Our picture of God and preaching about God often has a lot to do with rules and regulations. “You can’t do this.” “That is wrong.” “Don’t do this.” Much of this is well intentioned, but I think sometimes misguided. Why? I believe that God is primarily relational.
When a child first starts to be able to make its own decisions, we give it rules. “Don’t touch the stove.” “Don’t go out into the street.” When the child grows up a bit, the rules change – “Don’t touch the stove if it’s on.” “Don’t go out in the street without looking both ways.” As the child grows and its understanding of the world expands, we are able to drop rules and instead communicate principles – “I don’t want you to hurt yourself.” Eventually, our interactions with our children are not founded on rules at all, but on relationships, and I have a feeling God works in exactly the same way.
The main picture we see of our relationship with God in the Bible – the most often used portrait – is that of a father caring for his children. God could have chosen any picture, I suppose. He could have chosen a King, making wise decisions ruling over his people. He could send down a revelation today comparing us to workers, working for an employer. He could have often compared us to slaves, serving a master – and each of these pictures are indeed used in the Bible to describe our relationship with God. But over and over again, the picture that dominates is that of Father and son.
“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” John writes. Paul says we “groan inwardly as we await eagerly for our adoptions as sons.”
As we listen to God, we see his character, and understand more and more what he wants us to be, and how he wants us to act. Eventually, we don’t do things or not do things because they’re “right” or “wrong” – but because we know they’re consistent or inconsistent with the character of God. We base our actions not on a set of rules made by men, but on a relationship with the eternal creator of the universe, who treats us as his children.
I believe in a God who calls me his son, and treats me like his child. I believe he has shown me, both through his life and his words, what is good. And what does the Lord require of me, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with Him?
next: I believe in a God whose story is unfinished