What is God Like?
Have you ever wondered what God is like? What does God look like – what color is His hair – does God even have any hair? Surely, we’ve all seen the traditional pictures of God – sort of like the one on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome – you know – the kindly looking old man with a long gray beard and hair and a sweet facial expression as he reaches out to His creation.
But is that real? Well, it might be but there’s no way we’ll ever know for sure this side of heaven. After all, there were no cameras when God was creating everything and there has never been a cell phone that could capture a picture of the God of all creation. So, the bottom line is that any image of God ever drawn or painted or imagined is just that – a figment of our imagination with a touch of our fondest desires thrown into the mix. Of course, that would be true because probably every human being in the history of the world has wondered what God is like. Even those who proclaim not to believe in God must still wonder what a God would look like if there was indeed one out there somewhere.
So, with no evidence that will hold up in court and no ancient drawings or sketches on stone tablets, we are left with the imagination that God gifted the human race with just for situations like this. After all, we need to have some idea in our minds and souls of what God is like and that idea will most likely come out of those fond desires of our hearts that I mentioned earlier. Indeed, why would we imagine something that frightens us or repels us? No one wants a God that looks like a dragon or a three-headed monster. We all yearn for a being as strong and gentle and kindly looking and, of all the artistic renderings created by humanity, we want the best – the most dynamic, the most comforting, and the most holy. Because in the end, we want our God to look and be just like what we need most – strong, gentle, kindly, dynamic, comforting, and holy.
Of course, the big question is what is God like to you, if that is, you believe in a personal God. If one doesn’t think of God as a personal friend and companion then the image of God as the all-powerful, mighty, and almost over-powering God as depicted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel may be what comes to mind when one thinks of God. Or maybe there are times when we need all-powerful, mighty, and over-powering to take care of the awful things in our world and in our lives. And maybe we need kindly and gentle for those times when we need a shoulder to cry on and a lap to sit in or just an understanding and forgiving deity that can make everything all right.
These are the thoughts that I have when I ponder what the Almighty God actually is like. I also wonder what God is like to other people – to the faithful, to the atheist, to the ones whose major thought about God is something like – “I don’t know quite what to make of God.” The truth is that most of us fall in at least one of those categories every day. That’s right, we all have our days when we think “God’s in His Heaven and all’s right with the world.” And we all have our days when we have serious doubts, even if we aren’t ready to admit to them. Most of the time most of us feel the moments of befuddlement and wonder about just what God is like, where God is, and whether He is really waiting for us in Heaven.
So, here’s the question for all of you. Take some time to ponder it and write down your answers so that someday in the future, you will be able to look back at them and see how you’ve grown:
How does God look to you?
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you:
God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)
What is God Like?
I’m sure you’ve heard people say things like: “God told me to…” and “God spoke to me…” and “God is with me…” and other expressions of their faith in the presence of God in the world and in their lives. But how many times do you hear people say “I saw God and He looked like…” or “I saw God and He had a long beard and a big nose…” or “I looked up and there was God in all His glory”? Most believers have some way of expressing what God is like to them whether it is what He looks like or how He is present to them. Again, as we talked about in Part One, no one really has a clue what God is really like, what He looks like, or what He sounds like.
On some days we may imagine that an almighty God must sound really loud and look really stern or at least serious. Those are days when we may look at the world around us and think how much we need for God to come down and show a little authority, even wrath, to a world that seems to have strayed so far away from God and God’s Word.
On other days we may imagine that a loving God must be soft-spoken and look really compassionate and welcoming. These are the days when we are hurting, either physically or emotionally, when we are having trouble connecting with God, or when we just need God to be real and really and truly love us.
Then there are the days when we may imagine that an unknown God must be illusive and look like a big fluffy cloud. It seems that no matter who we ask, all we hear is platitudes like “Just trust in God.” These are the times when we usually find ourselves wondering just where God is and when we don’t really care what God looks like. We just need God to be present to us and let us know that He is indeed real.
It’s true that we can never really know for sure that God is real and present. We can believe it with all our hearts, but when you get right down to it, there is no concrete evidence of God’s existence. We see God’s hand in nature, in other people, and in our own hearts, but these are all subjective beliefs, based on what we want with all our hearts to be true. What we’d really like is one of those stone tablets like Moses brought down from the mountain with God’s testimony and signature etched in the stone that says something like “I, God Almighty, did create the world. I love my creation and am always there in their hearts.” Wouldn’t that be nice? Well, maybe, but then why would we need faith. All we’d have to do then is have faith in the stone tablet and there’s not a piece of granite anywhere who can comfort us, love us, and give us the peace we so crave.
I often think it would be nice of God to at least once in a while, give us a picture of the real divine being so we can keep on believing and know that He is God. But I guess if that hasn’t happened in all these millions of years, we can give up on that idea. And when we do that, all we have left is faith. Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t get some glimpses of the true God and that brings up a serious question and I say “serious” because everyone has their own experience of God and we can never denigrate that because, whatever it is, it’s real for them. Even if we don’t believe it, that doesn’t make it less real for the person who has experienced it. I hope that gives you the real freedom to answer the next question honestly, even if you think people will make fun of you or think you have taken leave of your senses. I ask you to search your heart and your experiences of God and write down your answer so you can visit it later when you really need it.
Is there ever a time when you saw God with your own eyes? Describe this experience and tell what it meant to your faith.
The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.
What is God Like?
The world we live in today is about as different as it can be from the first days of creation. In fact, it seems light years away from the easier, less complicated days of the 50’s and 60’s when everything was written down on paper, when there was not even an inkling that humans might actually walk on the moon, or when we could only dream of the level of technology we enjoy today. In my lifetime, great strides have been taken to cure dread diseases, to understand the inner workings of the human body to the extent that our organs can be transplanted into another body to preserve a life, and to have the ability to explore the world with just a click of a tiny little plastic thing that someone must have decided had a resemblance to a tiny rodent.
So here we are, in the 21st century, living in a world that can do and know things nobody even dreamed of until now. If you own a computer, you have at your fingertips the entire known written or photographed world. If you don’t believe that, go to Google and enter just about any word or phrase and get thousands, even millions of entries that have at least some bearing on what you want. You can find almost anything on the internet – everything from the first words of the Bible to the latest invention or discovery and for most of those entries, you can click on the word “Images” and get pictures of any and everything that relates to your search.
So, we are living in an incredible age. We can choose to do and be just about anything we can want. We can not only find a good college to attend, we can take whole degree courses, on every level, sitting right in front of a computer, never leaving the comforts of home. We can find a medical specialist right in our own town or from the other side of the world. We can look up any subject in any encyclopedia or other resource in any library in the world and in most cases, we can even check out the book we need and read it on our computers without darkening the library’s door and stacks. Many people believe that, with our advanced technology, there’s nothing we can’t find, learn, do, and preserve for future generations. The “Cloud” has made it possible to save documents, images, and even music in some nebulous place where those pieces of history can be accessed from any place and any computer in the world. What an amazing world we have created!
So, what does this have to do with God, you ask? Well, in one sense, everything has to do with God as, even our human endeavors have been made possible by the gifts God has poured out on the human race from day one. The brilliant minds of our world’s history have been gifted, nurtured, and increased by the God-given abilities that they have used for the good (and, unfortunately, the evil) of the world. It’s indeed a sin that for every amazing discovery, every enterprising young executive, every stupendous step forward in our world, there is at least one destructive and hateful person or idea with only one objective – to tear down and destroy what good God hath wrought.
Given the amazing wealth of knowledge available to us, it would seem to make some sense that we may have been given another gift to help us in our quest to know God better. The truth of the matter is that one is just as nebulous as the other. Like the “Cloud” where so much of our technological knowledge lives these days, our knowledge of God also has an unreal and “out there” feeling for us as we seek him through whatever ways and means we have. It’s sort of like trying to grab hold of a cloud or attempting to wrap your mind around an elusive concept or idea. Just when we think we have it, it somehow slips away from us causing us to go on yet another search.
Given all of this new knowledge and ability, we have to question what all that means in our spiritual lives. Whether you own a computer or not, the reality of our world is that we are in a highly advanced technological age so we cannot ignore this part of our world.
Has technology made it easier or harder to reach God? (Write down your answers for future reflection.)
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (Revelation 21:3)
What is God Like?
Whenever something is important to us, there seems to be a compulsion for some people to grab a camera and record the people or events for posterity’s sake. Most people who own a cell phone or tablet or camera have hundreds, if not thousands, of photos of loved ones, travel destinations, and important events. Then there are those who really take photography seriously as a hobby or even as a career. Their photo folders and albums are filled with their favorite subjects – birds, flowers, landscapes, mountains, lakes/rivers/seas, people in history, important events around the world, and more. Pictures have become a treasured possession in almost every family or community – from daguerreotypes from days gone by to the newest cell-phone snapshot of a newborn grandchild or pet. They speak to us of history, connections, relationships, milestones, and love. As such, they have become a really personal way of keeping in touch with the past, the present, and a look toward the future of the generations and our society.
So, my question is simple. It has to do with the whole subject of this reflection – what is God like to us? What is the image we have in our minds of God and where did it come from? From an old picture in our parents’ or grandparents’ home? From a picture on the Sunday School walls? Or it might be something even closer. Here’s the question (don’t forget to write down your answers for future reflection):
Do you have any pictures of God in your home or anywhere else? What do they mean to you?
So, God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God
he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
What is God Like?
There are many characteristics of an object, a person, even an event that color what any of them mean. For an object, there’s texture, size, shape, and color. For a person, there’s height, width, length of hair, facial features, body size, and color. For an event, there’s the place, the furnishings, the decorations, the people, the weather, and the color of all those things. So color is an integral part of everything in our lives.
Do you remember the days when the only color we saw was in the real world? All newspapers and books were printed in black and white and any photographs were also black and white, or tinted to hint at color. TV programs were all in black and white even though the people and scenery they portrayed were in living color. For years, we lived in a world that was divided into two realms – the real world in living color – and the “make-believe” world where everything was colorless.
Unfortunately, our entire society was divided by color – the color of skin. For centuries, people of color were believed to be inferior and only good for slave labor. As the issue grew, our country erupted into war, ending in a courageous President’s emancipation of all slaves. But the color of a person’s skin remained of utmost importance in the minds of many and discrimination against people of color took on an ugly connotation and a violent movement on both sides. Even though the war was over, we remained a divided nation with color of skin at the core. In past years, we have progressed in many ways, but in some parts of the country, there is still a pervading belief that people of color are inferior and should be kept separate. Even now, in our advanced and civilized society, there is still the issue of the color of skin.
I’ve often wondered what is the significance of color? Even “white” people have a fleshy color to their skin so wouldn’t it have made sense to see us all as people of color, with the difference being one of shades and darkness? But the reality is that our society was and still is obsessed with the color of skin. There are many laws on the books now which protect people of color from discrimination in the workplace and from such offensive practices as limiting the right to vote, unfair hiring and salary policies, and availability of medical insurance to the working people of color. Unfortunately, the stigma of dark skin continues to bring unrest and even violence in our world today.
I’ve also wondered what God thinks about all this. We all know of the controversy over the color of Jesus’ skin. Most Sunday School pictures of the Son of God depict him with white skin, light brown hair, and aquiline features. In reality, Jesus was a Jewish man so most likely had dark skin, black hair, and a big nose. So, what did God think of a large part of his creation becoming prejudiced against people with dark skin? In my mind, this is where God feels a lot of our pain as well as our joy, I think He must have seen this inequality as a stab in his divine soul so it seems to me that He could have done something to eradicate this blight from his creation. I know there are many faithful people of God who think that God created the world and then left for the Caribbean where he could sit in the sun and watch us try and destroy what God had made for us. Then there are others who think that there is no God, so it’s all a moot point. If there is no God, there can be no “help from above.” And then there are the faithful who believe that God tried to change the hearts of His children in the days of the Old Testament when so many of them were running after other gods. And God has tried just as hard to change the hearts of His children today from a racist society to one of acceptance and celebration of our differences. But, in the words of Scripture, we are “a stiff-necked people.” We don’t seem to learn very fast and we seem to be more interested in doing our own thing in our own way instead of living by God’s commandments.
My final question to you is based on the whole concept of a stern, serious, expectant, loving, compassionate, forgiving God who made his creation to be one of different races and that meant that His children would also be different. This God who brought the human race into being from the dust of the earth could never have intended that we would be divided over something as irrelevant as the color of one’s skin. God certainly must have agonized over the violent history of the world which brought the God-given differences of God’s people into a caste system that divided us one from another. In my heart, I cannot believe that God made us different so that we would be pitted against each other. I also cannot believe that God cares what color the skin is of His beloved children. When I think of how God sees us, I believe that he sees us all as exactly the same – imperfect. This means that God’s main purpose is to forgive us when we cry out to him with sorrow and regret over our sins against each other and against God Himself. Indeed, his most soul-wrenching and loving act was to come into this imperfect world as one of us in the body of His only Son, Jesus, to teach and heal and command us, to die on the cross for our sins, be raised from the grave, defeating the power of death for all time, and then leaving us with the gift of his Church to continue His teachings in this world. That is the Good News that God has brought to His creation and every time we stab one another with the ugly and painful sin of racism, He must feel the pain of that betrayal of His gift to us of our own differences and our salvation, which does not depend for one minute on the color of our skin.
All of this may render the last question of this study totally useless. At least, it will probably give you pause to ask “Susan, are you crazy?” I assure you I am not. I am actually serious when I pose this question to you because the answer is not one that is right or wrong. As is everything about God, this question is subjective, based on your experience of God and what you believe about your creator. So, please remember to write down your answer so you may return to it for further reflection. It may be the most important one you have asked yourself for it brings us right to the core of “What is God Like?”
If God could be one color, what would He be?