.

Jane is a free spirit. She loves the fact that God is love. Her view of God is of a loving Father who is more interested in manifesting His compassion for us than in placing restrictions on our behavior. She thrives on her Christian liberty.

The God she “believes in” loves all His children and would never punish one, much less condemn anyone to Hell. He is more concerned with their happiness than anything else. In face, she may be overheard to say something to that effect. “God just wants me to be happy.”

Both of these images have an element of truth, but neither is a completely accurate representation of Him. God is love, AND He is also holy. The truth lies in the uncomfortable tension between the two, but our human nature causes us to focus on the aspects of His nature that are most comfortable to us and most reflect our own.

While this example may be oversimplified, it is nonetheless true that we tend to emphasize the characteristics of God that are most like ourselves, often to the exclusion of other attributes. We create and worship an image of God that is most like ourselves. When we do this, we are worshipping an image of God that is less than what God has revealed Himself to be.

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