It's been on my mind a lot recently how the unsaved of this world see God. None of us should be surprised that they don't see him as we see him. To us God is our wonderful Father; loving. compassionate, merciful, showing us far more grace than we could imagine. We see him as a Father who would go to any length to rescue the lost and to bring his children into maturity. We understand that his first concern is our preparation for eternity. We understand that his design did not include this messed up world that we brought into being and he is doing all that he can to make the best of what we have destroyed. However, those outside of a relationship with him see him so much differently.
The fact is, it is because of the way they perceive God that many have decided there is no God. Either that or, considering the mess of our world, they figure he is too good to be true so he must be a fairy tale. People look at the suffering in the world, the injustices that take place, and even the behaviour of God's children and ask, "If God is so loving why doesn't he do something about all this?" It is a question that is born out of ignorance and frustration. They have no idea that we created this mess and then refused to respond to God in order to clean it up. A psalm I was reading last night comes very close to explaining what is happening with these perceptions:
To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
to the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd. (Psalm 18:25-26)
When a person is not in a close and intimate relationship with God they can only judge what they see. When a person has not experienced Jesus Christ they cannot understand the extraordinary measures he went to in order to save us from our own destruction. Even those believers who have never sought anything other than a minimum relationship with Jesus may doubt the sincerity of his love when we have situations born out of the fallen state of this world. We end up perceiving God in our own limitations, our own shortcomings, in our own frailty.
It hurts to hear the words from people that portray God as mean and selfish. Instead of loving him for what he has done to rescue us they hate him for the suffering we have created in this place. It is like a burn victim blaming the doctor for his pain or the cancer patient blaming him for his disease. Our Father has limited himself to give us free will yet we then dismiss him as non-existent because he loves us enough to give us a choice.
Now because this is the struggle that the unsaved have, it is even more vital that we live our lives fully dedicated to Jesus. Our desire must be to know Jesus even more, to draw nearer, to go deeper, to be fully surrendered, in order that God would glorify himself through us. What I mean by this is that these people need to experience the love of Jesus Christ and that is not going to happen if we keep rejecting them. We need to be transformed so that we are able to love with the love of Jesus, taking the hits, the spitting, the biting, even the nails to demonstrate the persistent faithful love of Jesus. We have to love the unlovable. Just because they may hate us, say cruel things about us, treat us poorly and totally reject us does not mean we can do the same to them. How does God react when his love is rejected? Does he lash out; bring down the fires of heaven; seek revenge; walk away? No. He persists and will do so up until the day of judgement; up until the very last moment. We are his representatives, his ambassadors, his workers, his agents, his servants, his children. People judge him by what we do and say. The only way we can love the unlovable is when we are absolutely convinced and possessed by the love of Christ. Because he loved us we can love others.
In Romans we find a good reminder of why we should be concerned about these people who have a wrong perception of God:
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24)
We have all come from this same wretched place, lost in the same disgusting sin and should be able to easily identify with those who stubbornly stick to their mis-perceptions. I am thankful for those people who stubbornly prayed for me, who did not get fixated on my actions but instead prayed about my heart. I am thankful people never gave up on me even when I pushed them away and called them names. I am thankful but also remorseful that I did not hold on to their example. I think of the many people who gave up on God and walked away and I just let them walk out of my life. I failed to understand my responsibility, not to brow beat them, but to demonstrate God's kind and faithful love in never giving up on the relationship. We can't give up on them simply because God never gave up on us.
It does not matter how they see God or even if they are convinced he doesn't exist. We can't expect people in love with the darkness to realize the dark is bad. This can only happen once they experience the light and it is our responsibility to carry that light in such a way that they can perceive the truth of it. Jesus is counting on us to remain faithful to our assigned task, to be faithful to it, no matter what it costs us personally. The cost is not as we perceive it with the "giving up" of things that displease God but instead it is the cost of holding on to people who he loves, even when they do not want to be held on to. Don't you dare say that it is best to let them go if they don't want you in their lives. Imagine where you would be if people had that attitude towards you. Persist in those relationships, not by force but in faithful acts of love, kindness and constantly flowing forgiveness. Allow them to see Jesus in you by the measures you are willing to take to love them. Don't give up!