Do we treat God as an abstract, cosmic entity or as a real person? I was doing some reading in a new book, Start Here, by Brett and Alex Harris. It is a follow-on to their teen manifesto, Do Hard Things, which challenges teens to shake off the low expectations the world has for them and to strive to do whatever it is God is calling them to do. In Start Here, they talk about the practical aspects of starting to do hard things, including living in a grounded way that remembers that God comes through for man, not the other way around. We need Him. He doesn’t need us. And then they say this:
“At times we’re all guilty of thinking of God as more like a big cosmic riddle than what He really is–a person. Granted, He’s a perfect, infinite, all-wise, and all-powerful person, but He’s a person nonetheless.”
They go on to point out how we treat God differently than say, our flesh and blood best friend. We look forward to hanging out with our best friend. When we have to consider our best friend in a decision (such as what to get for a birthday present), if that person is really our best friend, we try to consider what that person would want. We look to know our best friend better. We care about his or her interests and passions. We don’t think twice about learning what he or she loves. And when our best friend wants our help, we typically don’t hesitate to give it, even if at comes at an inconvenience for us. After all, that’s what best friends do. Now how many of us can honestly say that’s the way we treat God?
Now that you’ve picked yourself up off the floor and are rubbing the chest punch that the Harris boys just delivered to you, consider why we don’t. If we were like the 12 disciples and Christ was with us and able to get in our faces and tell us in an audible and visible way what He needed us to do, our reaction would be totally different. And that’s because we would see Jesus as a person, in the flesh before us. But too often with God we adopt the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. He gets shifted back in line. We’re too busy. We’re too tired. We’ve been involved in something recently that He wouldn’t approve of and we don’t need the lecture. Whatever excuse we want to use, we push God away. It’s easier to do that when He isn’t a guy we can reach out and touch on a daily basis.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12:1-3, NASB
It’s verse 3 that’s especially applicable to thinking of Jesus as a person and not as just some cosmic entity detached from our everyday existence. It is a reminder that Christ bore so much upon Himself when He walked this earth that we ought not forget. Religious leaders plotted His death. His own family scoffed at Him. Men he had come to rescue lined up to testify falsely against Him after one of His inner circle betrayed Him for the paltry sum of 30 silver. The multitudes called for His death. And then the Romans beat and tortured Him and finally hung Him on the Cross. All this was willingly accepted by our God because He so loved us. This isn’t a fairy tale or some story that happened in some other plane or universe of existence. We can walk the very ground upon which Jesus bled. And the implications are haunting.
We’re called to keep our eyes upon Him. We know it’s going to be a struggle and it’s going to be hard. That why the writer of Hebrews compares it to a race requiring endurance. He commands us to lay aside any and every encumbrance, every obstacle, that keeps us from responding to and drawing close to our Savior like this. And part of doing that is stopping our treatment of God as some great cosmic entity we can separate from daily life, Something (note I didn’t say Someone) who we can put in a box and put on a shelf until we feel like dealing with God. Rather, we need to treat Him as a real person, because He is. He is beyond us and our understanding, but He is not someone we can just box up and forget about until it is a convenient time for us. He should be more than our best friend. He should be our everything. He’s real. So should our love towards Him be.