Am I Like God or is God Like Me?

Is God Like Me?

Could how we see ourselves affect our concept of God’s character? How much time do you spend looking in the mirror? I’m not talking about the physical mirror you might use to check that you are presentable in the morning. Rather, I am talking about how much you focus on yourself and the character image you present.

Do you actively attempt to model your words, actions and character after the example of Jesus? If you do, then, of course, you will be affected by your understanding of His character.

Some people, however, might tend to model God after themselves; that is, they tend to see or imagine that God is like them or should be like them. We probably all do that to some extent even if subconsciously. Obviously, our understanding of what God is like has potential to mold our own characters. But could the converse also be true – that how we see ourselves (even our subconscious world view) affects our concept of God’s character?

Admittedly, there are contrasting statements in scripture concerning the character and actions of God. Here are a few examples – those familiar with the character of God question could easily come up with many more:

Who kills and has the power of death?

“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.” (Deut 32:39)

“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;” (Heb 2:14)

Who afflicts and oppresses men?

“The LORD shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me.” (Deut 28:20)

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Who is responsible for good (light) and evil (darkness)?

“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (Isa 45:7)

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

Which of those scriptures we tend to put the highest value on; which of them we tend to focus on, will affect our understanding of God. This is in accord with the principle, in scripture (“By beholding we become changed”) and in life (people take on the character of what they admire). We see it all the time. Here are some verses showing that to be true:

“They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image.  Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass.” (Psa 106:19-20)

“And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” (Rom 1:23)

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor 3:18)

So which set of verses we focus on – whether those depicting a God of absolute love as demonstrated by Jesus’ life or a God of retributive justice – will affect our view of God – we become like that which we behold or admire.

But what determines our viewpoint initially? Isn’t it, among other things, our own life experiences? If we have been badly treated, as so many have, we may be more likely to hold grudges against others; to think they need to make amends, that they should justly punished. Isn’t it true that we tend to think others should think like us; even to be like us? Is it possible that my viewpoint could affect my understanding of God? How does what I am like affect my view of God?

Is it possible that we could project ourselves upon God?

If I demand payback or some kind of retributive justice for a wrong done to me will I expect God to do the same?

If I can’t be forgiving for a wrong done to me will I be less likely to expect God to freely forgive me for a wrong I have done to Him?

So if I “want” God to be a God of retributive justice, personally punishing sin, I will tend to focus on the verses that support that. Humans are very good at selecting what supports their views and ignoring what doesn’t – have you noticed?

It can become a self-perpetuating system:

  • We want God to be like us.
  • We think of God in legal terms; only forgiving on certain conditions and demanding payment for sin.
  • We focus on scripture supporting that view point.
  • Focusing on those verses reinforces our thinking that God operates very much on a legal basis.
  • We act like our image of God, relating in a legal way towards the actions of others.
  • We become more like that image.
  • We want God to be like us with our even more-legal image.

or

  • We want God to be like us.
  • We think of God as always forgiving and working to heal our condition.
  • We focus on scripture supporting that view point.
  • Focusing on those verses reinforces our thinking that God operates more like a doctor whose goal is our best physical and mental health.
  • We act like our image of God, relating in more of a healing/parental way towards others.
  • We become more like that image.
  • We want God to be like us with our even more-healing orientation.

Whichever view we take (if we are not open to another way of thinking) it has the potential to perpetuate itself. A selfperpetuating system, by definition, is one that is able to continue for a long time because it creates what it needs to continue (in this case, a viewpoint). Thus, it is resistant to change.

The idea that God’s justice requires that every sin must be punished permeates the view of God in those who strictly follow the Traditional Legal Model of the gospel. It leads them, when they are wronged, to look for a means of retaliation; to wish ill on the one who has offended them. It is interesting that one author who understood the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan wrote:

“Every sin must be punished urged Satan” (The Desire of Ages, p761)

Satan has twisted the truth and is constantly attempting to put his character on God. We should be careful not to be guilty of doing the same – of putting our characters on God.

Considering the self-perpetuating aspect of this, can you see how just studying the character-of-God topic will help to divide people according to their characters? Others are seeing that this is so. I received the following comment:

“What I have been observing over recent years, ever since I started becoming more keenly aware of the truth about God’s character, is that there is increasingly a polarization taking place everywhere that can be traced to this very issue. It is not just in our church or even in religion but even in politics. The entire world is being propelled faster and faster to take sides as to what methods are valid for governing both ourselves and others. And this polarization is having profound effects on people that are often unexpected and alarming, such as in our [U.S.] recent elections. People who all their lives seemed nice enough are becoming dogmatic, willingly blind to glaring inconsistencies and willing to believe any number of confusing ideas so long as they promote a narrow agenda for the group they follow. People are polarizing over the issue of willingness to think for themselves vs. allowing some leader to do all their processing for them and simply parroting what they are told. This has always been a problem, but of late it seems to be intensifying like never before.” – Floyd P.

Those thoughts go a little deeper into what is and will be going on with this issue in the future and why it is critically important for each one of us to “get it” – to come to a right understanding of God’s character.

How can we best encourage people to even begin to think in another way? I believe this is good advice:

“By beholding we become changed. Let us look to Jesus and consider the loveliness of His character, and by beholding we shall become changed into the same likeness.” (Ellen White, Our High Calling, p344)

As we focus on Christ, we will focus less on self and those feelings of revenge etc that we might feel towards others will begin to fade.

Spend less time in the mirror of self-reflection and more time focusing on the One Who is meant to be our example and Who reflected the image of His Father.

“… he that hath seen me hath seen the Father …” (John 14:9)

And what will begin to happen as you do that is that your thinking will even change from wanting God to be like you to more and more of a desire to have your own character become like His.

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