images of God

February 26, 2011

One of our family “rituals” when I was growing up was going to confession on Saturday evenings. Can you guess what my image of God was as I was growing up? Without a lot of effort and a lot of prayer, we cannot help but behave in such a way that gives our children a distorted picture of God.

C.S. Lewis creates a compelling image of man, perhaps it is just of me,  in his poem, As The Ruins Fall:  “I am mercenary and self – seeking through and through.” Selfishness is in our DNA.   Unfortunately, most of the time we love people for what we can get out of the relationship, not what we can put into it.

That is not the way God loves us. Andy Park says, “We are made in God’s image, yet God is so unlike us. We have a hard time forgiving someone three times, but God’s forgiveness is without limit. We love people who are kind to us, only when we benefit from them somehow. God loved the thief on the cross as much as he loved Peter, James and John.” (Park, Andy, To Know You More, copyright 2002 InterVarsity Press, Page 48)

That is the image of God we must convey with our lives.  We follow a God of mercy, grace, and love. Even our best expressions of love usually fall short of God’s unconditional love. He loves us no matter what, and forever. My concordance has an entire column of “everlastings.” The promise he has made with his people is an everlasting covenant. The protection that we receive is from his everlasting arms. In relationship with him we are promised everlasting joy. The result of his mercy is everlasting kindness. And one of my favorites, “…I have loved you with a love that lasts forever. I have kept on loving you with faithful love.” Jeremiah 31: 3

Unconditional love, what does it mean, what does it look like?   Here are just two reminders. Heaven is a gift. We don’t get to heaven by being good. “God’s grace has saved you because of your faith in Christ. Your salvation doesn’t come from anything you do. It is God’s gift.” (Ephesians 2:8) Therefore, our love for others should never be based on achievement or lack thereof. Yes, God wants us to be good, but we don’t make friends with God by being good. Tell your children that there is nothing they can do that will cause you to stop loving them. Tell them often. Love them even when they misbehave and let them know it. Don’t take away love as a form of punishment. “Here is how God showed his love for us. While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) When you need to punish your children (not if, when) don’t withhold love as part of the punishment. You sometimes must withhold time together, but not love. “Because of your behavior you must spend time alone. I love you but cannot allow you to…” Or, “I want you to know that I love you but your behavior is not acceptable, therefore…” Dr. John Cloud and Dr. Henry Townsend say it well. “Again, we must stress that this fear of consequences should not be a fear of losing love” (Cloud, Henry & John Townsend, Boundaries with Kids, copyright 1998, Page 134)

Spend time with God “The Father of Jesus loves men and women not for what he finds in them but what he finds in Himself. The Father is the source.” (Park, Andy, To Know You More. Page 48)

Tap into the source to show our kids the real love of God in us.

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