I met God several tumultuous years after my father died. At that time I didn’t know much about God, except that my uncle talked about God a lot: as a cuss word. Thus my view of God was skewed and mostly driven by my need for a father. Still is somewhat. This gave me an outlook on life as tragedy and most people as orphans. How we view God shapes or distorts how we see life and people. What’s the view of God that most readily springs to your mind? And how does that color your view of life, others, and yourself?
What’s Your God View?
If we view God as a harsh judge, life is an unjust trial and all of us guilty defendants. This is a partially true description of God. But God is a just judge. The harsh, old, distant, uncaring judge bringing his gavel down on our heads is a mistaken image and leaves us judging others and trying to justify ourselves. God as harsh judge leaves no room for a merciful, loving God who wants to bring justice and drive out injustice.
If we see God as a butler, life becomes entitlement and people are deserving, undeserving, or needy. God calls himself Ezer “Helper” which connotes powerful acts of rescue not serving drinks and wiping tables. This view of God shows up when we only talk to God to give him our shopping lists (prayer requests) or complaints.
If we identify God as therapist, life is trauma and all people need fixing. Social media features the therapist-God in the main. God is a healer. Artist, author, and 9/11 survivor Mako Fujimura says God too is an Artist who mends us but does not fix us. Fujimura’s metaphor for this is Kintsugi. He writes, “[In Japan] When precious tea bowls break, the families of tea masters will often keep the broken bowls for generations and later have them mended by artisans who use a lavish technique known as Kintsugi. Kintsugi masters mend tea bowls with Japan lacquer and gold.”
God too is a Kintsugi master. This is redemption. God is better known as Redeemer than therapist.
The Impersonal God View?
If we see God as CEO, all of life is business and people are employees, units of production, or sources of profit. God is sovereign, Almighty, and Lord but God’s omnipotence cannot be reduced to president or moderator of the board. This God-view is prevalent in large churches where authority and hierarchy rule. In all places this view reigns, the sacredness of individual, unique personhood is lost to utilitarianism. You are valued for what you do, not who you are. This is a distorted and manipulative view of God.
If we understand God as higher power/energy, life becomes an exchange and people mere resources. God is indeed the highest power. This view has similar results to the CEO view, except here even God loses Personhood. In this world it is hard to receive grace and not try to earn all you need.
If we see God as everything, life becomes an indistinguishable fog and people codependent and enmeshed. Scripture teaches that by God’s creative act all of creation speaks God’s name. God in that way is in everything but is not equal to everything. God’s created works are not gods. The heartbreak of this view is that we expect mercy, grace, love, interaction from inanimate objects while the living God sits by silenced.
All of these views of God hold a sliver or more of truth. They shape or distorts how we see life and people. They also share in common the power to distance and depersonalize God. God becomes an abstract idea not God with us. We experience God as object to be manipulated not a Being to be related to. This leaves us uncomfortably, painfully alone but believing we are free.
What’s God’s View?
From Genesis to Revelation one of the fullest views, or names for God is Shepherd. Jacob died with a prayer on his lips to God the Shepherd. In Psalm 23 God the Shepherd gives us rest in troubled times in green meadows beside cool streams. David, who wrote Psalm 23, was Israel’s greatest king as a man after God’s own heart. David was a shepherd king until he had his heart stolen. Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd. In Revelation 7:17 Psalm 23 echos in these words: “for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eye.”
Having an accurate view of God shapes how we see life and people.
This view of God pictures God’s loving provision, strong protection, and kind guidance. It is a metaphor that makes room for all God’s many characteristics. But mostly it is personal. Just as a mother cannot nurse her baby from a distance, a shepherd cannot care for her sheep remotely. Is this why shepherds announced the birth of God with us? Yes!
Despite this consistent, practical picture of God as shepherd, it is one of the least acknowledged and prayed names for God in modern life. Is this because most of us are no longer tethered to the soil, miles from green pastures? Maybe. Partially. Mainly it is because if God is shepherd, we are sheep, mild, unruly, hungry, thirsty, willful, stubborn, needy. And as sheep we belong to the Shepherd. We are not autonomous, self made, self determined individuals. But rather we are beloved, desired, cared for, a flock, needing one another and our God.
God Viewed As Shepherd
How we view God shapes or distorts how we see life and people.
Jesus tell us in The Parable of the Shepherd God, “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:12-14 NIV)
We don’t all go astray through rebellion. I’ve done this. Sometimes we just wander off because we don’t think God cares or is watching because we’ve adopted a view of God that is, at best, partially true and hugely abstract and impersonal. Glance over your shoulder because the Shepherd is searching for you.
More resources for seeing God. Sunday Psalm: Seeing God in the Ordinary. Five Ways to See God in Daily Life in the BLINK of Your Eye. Is God in All Places, All the Time?