A friend of mine returned home after several months of traveling the world. One evening he was telling me of some of the incredible things he’d experienced. He told me of a peculiar ritual the indigenous people he spent time with practiced. He stumbled upon this phenomenon one evening after he got up to get a drink in the night. Lying on the floor was his host sleeping in the strangest posture. The next morning he brought it up over breakfast.
“In my culture we were raised to sleep in the posture of the God our family worshipped”, his host explained.
Even though he no longer worshipped the family diety he still found himself sleeping in the position that he had trained his body for years to know.
When I first heard that story I found it fascinating but have come to discover it much more common in slight variations. Here in the West we don’t sleep in a posture that reflects the God’s we worship, instead we live all day in the posture of the God’s we serve. Think about it. If you really want to know what I think God is like—watch how I live.
If your God is kind, and you have spent your life learning of the greatness of His grace and love then I wouldn’t be surprised to find a vastness to your caring as well. If the God you worship is vengeful and angry, and threatened by the mere finite sins others commit in this short life, then unfortunately you likely display the same impatience for other peoples shortcomings.
Whether it is real or imagined we live in a universe that we have personally come to understand, and that understanding has shaped the way we see everything. So for the religious, it often begins with their concept of God. And that ideology will effect many– if not all aspects of our lives. Many try not to think on such matters unless pressed. These people might be considered moderates, or nominal in the larger religious experience. Then there are those who are obsessed with serving their God. These are the people that can’t stop talking about it. But what they say doesn’t really matter. Any one can say a whole multitude of things and sound very convincing yet be dead wrong. Just because something sounds right, doesn’t make it right.
I think this is what makes Jesus so interesting. The only way for his disciples to truly grasp what his message was about they needed to experience it. It had to be more than just information. So he acquired new initiates with the invitation– come follow me. What is interesting is when Jesus said ‘follow’ he literally meant ‘follow’. The only way to comprehend what loving enemies, or loving those who persecute you could look like is to see it in action, and by following him they would have much opportunity to experience that. These followers would literally know what it meant to ‘be like Jesus’.
So many have traded the idea that we can be like God, for the easier notion that God must be like me. This is a poor trade.
So I don’t put much value in what people tell me they believe any more. Because often what they say sounds correct, yet conflicts with how they often live.
And people shouldn’t care what I believe!
This isn’t a form of apathy, instead I realize that out of the abundance of my heart my mouth will speak and my life will demonstrate. Our lives say so much more than anything their mouths could ever reveal.
So I don’t care what you believe about the Bible, or about Jesus or about prayer.
I don’t care to know what you believe about war, about poverty or about money.
If I could just spend a small amount of time with you it would give me all the answers I seek. I also don’t want to hear about what you want to believe, or what you have been told to believe, those are empty vases without flowers. And the same needs to be said of me.
Famed Christian ethicist Stanley Hauerwas says it beautifully;
“Christianity is not a set of beliefs or doctrines one believes in order to be a Christian,…but rather Christianity is to have one’s body shaped, one’s habits determined, in such a way that the worship of God is unavoidable.”
What conclusions would other people come to about the God we worship merely by watching the way we live? What words would come to mind? Would they see kindness, forgiveness and love? Or would they see anger and judgment? One looks like Jesus and the other like a God we have fashioned in our own likeness.