The Problem with Misunderstanding God

confused man


“Too many Christians and even Christian Theologians make the mistake of confusing God with Satan.” – Greg Boyd.

That is a powerful statement and one that caused me to reflect for some time.  What I found was that there were some areas in which I was confusing the two.

I’m sure that many of us would all say we know the difference between the two but the quote is meant to challenge that.  Do you really know the difference?

But how does that happen?  What causes us to confuse the two of them.

I think that a big part of it is that we seek to understand God backwards.  Jesus said that    He and the Father are one and that to see Him is to see the Father.  The writer of Hebrews said that Jesus is the exact representation of God and Paul says that Jesus is the exact representation of the invisible God.  Everything that the Bible says about God is lived out tangibly through Christ.

So wouldn’t it make sense to seek to understand God by seeking to understand Jesus? But so many times we do it the other way around.  We allow hard passages of the Old Testament, and also some of the New, to create an image of God the Father for us instead of Jesus.  We also allow the behaviors we have learned growing up and impressions of other people to shape our image of God instead of Jesus.

But we can start with John’s words “God is Love”.  But that’s not quite good enough is it because we need to know what that looks like.  But we have a model.  We have the life and ministry of Jesus to show us what that love looks like.

Healing for example.  In Matthew 8, Jesus is approached by a man with leprosy.  The man tells Jesus that if He is willing He can heal him.  Jesus takes his bare hand and touches the man with leprosy and tells him that He is willing.  Then Jesus heals the man. Is God willing to heal us of our sickness and disease.  Jesus said, “I am willing.”  The greek word for “willing” means to delight in, would love to, prefer to, inclined to, and most often a strong desire, etc.

Now is this statement meant to be comprehensive?  I think it is.  It’s the same word used in 1 Tim 2:4 when Pauls says that its God’s will that all be saved.  There is no record of Jesus turning someone away without healing them.  God is willing to heal us period.  So here’s where it gets tricky.  We pray for healing and it doesn’t happen.  God didn’t heal.  Why not?

Sometime we explain it by saying God wanted to teach us something and that’s why He didn’t heal us.  But that statement isn’t compatible with “I am willing.”  Either He strongly desires to heal us or He strongly desires to let us suffer in order to teach us a lesson.  It can’t be both can it?  I don’t believe the perfect love of 1 Cor. 13 and the perfect love modeled by Jesus allows it to be both.

Would we be willing to let our kids get hit by a car in order to show them it’s not safe to play in the street?  Would we be willing to let our kids shoot heroin in order to teach them that drugs are bad?  I hope not.  But if our kids were dead set on doing those things could we stop them without jeopardizing free will?  (Yes I’m using human relationships to prove a point but so did Jesus in Matthew 7)

So what is it?  Not enough faith?  Maybe.  Personal sin?  Maybe.  Natural Consequences?  Maybe.  The state of this world?  Maybe.  The kingdom of darkness?  Maybe.  But all of those things have nothing to do with the intentions and desires of God’s heart.  They have to do with us, the world and the god of this world.

My intent isn’t to challenge you on healing.  My intent is to challenge your impression of what a loving Father is.  My intent isn’t to try and explain why bad things happen.  My intent is to challenge what kind of God you believe in because it’s critically important.  So many times what we consider love to be isn’t really love at all.  The “Whys?” start not to matter as much when we understand that if we don’t get healed, it’s not because God didn’t earnestly desire to heal us.

When we allow anything other than the life of Jesus to shape our impression of God, we are going to get it wrong.  So let’s right the ship.  Start with Jesus.

Jesse and Kara Birkey