The God We Don’t Believe In

“‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.  And you know the way to the place where I am going.’  Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going.  How can we know the way?’  Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you know me, you will know my Father also.  From now on you do know him and have seen him.’  Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?  The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. …”

~ John 14.1-11, NRSV

I am told that we are living in a post- modern world, that we are different from and better off than generations past.  The progression of time and our advanced degrees of study would have us to believe that there has been forward movement.   We believe that we are closer to understanding, discovering, achieving, becoming, and eradicating this or that.  Still, I would beg to differ and would argue that our minds and their creations have deceived us.  Despite our social discoveries, cultural achievements, technological advancements and the subsequent expediency with which we are able to complete our life’s tasks, it seems, at least to me, that we have not progressed much in our knowledge and awareness of or our relationship with God.  How do I know this to be so?  It is because we have not learned to love ourselves.

And I know that we do not love ourselves because of the way that we treat our neighbors.  We have not accepted ourselves so we cannot accept them.  We have not yet learned to truly and fully love ourselves so we cannot love them.  And the absence of this love is evident in our self- ignorance.  We do not know ourselves and we do not know our God who loves us in spite of all that He knows about us.  But, if we cannot love ourselves then we cannot love our neighbors and if we cannot love our neighbors, then we cannot love God.  “For how can you say that you love God yet hate your brother or sister” (I John 4.20)?

There is no new person under the sun.  We all share the same sinful condition, the same broken humanity, the same weak flesh. Neither our money, educational accomplishments or familial lineage changes this truth.  Despite our attempts to redefine, justify and make excuses for it, we are all fallen and in need of God.   If we accept the God that we need, we will have to confess the depth of our depravity.

We will also have to accept that we do not believe everything that Christ says about himself and consequently, about us.  We don’t believe that we can do what he says and frankly, many of us don’t want to do what he asks of us.  It is because we have competing divine images and commandments, some more self- serving and socially attractive than those of Christ’s.  We don’t want to believe in Christ because we don’t want to believe what he says about us.  However, John Calvin teaches us that “there is no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God” so it would be impossible for the results to be different.  If we want to know more about God, we will have be comfortable with finding out more about ourselves.  This is how I came across the path of race-lessness.  I wanted to know more about myself and less about this racialized image that society had constructed for me.  Like Philip, I have been walking with Christ and believe I share a deep and abiding relationship with him.  But, because of race and racism, I was not able to see him as he truly is or the possibilities of his presence in my life.  He was present but I was still asking him to show me.

Show me that you look like me.  Show me that you love me.  Show me that you will repay them for their sins.  Then, I will know that you are the right God, the good God and my God.  Race and racism had allowed me to place conditions on my acceptance of Christ.  I would not believe unless he agreed to these terms and conditions.

Today, what keeps you from knowing Christ despite a personal relationship with him?  What prevents you from seeing him as he is?  What stops you from believing?

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