“[Jesus prayed] I ask not only on behalf of these [his disciples], but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
If all we can say about God is what has been handed on to us from others, then our conversation is going to be lacking in any real conviction. If all we can say about ourselves is what we experience directly, our conversation is going to be lacking in any real depth. Instead, our thoughts about who God is and who we are must be informed by experience and revelation and the traditions of the Church and Scripture. Only then can we have a full picture. And the picture we see of God and of us is a mirror image. It is an image of relationship.
If you close your eyes and imagine God, what do you see in your mind’s eye? For many people, something kin to Santa Claus comes to mind. Let’s be clear: God is not an old man in the sky who gives you gifts if you’re good and gives you coal if you’re bad.
Rev. Dr. Dave Koppel, a former pastor and mentor of mine, told me that when someone says to him “I don’t believe in God,” he replies with: “Tell me about the God you don’t believe in, because I probably don’t believe in that God either.” Too many people have been disappointed, hurt, turned-off, or just fed up with a God of their own making, never having consciously experienced the God of reality.
God is primarily relationship. We feel that in the best parts of our society. We say we believe this when we recite the Apostle’s or Nicene Creeds, but in practice we don’t know what to do with a God that is not a singular, unmoving, unchanging, all-controlling deity. When we buy into a picture of God that is not relationship, we need to admit that we are no longer believing in the God that Jesus Christ embodied and proclaimed with his teachings and life.
John quoted Jesus’ prayer above in his gospel account; John summed up Jesus’ revelation of God even more succinctly in his epistle by saying bluntly: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). In the love poured out and reciprocated by the three Persons of the Trinity, we are invited to participate. We are interdependent and unique because we are a mirror image of the Divine.
Cody Nygard, Director of Discipleship and Connection