How to Stop Creating God in Your Own Image
- Katie Howard katiehoward.com
- 2015 6 Oct
“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
I was reading tonight and came across this quote from Anne Lamott. In context, this was meant jokingly coming from her priest friend, but I found so much truth in this statement.
I think in some form, we all have an image of God where he supports us in our dislike or hatred of certain people. People we know personally or people that we have no relationship with, we just choose to dislike them. Maybe because of media hype. Maybe because of the gossip of a friend. Maybe because we just don’t like their face.
I know I’ve personally justified my disdain for particular people via this method. Maybe not intentionally, but have I arrived somehow at a place of hatred anyway? 100%. A thousand times yes.
When someone is supporting issues that I feel are black and white, no questions asked, without a doubt evil, I get angry, generate horrible opinions about said person, and back them up with a belief that because they’re condoning something awful, I am justified in my hatred of them.
But the more I study and the more I exposit scripture in my own study and through time spent listening to the words of pastors and leaders I respect and trust, I can’t hang my hat on this truth anymore.
Does God hate evil? Yes.
Does God desire that all things be made new and good and whole? Yes. (Insert Jesus and the cross here.)
But we are called to love our brothers and sisters. To pray over and yearn for their salvation. To have our hearts break over their sin and lostness (and our sin and lostness).
We can’t truly love Jesus and truly pursue him and his cross and his glory while we are spewing words of hatred from the same mouth which we are shouting praise. It just can’t be done.
Should we condemn evil? Yes.
Should we speak loudly and pursue justice when evil is being done? Yes.
But not to the point of forever isolating and condemning the one committing the evil. Because in reality, our hearts are just as capable of an equal or even greater evil. The only thing that sets us apart is the grace and mercy of the cross. Without that redeeming truth, we are all the same.
This is such a hard thing to write on because I know my knowledge and understanding is limited. All of us have limited and finite knowledge and understanding. But writing and reading and praying and thinking about all of these things is how I process. If it all stays jumbled up in my brain, I feel like I’m going to explode.
Fear not. I’m not going all universalist, God loves and saves every single person regardless of repentance, on you. Part of the reason that I know my God has immeasurable love is because he is perfect and just in all things. He is holy and therefore requires holiness. This is something we can never obtain on our own. It takes the blood from the cross washing over us and through substitution making us holy and blameless in the sight of the Lord. Only because of Jesus can God stand to have me near to him. Because he is perfect. Because I am so, so not perfect.
And you know what makes me worthy of that gift? Nothing.
You know what makes the abortionists at the Planned Parenthood down the road worthy of that gift? Nothing.
You know what makes that lifelong muslim worthy of that gift? Nothing.
You know what makes that man or woman struggling with gender confusion worthy of that gift? Nothing.
Take any and every hot topic in our nation right now and place that person in the question and ask what makes them worthy of the gift of the cross. The answer will always be nothing. The exact same answer we see when you insert your name in the very same sentence.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8
So now, as you stand before the lost of this world claiming you’ve been covered in the blood of Jesus, don’t stand atop your pedestal of self-righteous justification. Instead, stand in the shadow of the cross that made you holy and blameless before God and offer it up to each and every person that you hate, condemn, feel is unworthy, disagree with, is different from you, etc. Because you know who else can come freely to the foot of the cross just as you and I have done? Anyone and everyone.
He who has ears let him hear.
Who are we to stand in the way and say that someone is unworthy of the very grace and mercy we’ve received based solely on the fact that they’re behaving in the only way they know how, as a sinner? No one is “too far gone” or too deep into sin or too depraved.
We can’t expect the lost to act like the saved.
And we can’t expect the lost to seek truth in the church that places guards at their doors picking out those they feel are worthy enough to enter.
Who are we, Church? Who are we?
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
So instead of making God in our own image, one who hates those who act differently, believe differently, live differently, lets take off our garments of self-righteousness and put on the garments of humility, love, grace, and mercy. Let's stand at the doors of our churches shouting, all you who are weary and burdened, come in and find rest. All you cast aside, lepers, outcasts, forgotten, you are welcome here.
Because that is what my Jesus did and if you know the same man I know, your Jesus did it too.
He went to the homeless and the leper and the prostitute and the murderer. He called them out and called them up to a place of redemption on faith alone. So let’s do the same. Let’s call them over and say, you who are searching, this is the community you’re longing for. Search no more for satisfaction in those empty places, but find wholeness and healing here. In the same place that God called me out of the darkness and into marvelous light, he is calling you too. The door is open to any and all with an ear to hear and a heart to open and a life to give. Its free and available to all. So Church, stop behaving like a dictator rationing out the grace of Jesus to those you see fit. Because if we’re searching for “fit” souls, yours wouldn’t qualify and neither would mine.
Praise God that we don’t have to qualify. We just have to be willing to come. So let us be that place. In our cities, in our states, in our countries, in all the world.
You can find rest and restoration here among the messed up Church. Because the messiness is what makes her beautiful and real and able to welcome even the messiest of sinners.
So I’ll leave you with this scripture from Romans that tells us of the marks of a true Christian.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:9-21
This article was first published as a blog post at katiehoward.com and is used with permission.
Katie H. Howard is a pastor’s wife and stay-at-home mom. She loves Jesus, music, and the written word. She enjoys writing about community, spiritual growth, womanhood, and parenting. Her desire is to see women released from the chains of perfectionism and into the Gospel freedom of serving transparently in everyday life. She lives in Seaford, Virginia with her family. Check out Katie’s blog at katiehhoward.com and catch up with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!
Publication date: October 6, 2015
Image courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com