Where Can We See God?

Dave Farcas

God is not known through abstract theological/philosophical concepts or doctrines. Rather, He is encountered in those who are the "least of these my brothers" (Matt 25:40): the hungry, the sick, the stranger and the prisoner. In other words, those who are the "dregs", "rejects", marginalized and outside the mainstream of society. How do we know this is true? We know this is true because Jesus Christ is the definitive revelation of who God is.

Albert Nolan says it well, "By his words and his praxis, Jesus himself changed the content of the word of ‘God'. If we do not allow him to change our image of God, we will not be able to say that he is our Lord and our God. To choose him as our God is to make him the source of our information about divinity and to refuse to superimpose upon him our own ideas of divinity.

This is the meaning of the traditional assertion that Jesus is the Word of God. Jesus reveals God to us, God does not reveal Jesus to us. God is not the Word of Jesus, that is to say, our ideas about God cannot throw any light upon the life of Jesus. To argue from God to Jesus instead of arguing from Jesus to God is to put the cart before the horse. This, of course, is what many Christians have tried to do. It has generally led them into a series of meaningless speculations which only cloud the issue and which prevent Jesus from revealing God to us.

We cannot deduce anything about Jesus from what we know about God: we must now deduce everything about God from what we do know about Jesus. Thus, when we say that Jesus is divine, we do not wish to add anything to what we have been able to discover about him so far, nor do we wish to change anything that we have said about him. To say now suddenly that Jesus is divine does not change our understanding of Jesus; it changes our understanding of divinity. We are not only turning away from the gods of money, power, prestige or self: we are turning away from all the old images of a personal god in order to find our God in Jesus and what he stood for.

This is not to say that we must abolish the Old Testament and reject the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It means that if we accept Jesus as divine, we must reinterpret the Old Testament from Jesus' point of view and we must try to understand God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as Jesus understood him. We accept the God of the Old Testament as one who has now changed and relented of his former purposes in order to be totally compassionate towards mankind - all mankind.

To accept Jesus as our God is to accept the one whom Jesus called Father as our God. This supreme power, this power of goodness, truth and love which is stronger than any other power in the world, can now be seen and recognized in Jesus - both in what he had to say about the Father and in what he himself was, the very structure of his personal life and the almighty power of his convictions. Our God is both Jesus and the Father. Because of their essential unity or ‘exact sameness,' when we worship the one we worship the other. And yet they are distinguishable in that Jesus alone is visible to us, Jesus alone is our source of information about divinity, Jesus alone is the Word of God.

We have seen what Jesus was like. If we now wish to treat him as our God, we would have to conclude that our God does not want to be served by us, he wants to serve us; he does not want to be given the highest possible rank and status in our society, he wants to take the lowest place and to be without any rank and status; he does not want to be feared and obeyed, he wants to be recognized in the sufferings of the poor and the weak; he is not supremely indifferent and detached, he is irrevocably committed to the liberation of mankind, for he has chosen to identify himself with all men in a spirit of solidarity and compassion. If this is not a true picture of God, then Jesus is not divine. If this is a true picture of God, then God is more truly human, more thoroughly humane, than any human being.

Jesus is not only the definitive self-revelation of God, he is also the first authentic human being. What do I mean by human? First, to be human or have the qualities of a human is not necessarily limited to our species, Homo sapiens. To be really human is to have compassion and empathy for others, to give oneself and sacrifice one's own interests for the benefit of the other. In other words love; in other words God; in other words Jesus, who is the image and self-revelation of God (the Word of God). God was always supremely human. "He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). After all, was not Homo Sapiens created in His image and likeness?

In A Remarkable Verb I discuss the remarkable Greek verb splagchnizomai (splagcnizomai), which is used to describe how Jesus felt the pain and sickness of others and took it into himself. Jesus empathetically identifies with the entire human race without regard to race, gender, religious belief or non-belief - or anything else.

Being a real human (like Jesus) means not relating to people reactively. In other words, if a person offends or hurts us we usually respond based on our hurt feelings. Rather, (like Jesus) to be truly human is to relate proactively towards others: extending and offering our acceptance of the other person unconditionally. Can this be painful at times? You bet it can. But from that pain comes life, because in that pain we share the pain of God who takes the pain of the world into Himself and gives his life in return.