Episode 15: Join the dots: Connecting with God
Becky Lewis discusses with Paul Davenport whether it’s right to think of God as distant and unfeeling, as is often the portrayal in popular culture. By drawing from the Bible from the creation narrative through to how Jesus treated people and on through to the final chapters of Revelation, we find God revealed as deeply invested in seeking close relationships with people and indeed connecting people together in a family. Listen in to see how dominant this theme is in the Bible!
An unconnected God
Becky and Paul start off by talking about how religion, and God, are often portrayed. Examples of cultural influences they talk about include TV series like The Good Place or Good Omens. If you take you view of God from these sorts of shows then you might assume that He is a distant God who keeps humans at arm’s length. People assume that the Bible teaches that there’s a set of rules and moral values we need to follow and that this life is a test to see whether you can go to the good place or the bad place at the end of it. In that light, life is little more than an exam where we need to keep showing the right behaviour on the outside – ticking the right boxes. It presents God as unwilling or unable to connect with us, unless we are perfect.
Now, God is presented in the Bible as all powerful and the amazing creator. It includes statements along the lines that no one can see him and live. So he is to some extent transcendent and distant, but that’s not the whole story.
At one with God
There is another theme that runs through the Bible starting with the creation pair in Genesis 1. Becky and Paul talk through how God wants to be at one with humanity, seen initially in the fact that he made humans, male and female, to be in his image. It is highly unusual in the ancient world to have a founding story that teaches that all humans come from one human pair. This teaches that all people are part of one family, rather than reinforcing superiority of one tribe or nation over another. And in turn, this one family of humanity is to reflect and image God.
The discussion continues, recognising that we generally don’t reflect God’s image very well! Only Jesus was that perfect reflection of God. So, this is a work in progress, and has a great deal to do with how we connect with and relate to the people around us. We can love God with all our heart by showing love to our neighbour, (Deuteronomy 6:4).
Jesus is able to join the dots, connecting us with God
The person of Jesus, as ever, is at the centre of this story. Jesus taught and lived the means by which people are connected together. He made sick and divided people whole, he connected people with God and reunited them with their communities. Many of the people he chose to help, lepers for example, were outcasts from their community and were rejected by others. Jesus made sure that his healings demonstrate to people that God loves them.
Becky & Paul talk about how humans we are designed to need each other, noting that the Bible’s story culminating in Jesus serves to bring people together. Words like fellowship, community and communion are absolutely key in the concept of Christian churches. Connection really is an integral part of the Christian message, and it can be healing and transformative, especially in societies today that focus on individual achievement over what can be achieved as part of a diverse group.
A whistle-stop tour of the New Testament
This theme runs through the entire Bible and Becky takes us through a number of passages in the New Testament where this is found.
“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.”John 17:20-23
“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”Ephesians 4:1-6
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all.”1 Timothy 2:1-6
“From one ancestor God made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us.”Acts 17:26-28
“as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”Ephesians 1:10
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”Revelation 21:1-4
Connecting with people and connecting with God
Becky and Paul continue to think about how this theme works practically in real life. It’s easy to fall into situations where you view life as a competition: always trying to be better than the other human beings around you. Parenting is particularly susceptible to this as Becky explains!
Again, the teaching of Jesus helps us ensure that we value connecting with people around us, and especially aim to form valuable relationships with those in the family of God. Like the very early followers of Jesus in Jerusalem, who sold their lands and shared their wealth together. (Acts 2:44-47)
The podcast closes by thinking about what to do about this. Look out for this theme when you’re reading the Bible. Read the gospels, and see how Jesus connects with people and how he connects them to one another too. Look for communities of people who read the Bible and practice it by showing their love and care for each other and get involved in that yourself.
At Bible Feed we aim to create communities of Bible readers. Please do get in touch with us if you wish to find out more about us or you want to look for Christadelphians in your local area.