My son is 6 years old. He is a curious and imaginative little boy, as I’m sure most boys are. He’s well past the stage of asking repetitive ‘why’ questions. He has graduated to asking questions which I myself have trouble answering! Case in point: he has questions about certain attributes of God.
This is something that falls in that strange category of things we can picture in our minds and feel like we have a pretty good handle on, but have trouble describing. When my son asks me, “Dad, can God run faster than we’re driving right now?” I have to stop myself from answering, “Uhhhhhh.” I could just say, “Yeah, God’s awesome! He’s super-fast! He’s faster than a speeding bullet.” But suppose I keep answering such questions in this manner: “Yeah, God’s taller than the tallest building ever! God is so strong he could lift a whole mountain! God is bigger than this planet!” What have I done here? I’ve turned God into little more than the superheroes he watches on television. I’ve tied God to descriptions of purely material things. While describing God in these ways isn’t exactly false, it is certainly incomplete.
In Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well, he tells us something important about the nature of God.
“God is spirit; and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” -John 4:24
God is spirit. Spiritual things aren’t satisfied by mere physical descriptors. Describing God in such ways causes me to think about God through a narrow lens. But it’s a lens that makes sense to a 6-year old. They see their parents and other authority figures and notice the physical first. They’re bigger, they’re stronger, so they want to be bigger and stronger. So when they contemplate a God who created all the universe, they magnify those traits infinitely. But again, they’re missing aspects of God that go deeper than size, speed and strength. We would do our kids, and perhaps ourselves, a big favor in asking one more question to help understand God more thoroughly.
What does HAVING strength tell you about how to USE that strength?
Why do we root for Batman instead of the Joker? The Avengers instead of Loki? Is it because they’re stronger, or faster? Or is it because their fight appeals to a deep desire within us that goes beyond mere physical traits? Sure, Superman is much stronger than Lex Luthor, but that’s not why we’re on his side. It’s because of how he uses that strength. What he fights for. Truth and justice and all that stuff. Abstract items that exist no matter if I have maximum strength or zero. Compassion and mercy are not dependent on how fast the Flash can run, but we want him to use his ability to help others rather than take advantage of them, even if it would be advantageous to him personally! Simply having strength tells you nothing of how to use that strength. The answer to that comes from somewhere else. Something both inside of us yet independent of us that guides our decisions, convicting us of the rightness or wrongness of a thing. It’s the law written on our hearts (Rom. 1:19, 2:15). Spending time thinking on characteristics of God such as mercy, truth and love will tell us far more about Him than wondering whether He’s faster than a speeding bullet.
So, is God bigger than this house? If you thought he would use that size to crush the house, with you inside it, would it matter? The Lord God is big (Isa. 66:1,2), he is strong (Isa. 147:5), he does not wear down (Isa. 40:28), but more importantly God is love (1 Jn. 4:8), His word is truth (Psa. 33:4), and He extols justice (Deut 10:18, 16:20). When you consider God’s strength working in love, you arrive at a better understanding of how the cross of Christ is a complete picture of all these traits of God. His strength and perseverance working in love and compassion for each of us.
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” -Romans 3:21-26