What Does God Look Like?
The question isn't so much what God looks like, but if people see God when they look at you?
There's a classic story about a six–year–old girl who was drawing a picture in class one day. Her teacher noticing how focused the young artist was asks, ‘What are you drawing?’
The little girl cheerfully answered, ‘I am drawing a picture of God.’
The teacher was surprised and rightly so. With all seriousness she said, ‘But nobody knows what God looks like!’
The little girl carried on drawing and replied, ‘They will in a minute.’
This notion that we don't know what God looks like irritates me. In Romans, Paul writes of seeing God in nature, arguing that we have no excuse to not knowing God. Fifteen hundred years later St. John of God writes about God as "nada Dios," God is nothing. As in God is no thing but all things. (read more about Apophatic Theology here) By the 20th Century, God is a little old man who looks a lot like George Burns. So which is it? Old man with a long white beard? Massive sequoia trees in California or Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania? Or Darkness?
Perhaps God is no-thing but all things?
The story of the little girl drawing in class does not reveal what she envisions, or if what she drew convinced the teacher to see God differently.
But the Bible gives us a clear picture of God's nature and physical appearance(s) and a greater understanding of who God is: a fiery cloud, a burning bush, a passing wind, a thunderous voice, a poor, vulnerable baby, a carpenter's son, a loving and forgiving parent, a rich landowner who throws parties...a king who eats with the downcast and dogs of society, a great conquer and champion for the poor and weak who rides into town on a small colt, and let's not forget... a radical rebel suffering injustice and abuse from his own kin. He is the Christ, Israel's Messiah. Beaten, naked, and dying on a Roman cross.
This is not what gods are supposed to look like. Especially not the one true God who is above all other gods. And yet that is exactly who God is.
Why? Because that's what love looks like. And what faithfulness looks like. And what salvation looks like. Yes, God is complicated. But God is also clearly visible and attainable. Always ready with open arms to take you in and throw a great party in your honor. God is love. When you see Love you see God. And when you need love you can always count on God to give it to you unconditionally.
If you need to give God the face of George Burns or Morgan Freeman then go right ahead. After all, God told Moses his name is, "I Am" as in I am anything and I am everything. By this account, no matter where you look you should see God.
I believe we are made in God's image, which is to say there is a part of God's likeness in me. It's like a divine thumbprint of sorts stamped into each one of us. Being a part of God's image comes with some responsibility. It means we are to live and love, to forgive and to heal, to be quick to listen and slow to speak, and always present in mercy and charitable in grace. You know, just as God does for each one of us.
So the question isn't what God looks like but do people see God when they look at you? In other words, do your actions paint a portrait of Jesus so people can see God in their midst?
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An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”