In our traditional concept of God, we have often conceived of a Being whose awesomeness demands our undying reverence and worship. In fact, our theology says that God desires mankind to fall down, face in the dirt before Him, to demonstrate that we recognize the great gulf that separates God from man and duly appreciate His condescension in even acknowledging our existence. This is a prevailing picture of the relationship between God and man. It is one marked by the greatest imaginable inequality in terms of worthiness.
Within this conceptual framework, God is thought to demand, under penalty of eternal punishment, our undivided attention, undying obedience, and complete respect. For all the talk of God’s love and mercy, this is the perfect description of the human despot and egotist, a personality type which has been often seen in human history and with devastating effect.
In contrast with this frequent understanding of God’s nature and mode of operation, we see Jesus and His teachings of the New Testament. In His discourses, Jesus stressed human behaviors which are in marked contrast to what God supposedly practices in making His demands of mankind. Jesus enjoined humility, self sacrifice, benevolence, and forgiveness of even enemies. The encouragement of this mode of living by Jesus is just too ironic if God’s character is as described above. How could God’s messenger come to earth and teach humility when the God He represents is the furthest removed from practicing humility? How can He call for people to love without restraint when His Father ultimately hates without limitation. It is all too, too inconsistent. It is impossible for many to reconcile these inconsistencies, so when they reject the church, the Bible, and God in the process, it is simply because they are tired of trying to mimic Jesus in view of a God who denies Him.
If the story of Jesus’ ethical instruction and His self sacrifice are seen as the true revelation of God and not all that Old Testament legalism, then what we conclude about God should be very different. Instead of a God who demands our humility in a display of constant worshipfulness, we meet the God who humbled Himself to man. This God of the Ultimate Humility cannot demand of us what the church says He requires. Humility and self sacrifice never demand anything from others. God’s demands are directed to Himself. His nature requires that He be faithful to the same characteristics that Jesus taught would lead to abundant life. Who would better know and demonstrate real living than the One who is the source of all Life?