Through the course of living and relating to God, God teaches you things. Lately, He has been teaching me about Himself, teaching me to view Him as a Person not a Concept. In the course of this post I’d like to try and explain why this concept is important to me, and some of the impact it has on life as a Christian.
The principle is that you have to approach your relationship with God much like you approach relationships with other people. It is a concept I knew but didn’t, and still don’t to some degree, fully understand. When you relate to God as a person, obedience becomes something you do for Him, because you want Him to be pleased with it, and because the sacrifice is pleasant because it’s for Him.
I’ve experienced that kind of feeling when doing things for people I care about, giving gifts, doing favors. Many times, especially in the recent past, with God, obeying Him felt like something I was doing for me, as a way of improving my character or becoming a better person. And so, when my feelings would change, obedience would become less important, because the motivation for obedience had become self improvement, not pleasing someone I loved, in this case God.
God (though not all the time since I’ve known Him) sometimes feels more like a concept I hold than a person I Know. With people there is mystery, hidden parts of them to discover, unknowns. The unknowns are important because they give rise to hope. Hope in new pleasures to be had with someone, new things to learn about them, new ways to share and demonstrate affection and love. I can plan a gift and enjoy the giving, partly because I know the likes and dislikes of the person, but partly because I’m not sure how much they will like it. The anticipation of a person’s response is important, and can’t be had without mystery. Concepts hold little mystery, but people hold much mystery, because People change, they grow, they add knowledge and experience to who they are.
Though God doesn’t change, there is still mystery, because the depth of His Personhood is so great, no man could ever hope to plumb it in a lifetime.
So I have been struggling to turn my concept of God into a Person, and in the process of doing that, it became harder to live with sin and it became harder to continue the kind of relationship I currently had with him. So I became pensive, because as God became more of a person in my mind, I wanted to talk to Him less and less, knowing I was walking on His feelings. This, in a weird way, is actually a good thing, because a wall is breaking, and now I’m feeling consequences I hadn’t felt before.
There now exists a battle in my soul, the kind spoken of by Paul in Romans 7. Like Paul, there is no doubt in my mind which side will win. I should note that the battle existed before, but always there existed a lie, that I could play both sides, and the consequences wouldn’t be too great to bear. The pain of existing in my previous state of tension was not great enough to demand change. I could maintain a relationship with God that was nominal, and still sin some, and the emotional consequence of that was bearable, at least, it was less painful to bear than the effort required leaving the sin completely.
Now, the pain of continuing hurts more, the battle is more distinct. The value of God, and having Him as a friend I know and relate to, like I sometimes relate to my roommate, or sometimes relate to my father, or pastor, or brother. Knowing my actions impact His feelings, provides a strong reason to act, to obey, to give Him presents, to make my loyalty and devotion evident.
Concepts provide no such reasons, no such motivations.