[This is the 2nd of two Addenda and final post of the essay: What God is Like (Musings about the character of God) which is located in its entirety elsewhere.]
The fundamental mistake is to begin with ourselves and not God. God is the center from which all life develops. If we use our ego as the center from which to plot the geometry of our lives, we will live eccentrically. Eugene H. Peterson.
When I read this in Peterson’s great book, Run With the Horses, I had to go and look up the word “eccentric.” Having quite a few eccentric friends, I was familiar with it in its psychological and social context, but since it’s been a while since I took a geometry class I hadn’t heard it used in this particular way. The dictionary told me that eccentric means “not centered on the same point as another… having an axis that’s off kilter.” An eccentric is someone whose beliefs or behaviors (or both) are off center.
When our axis doesn’t correspond with the True Center of the universe it’s no wonder we don’t behave well and our lives don’t run right. When we marginalize him, even to the slightest degree, our revolutions are not balanced, and we don’t roll right. The smooth circular orbit of our lives directly corresponds with the relative correctness of our idea of God.
Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ 1 Peter 1:15-16
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:29
(You) have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Colossians 3:10
God created us to be like him, a similarity that we bludgeoned to distortion when we broke from him and went our own way. But we who have the Perfect Image of the Father living inside us are being re-created in that original likeness. It’s gradual, but we’re taking shape. The more accurate our idea of the Pattern and the more intimate our friendship with the Potter, the more efficient our trajectory toward a true resemblance.
The qualities of God’s character that we’ve spoken about above are aspects of the pattern we’re shooting for. If he’s trustworthy, that’s what we want to be and what he helps us be. If he’s merciful, it’s our aspiration to treat people like he does, with mercy. Granted, it’s an incremental process, a “from glory to glory” progression. But we have to shoot for the moon if we want to get off the ground at all!
Justice is both an attribute of God and an activity of his followers and he wants us to be just as just as he is.
I’ve always said the Christian life isn’t hard to live. IT’S IMPOSSIBLE! You can’t do it. Nor can I. But Jesus can, he proved that in his brief, but intense stint here, and he will do it again in you if you’ll let him! The best definition of the Christian life that I’ve ever heard, and repeated hundreds of times since is: “It’s the life Jesus lived then, lived now by him in us.”
Jesus lived the way we aspire to live and will live that way in and through us as we cooperate with him. (Isn’t that a great term – “co-operate”? He does his part and we do ours, and in that sense we “operate” together to live Christianly here on our earth.) The way God is – the kind of character he has – is the way he is in us. He develops his character us in proportion to our co-operation.
What follows is the same list of God’s character qualities that he lives in and through “co-operators.”
He’s in us helping us be holy
To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people Romans 1:7
offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Ephesians 1:4
He’s in us helping us be good
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Romans 12:9
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21
I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness Romans 15:14
He’s in us helping us be merciful
Be merciful to those who doubt. Jude 1:22
Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. James 2:13
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7
He’s in us helping us be loving
Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8
He’s in us helping us be wise
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. James 3:13
I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. Romans 16:19
He’s in us helping us be faithful
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful 1 Corinthians 4:2
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness Galatians 5:22
He’s in us helping us be just
Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. Deuteronomy 24:17
The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. Proverbs 29:7
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:17
Woe to you Pharisees because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue, and other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. Luke 11:42
What does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
This being the final offering of the series on the character of God, I’d sure love to hear from you about what, if anything you got out of the things we’ve mused about together.
More importantly, may I humbly propose that you share the series (or a part of it that had the most meaning to you) with a friend and invite them into a conversation with you and/or with me about it? Blessings!