What is your image of God? What is mine? I think there are two false images (well, probably a lot more) that are opposites: the “good buddy” who is there to be my co-pilot (in which case He is only along for the ride—we still call the shots) or the far-away, unapproachable Being that is so very different from us that we can never understand Him. I’ll save that first false image for another time, perhaps, and focus today on the second one.
C. S. Lewis helps us to understand the image of God, not only through his published works, but in personal letters also. If you’ve never delved into those, you have thus far missed a treasure trove of insights, many of which do eventually show up in his books and articles, but some that may not, at least not in the exact words he uses when writing to a friend or acquaintance.
In one of his letters, he tackles this question of how we “see” God, and he targets the false image of the God who is so far away that He is untouched by human emotions and can’t possibly understand us. “God could, had He pleased,” Lewis begins, “have been incarnate in a man of iron nerves, the Stoic sort who lets no sigh escape him.” After all, He is God come down in human flesh. He might be unmoved by the human foibles that He sees all around Him. He could have been The Great Lecturer, telling everyone what is wrong and what to do about it without getting involved Himself.
But that’s not what He did.
Of His great humility He chose to be incarnate in a man of delicate sensibilities who wept at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane.
Otherwise we should have missed the great lesson that it is by his will alone that a man is good or bad, and that feelings are not, in themselves, of any importance.
We should also have missed the all-important help of knowing that he has faced all that the weakest of us face, has shared not only the strength of our nature but every weakness of it except sin.
What we see in Jesus, God in the form of man, is what the Apostle Paul described:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, existing in the form of God,Philippians 2:5-8
did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped,
but emptied Himself,
taking the form of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross.
And as the writer of Hebrews informs us,
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.Hebrews 4:15-16
No, He is not some far-away God who doesn’t know what we are going through. He went through it, too. Now, by the Holy Spirit, He comes to our aid when we call upon Him. He is not untouched by our weaknesses; His sole goal is to make us more like Himself each day.