Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Do you have God in a box?

Seems like a pretty silly question, doesn't it?  How could you possibly find a box big enough to put God into?  But in a very real sense most of us attempt it from time to time, if not most of the time.  Think about what it means to box in something: it is the process of putting limits around that thing.  We do it with our children, hopefully allowing the box to get bigger and bigger until they finally bust out of it.  With our children the box is defined by the limits we impose on them, and what we think they are capable of.  As they grow and mature the box should expand to accommodate that growth.

But what about with God?  When I was a child I had a very simple set of beliefs concerning God: he lived in heaven and was watching over me; if I was good and believed in Jesus I would go to heaven when I died; in heaven I would get a harp, wings and a halo and would float around on a cloud and look down on the people who were still here.  But as I grew and matured my understanding of who God is also changed; the box got bigger, or at least it should have.

The problem is that for many people the box doesn't really grow and they enter adulthood with a child's view of God.  And while that is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, it can lead to a real problem when challenging times occur or someone seriously challenges your faith.  A child-like faith is good, but a child-like understanding of God will be sorely tested when your own child is killed, your spouse leaves you, when life just keeps dumping on you, or your atheist friend demonstrates that your faith in God is unreasonable.  All to often, when that happens, the response is not to seek God and let him out of the box you have built around him, but to toss out the box with God still in it.

I would encourage you to examine the 'box' you have put God into.  Is your box too small and constraining? Or does it really allow God to be God?  How do you know if your box is too small?  If you envision God as human in some way, even as a superman, your box is too small.  God is not like us nor are his ways like our ways.  If you envision God as a kindly old grandfather who wants all of his kids and grand-kids to be healthy wealthy and wise, your view of him is misguided; or else there was something wrong with Jesus and many of his early followers as described in the New Testament.  Because while many of them had a certain amount of wisdom, they certainly were not generally very wealthy and often suffered physical ailments and abuse.  If you find that God is generally in agreement with your assessment of other people and events, you need to seriously evaluate whether or not you have actually confused your own opinion with God's assessment.

God is not like us in any real appreciable way.  We are stuck in time and have a real limited view of eternity. God is not, and his viewpoint is much larger.  I am most concerned for tomorrow while God takes a much larger view, one that extends beyond the life of the universe we inhabit.  If the New Testament is to be believed, God is more concerned with my future than he is my present condition.  Expand your horizons and consider a God who has a long term purpose that he is working out in the lives of those who live by faith in him.  As Paul said, "Set your hearts and minds on things above, not on earthly things" (Colossians 3:1-2) and  "what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Do you dare to let God out of the box you have him in?  You may find that it is a life-changing event.

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