If we take time to reflect on our image of God we can learn a lot about our spirituality.
Throughout my years of ministry people have shared with me how they view God. There are those who think of God mostly as a judge or a policeman. For some God is a strict father that they fear and to whom they aren’t particularly close.
Others see God as a loving father who protects his people. Still others see God, primarily in the person of Jesus. For them God is a friend. And these are just to name a few.
How we view God has an affect on both our prayer and our faith. If we see God as a judge or a very strict, vindictive parent then we probably conduct our lives out of fear.
We tend to do what is good and obey the “rules” primarily because we are afraid of God’s anger. We feel like God is watching our every move to catch us in sin. We often think of God as “up there” and we are down here. We tend to live our faith out of fear.
I remember when I was in elementary school, before the Second Vatican Council, I lived in fear of God. The sisters, not Holy Cross, had us worried that we could do something terribly wrong, such as miss Mass, and get condemned to hell and there was no way to get out.
Thank God my image of God has changed drastically over the years.
On the other hand, if our image of God is one of a loving, forgiving God, the way we live our faith will be different. We believe in a God of love as proclaimed by Jesus.
We try to live our faith as best as we can but we know that if we fail or sin we have a compassionate God who will forgive us.
Our God is interested in and loves each person individually.
When we view God as loving we no longer do the right thing primarily because we are afraid.
We live our lives in such a way because we love God in return and want to please him. We are grateful knowing that all we have is freely given to us out of love. We don’t have to be a certain way for God to love us. We cannot earn God’s love. His love is a gift. Whether we return that love or not is our own free choice.
Even so, God will never stop loving us. God is faithful and will never abandon us.
Another way to discover how we really view God is to look at what motivates our way of living. If we live our lives out of fear, chances are that we will see God as a policeman or a judge.
If love moves us to live out our faith then we probably view God as loving and compassionate being, like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son.
How we experience God can change.
Those who seem to be stuck to a punishing view of God will do well to reflect on the gospels and learn from Jesus about who God is.
Jesus’ primary mission was to reveal his Father’s love for each one of us. After all, God’s greatest expression of his love was his gift of Jesus.
Let us live our lives in such a way that responds to God’s love, not just obey the rules because we are afraid to go to hell.
God wants a relationship with each of us. We are called to respond.Sister Margie Lavonis is a Sister of the Holy Cross from Notre Dame, Ind. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.