Written By Pastor James Newby
We humans tend to let ourselves be led by our feelings. How we treat each other, what we believe about each other, and even what we think others believe and think about us is often based on feelings.
How does God feel about you? What does God think about you?
Depending on your own beliefs about who God is, your religious experiences, what you’ve been taught by others, and yes, even your emotions and feelings, your answer to this question may be positive or negative, accurate or (dare I say) way off base; inconsistent with Who and how God really is.
For many, negative religious experiences and/or inaccurate and unbiblical teachings have made this question difficult to answer. Some have experienced the misfortune of being shamed and humiliated by others – by supposed friends and foes alike; sometimes even by the very people who were meant to love, nurture and care for them.
Our personal responses to being shamed, abused or bullied can vary greatly. In the course of 25 years of working with people of all ages, in various circumstances and in more than a dozen countries, one thing seems universal: people have been hurt by fear and shame to some degree or another. And in this fear and shame, we experience a sense of alienation from God. For example, an acquaintance of mine, who suffered the indignity of abuse and shaming throughout childhood, reacted with a ‘special brand’ of defiance; a defiance bound up in ‘quasi-controlled’ self-destructive addictions covered with the following professions: “I’m in control of my life; I am my own master” and “I’m not going to succeed in life, because I don’t want my ‘abuser’ to ever be able to take credit for me having turned out ok.” A common reaction; one of the many ways we attempt to cope.
I too have felt shame in my life, and sometimes it has been because of shameful things I have done. Other times, my shame has been imposed on me, and unfortunately, I have been guilty of shaming others. Though I am not happy about that, I am able to ‘go on’ because I have learned that my story and your story are caught up in a bigger story that involves powers and plans of cosmic proportions.
What do you think God thinks about you? Do you think he’s ashamed of you? Some may not even care what God thinks about them…I’m so past caring what a non-existent God thinks about me. I am a free and sovereign person.
Many years ago, I remember being asked if I knew the difference between ignorance and apathy, and before I could answer, the jokester shot back, “I don’t know and I don’t care.” Perhaps our ignorance or apathy toward what God may think of us is one of the natural reactions to shame; to cover up. We live in avoidance or denial. If I don’t acknowledge it, it’s not real.
Shame is a powerful, painful and potentially dangerous emotion that can have a more damaging effect than any actual guilt we may have.
- The word “shame” seems to have its roots in the concept of ‘to cover’ – a sense or feelings of dishonor that would cause one to want to hide. And that seems to be the common way humanity relates to ‘god’
- ‘Religion’ teaches us that in order to become approachable to God, we must perform the rights, practice the magic, or transform our behavior, first – because after all, He’s ashamed of us.
However, this God we can’t see – whom we may struggle to believe is real – gave a way to know what He really feels about us – what He thinks about you – what He thinks about me. This is the central idea behind the whole Christmas-thing – what this Jesus is all about.
In a conversation with one of his disciples, Jesus said, “… if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” (John 14:8-10) The New Testament shares with us the good news that this man Jesus is uniquely qualified to ‘show and tell’ us what we need to know about God. As the Son of God, Jesus reveals that His father is our father.
Consider the depth of what this means for us in light of this passage from a letter written to Hebrew people who became followers of Jesus in the first century,
‘…but we see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by God’s grace, He would experience death on behalf of everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For indeed He who makes holy and those being made holy all have the same origin, and so He is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying, “I will proclaim your name to My brothers; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.”’ (Heb. 2:9-12).
Now, there may seem to be a lot of religious and deeply theological stuff in there, but did you notice a couple of really important things about this Jesus? He experienced death on behalf of everyone. Jesus knows what it means to be human, experiencing the whole of life from birth to death. He knows what it’s like to be mocked and ridiculed, beaten, falsely accused – and shamed. And He experienced it for us, with us, and as us.
Did you also notice that He’s not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters? Jesus is not ashamed of us, even though we may have done some shameful things. He proclaims the name of His Father and our Father to us; it’s like Jesus is saying, ‘Hey brothers and sisters! My dad is your dad. I’m not ashamed to have you as siblings, and dad’s not ashamed to have you as his own children.’
Now that does not mean He likes everything we do and say and think. It also does not mean He’s OK with how we hurt each other and don’t believe Him and trust Him. Nor does it mean He doesn’t feel love for us, even though his love is more than a feeling (apologies to 70’s rock group Boston). God doesn’t just feel love for us; more than that, His love is action.
Our Father – our God – is for you, and in Christ, He’s with you. He doesn’t hate you, doesn’t want to hurt you, doesn’t want you to be alienated, and He’s not ashamed to call you His child. He doesn’t want you to die; He wants you to truly live. In Jesus, He acted to save us as His own.
The Word became flesh and lived among us – He ‘moved into the neighborhood’ so to speak, to bring a message; not a message of condemnation, but of hope, healing and honor. God, our father, would be honored if you would join Him at His table – for feasting and fellowship. He doesn’t want you to continue in feelings of alienation and rejection. He has not turned His back on you; rather, in Jesus Christ, He’s turned his face toward you, He loves you, and He wants you as His own kid.
How does God feel about you? What does he think of you? He thinks of you all the time – and fondly! He feels like a father does when He sees His lost kid in a crowd and the kid turns around and sees his dad. So, don’t be afraid. There’s no need to run and hide and cover up, because Jesus has taken your guilt and all shame. Your Father loves you and invites you to follow His Son. What are you waiting for?
For more information on Guest Blogger Pastor James Newby, please CLICK HERE to read about him on the Guest Bloggers profile page.