Editor’s note: This is the first of a series of eight Lenten columns.
First truth: Who God is and why we worship him.
A while back I had a conversation with a friend on the publicized conversion of a serial killer to the Christian faith. This friend expressed some shock in the person’s conviction that they could make it to heaven. Our discussion moved into an explanation on God’s unconditional mercy. My friend was frustrated and ended the conversation by telling me that “his God” wouldn’t let a murderer into heaven.
It’s an interesting comment. Who exactly is “his God?”
Our contemporary approach to God seems to be marked by a certain subjectivism. God becomes “my” God, meaning whatever I think he should be, or whatever I determine to be good or right. God should conform to my world view and fit into my way of life.
But is this a correct view? At the heart of this question is the deeper inquiry: What do we believe about God? Who is the true God? What is our proper relationship with him?
God cannot be approached as a nice fantasy, cherished heirloom, psychological consolation or entertaining hobby.
God is a real, personal being who has a historical, self-revealing relationship with humanity. He is not “my” creation, or “my” idea or even “my” consolation.
Rather, God is the one who has created me, has given me ideas, and who allows for me to experience consolation and hope. He has lovingly revealed himself and shared his own self-knowledge with humanity, so that we might know him, the true God.
God does not change for us. He has a perfect, divine identity. And as a real, personal being, he calls each person into an intimate relationship with him. By telling us about himself, God makes it possible for us to know and love him.
At times, our union with God will call for a transformation of our own thoughts, cultural assumptions, desires and aspirations. In this encounter with God and his love, we change for God. We allow ourselves to be converted by his grace.
All people are called to abandon the false gods of their own minds and the idols of their own hearts, and instead to hear the voice of the true God. The temptation to create “my” own God, or to fix, change, or complete God must be tempered and abandoned. We are all summoned to give a generous response to God’s own loving self-revelation.
In coming to know and understand who God is, we are especially led to give him thanks and praise. The impulse to worship God is provoked by true knowledge of him and by an urge to love him.
The human person’s highest ability is the worship of God. Because it allows the human person to see himself as a human being, and not as a god himself, it is the one spiritual power which most clearly defines, liberates, and orders his humanity. The true worship of God makes us more human.
To know and love the true God, to worship him in spirit and in truth, and to be transformed by his grace is the first truth and challenge of Christian discipleship.
Father Kirby is the parochial vicar at St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken.