Lately I’ve been asking myself the question “What is God Really Like?” and I am fascinated by the question. First of all, I’m fascinated by the idea that we may not really know, but we may have a lot of hopes and wishes about who God is. Secondly, I think God has gotten some pretty bad PR and so then the question becomes “What is God REALLY Like?” and that’s always a valid question to consider, because our perspective on God may be askew since our perspective is so limited. Or maybe another step in a different direction is also interesting, “What is Godlike?” with the suggestion that once we know what God is like, then we can emulate God’s characteristics and character and thus become Godlike in character (more than in posture). And so I continue to ask these intriguing questions.
In the midst of these questions I’m turning to Paul. We talk about Paul’s writing a lot, but do we consider his life as well as his message? Our life message is often found between the lines of our lives and Paul was full tilt ZEAL. In the beginning he was zealous about persecuting the Christians, then he met God, and that changed everything. The persecutor became an apostle. How does that sort of transformation even happen? I think this may be the most interesting aspect of Paul for me at the moment, and I think it tells us much about the character of God.
First of all, God didn’t squish Paul like a bug – since Paul was indeed an effective persecutor and therefore one of God’s enemies. But God doesn’t treat him as an enemy but rather saw his potential as an apostle. What would it change in our lives if we were to view ourselves as God does, seeing our own potential for growth and useful Kingdom service? Wouldn’t it intrigue us into knowing God as more than an intellectual exercise? What if all that PR about the Big Angry God wasn’t true? If we were going to see anger, wouldn’t Paul have deserved it after he held the coats while his fellow persecutors stoned Saint Stephen? Paul approved of the death of this saint, though I am sure his mindset changed after Paul met God and realized that Stephen had been speaking the truth as each stone crushed him.
If we consider God as someone who exercised a great deal of restraint toward Paul, and instead of furious anger, God reached out with light and love to Paul. What if that is who God is… someone who sees our potential rather than our transgressions? What would change in our hearts and lives if we no longer pictured the Big Angry God and rather considered a God who reaches out with Light and Love? Because looking at Paul… that’s what I see. And looking at Paul, I see a man who knew God could have squished him like a bug… but didn’t. Because that’s not who God is. And therefore Paul got all excited about serving the REAL God. Because people really should know the REAL God (not the one the PR folks keep trotting out) because it changes everything. Jew or Gentile, no matter, God changes everything.