This is a picture of an actual church sign I saw in Fort Wayne the the other day:
No doubt someone simply thought this would be kind of funny, but it reinforces so many of the pre-conceived notions people have about God that keep them away from the church. It was probably meant in fun, but this is an epic FAIL. On so many levels.
- It paints God as essentially ticked-off; a frustrated parent pulling his hair out over the misbehavior of his children. The implication is “If I have to get involved, it won’t be a pretty sight!” This is a god who threatens us with his presence.
- It paints God as essentially absent; a uninterested parent who wishes he could just have some peace and quiet, mostly annoyed by the need to intervene in human affairs. This is a god who would rather be reading the newspaper.
- Plus, the central message of Christianity is that God did come down here. That’s why we call the birth of Jesus the Incarnation; it was the en-fleshing of God. And we found, to our surprise and delight, that God was not a distant, ticked-off deity, but a Father who cares and loves more deeply than we can fathom. We found God was not looking to dish out punishment but actually took all the punishment upon himself, providing a way for us to be forgiven and restored to be the kind of people that reflect the same goodness and self-sacrificing love we see in God himself.
Frankly the god who would say the words on this sign has nothing to do with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is moral therapeutic deism without the therapeutic part.
So much of how we frame and live out the Christian life comes back to our view of God. This is why it is so important to, in the words of Dallas Willard, “enthrall the mind with God.” To bring his revealed character before our minds often, to soak ourselves in the reality of who he is, meditating on what he has done, what he is like.
The missional church will never get a lot of traction until people have a view of God that differs radically from the one who would say “Don’t make me come down there!” We have to be converted to the God who did come down there, not to dish out punishment, but to take it, not to scold but to seek and save the lost, the God who conquered death through his own death (“trampling down death by death” in the words of St. Chrysostom), the God who is always working (John 5:17) to renew everything (Rev 21:5).