Posts tagged ‘Relationship’

God Talking to Himself about You

Credit: The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo (1511) / Wikimedia

When God creates the plants, fish, and land animals in Genesis 1, He speaks to the land and water He has already created to bring these creatures forth:

Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds. (Genesis 1:11)

Let the water teem with living creatures. (Genesis 1:20)

Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind. (Genesis 1:24)

God calls to the land to produce plants and animals and to the water to produce fish. Why? Because the land is where plants and animals belong and the water is where fish belong.

And yet, when God creates human beings, things change. Rather than speaking to the land, where we will live, God speaks to Himself:

Let us make mankind in Our image, in Our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. (Genesis 1:26)

If the land is where humans will live and belong, why doesn’t God call to the land to bring them – to bring us – forth? It’s because ultimately and in a very unique way, we don’t belong to the land, but to God. We are created in His image:

God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

Yes, we will live on the land. And yes, the first man Adam is even created from the ground. But he belongs – and we belong – to God.

This is why Adam’s fall into sin in Genesis 3 is such a tragedy. He goes from belonging to God to wanting to be like God, which shatters his relationship with God. But God does not give up. Through the prophet Jeremiah, He envisions a time when:

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel…” declares the Lord. “I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

God will make sure we belong to Him. We will be His people. He will be our God.

God loves you so much that, when He created you, He had a conversation with Himself about you. You belong to Him. And nothing can change that.

October 24, 2022 at 6:15 am Leave a comment

Who Needs Friends When You Have God?

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A new study from the University of Michigan suggests that those who have a strong faith in God are often isolated from others.  Todd Chan, a doctoral student at the university, explains:

For the socially disconnected, God may serve as a substitutive relationship that compensates for some of the purpose that human relationships would normally provide.

This is an interesting hypothesis, but studies like these do not seem to provide consistent results.  W. Bradford Wilcox, the Director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, has found that:

…religion generally fosters more happiness, greater stability, and a deeper sense of meaning in American family life, provided that family members – especially spouses – share a common faith.

In other words, contrary to what Mr. Chan found, faith in God can actually deepen and sustain relationships instead of serving as a substitute for relationships.

Certainly, there are people of deep faith who find themselves bereft of human companionship and, consequently, lonely.  The Bible admits as much, while also seeking to offer comfort and a promise of companionship to those in isolated situations:

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families.  (Psalm 68:5-6)

God does indeed promise to be there for someone when they have no one.  But He doesn’t stop there.  He also “sets the lonely in families.”  In other words, He doesn’t just serve as a substitute for human companionship, He actually grants human companionship.

Christianity has always confessed a Triune God, in relationship with Himself from eternity, as the model for and the giver of deeper and better relationships with others.  This is part of the reason why Christianity first took root in the more densely populated urban areas and why it was initially less prevalent among more rural areas.  As Rodney Stark notes in his book The Triumph of Christianity:

The word pagan derives from the Latin word paganus, which originally meant “rural person,” or more colloquially “country hick.”  It came to have religious meaning because after Christianity had triumphed in the cities, most of the pagans were rural people.

Christianity first flourished in cities because those were where the largest communities of people were.  Christianity, it turns out, is irreducibly communal.

Jesus famously summarizes the whole of Old Testament law thusly:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

Jesus is clear.  A relationship with God can and should lead to better relationships with others.  Regardless of what Mr. Chan’s study may assert sociologically, theologically, God is not a second-string substitute for human relationships.  Instead, a human, who had an intimate relationship with God and was Himself God, became our substitute on a cross so that we could have a relationship with God in spite of our sin.  God is not a last resort relationship when you’re lonely, but a first love relationship who promises never to leave you alone.  And there’s just no substitution for that.

September 10, 2018 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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