The View From 1776

Seeing God

Atheists, agnostics, and those simply unchurched perceive God in a very different way from Christians.

Sunday’s sermon at the Black Rock-Long Ridge Congregational Church (North Stamford, Connecticut) was delivered by Rev. Dan McCandless.  His text was Matthew, Chapter 6.

The picture Jesus gives us of God and His relationship with us is far removed from the impression held by too many people. 

Some people imagine God as a sort of accountant who spends His time keeping a ledger of our good deeds and our misdeeds.  Others see Him as an iron-fisted lawgiver who vents His anger to force us to submit.  Still others see Him as a detached Creator who is no longer interested in us as individuals. 

Others envision Him as a genial, white haired grandfatherly type, who is just a nice fellow who no longer has any real power to affect our lives.  A sort of agnostic, scientific view has God as an impersonal force whom we can’t explain and can’t understand, but who is obviously there because of the orderly nature of the universe.

That is not what Jesus had to say in the Sermon on the Mount, in which God is depicted sixteen times as a father who cares deeply about each of us.

God sees us:

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  (Matthew 6:3-4)

He hears us:

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  (Matthew 6:7-8)

He forgives us:

For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  (Matthew 6:14)

He provides for us:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you?you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.   (Matthew 6:25-34)

These pictures of God as a loving father emphasize the highly personal and experiential nature of of our Christian life.  People who put their trust in God and seek His direction through Jesus Christ will tell non-believers that doing so makes a real, happy difference in their lives.  It imparts a solid sense of purpose and meaning to life. 

Non-believers scoff at this, even mocking Christians as mentally unbalanced people who “hear voices in their heads.”  We should pray for them to experience the joy and serenity in their lives that comes from looking to God for guidance to do the right thing in our daily lives.

Confirmed atheists say that their reason tells them to accept life, indeed the entire cosmos, as a meaningless coincidence of random variables, that things and life just happened to evolve as we see them today.

We confidently proclaim the Gospel, knowing that even hardened atheists feel a deep-seated sense that something is missing in their lives.  We wish them well, we wish them an eye-opening experience such as the Apostle Paul had on the road to Damascus.