People have been asking the question lately: “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?” I’ve seen theological articles, op-ed pieces in newspapers, blog posts….
My first thought is — “How can we know?” Which of us thinks we can define God well enough that we have captured God? That we can describe God to the point where we can say that “our” God is the same as or different that the God someone else serves?
My next thought is that the God I hope to serve, the one I hope to follow, I see most clearly, understand most fully in the person of Jesus. So, to the extent that someone who follows a different way conceives of God differently, I would have to say that we do worship different Gods. Even though our history is the same, that is, we are heirs of the faith of Abraham, we follow our varying understandings of God.
Something that brought this home was a little mantra suggested by Richard Rohr. He said, “Your image of God creates you.” That is, who we think God is shapes not only how we think about God but shapes what we do, how we live, and the actions we think are pleasing to God.
That makes a clear theology crucial. If we think God is waiting to catch us doing something wrong and punish us, we are more likely to be judgmental and harsh. If we see God most clearly in the self-giving of Jesus, we are more likely to be compassionate and gentle. It means that for me to clearly decide what I believe about God and what that means for my life is one of the most important things I can do to set my priorities and values.
In the end, I think we will discover that God is infinitely patient, and long-suffering with us and our fearful and violent ways. God invites us to discover that we have been forgiven and accepted, that we have nothing to fear, and that we are set free to love. That’s my image of God.
What’s your image of God? How does it shape your life?