Something that I love about being a Christian is the potential to keep learning and to keep seeing new things. The idea that Christianity is a closed book – an intellectual dead end – has never carried much weight with me. Those of you who have followed my blog for a little while will have seen posts inspired by all sorts of different things, from random thoughts, to Bible passages, to pop culture. I have been a Christian for as long as I can remember, but I am constantly realising that there is so much more that I have to learn.
It’s funny, Christianity is one of the few things that actively encourages you to learn from those who are younger and less experienced than you. Jesus famously told us all to be like children, and the people who really inspire me to push on in my faith are often those who have known Jesus for a very short time. The way I see it, Christianity is something that thrives on innocence and curiosity of childlike people (not childish – I remember hearing that distinction in church several years ago), and on the enthusiasm of those who have just come to faith.
I think part of it is that becoming a Christian and then living an ongoing Christian life is about constantly being able to admit that you’re wrong and that there are bigger things out there than you. When you worship God, who is said to be all-powerful and all-knowing, it is impossible to imagine a situation where anyone could understand him completely.
If you say that you understand God – that you know everything about him, and about the Christian faith – then you are inevitably putting him in a box shaped by your own biases, worldview and, probably, arrogance. I was listening to a song on the way home from work today called ‘Angels in Disguise’ by the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, and I was struck by the chorus:
“Who am I to say angels from the sky don’t walk the earth? As time goes by I realise: there’s so much more than I could ever learn.”
It really resonated with me, and with all the times that I have doubted that God is active, or that I have struggled to see what he’s doing in my life.
Who am I to say that God is not working in the world today?
Who am I to say that I know so much that I can categorically say that God is not active, that he is not there?
I’m listening to the song as I write these words and I am once again floored by my presumption whenever I have thought that God was doing nothing.
I’m reminded of the story in Job, probably one of the oldest stories in the Bible. Job was a man who had everything, until everything was taken away from him. As his ‘friends’ gathered round and tried to rationalise what had happened by saying that Job must have done something wrong, he maintained his innocence. Job cries out again and again for the Almighty to hear him, that he could present himself before God and hear God’s answer.
God’s answer, when it comes, is probably not what Job expected. “Who is this,” asks God, “that darkens counsel with words without knowledge?”
God goes on to ask questions of Job about creation, with the repeated command to, “Tell me, if you have understanding.”
Job’s defences are stripped away in God’s awesome presence as the Lord shows him how little he knows, but in every question that God asks, there is a revelation of his power and his mercy.
“Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?” God asks, “Do you observe the carving of the does?”
God sees everything that happens on this planet, and he cares about every creature that sets foot on it, to the point where he sent his son to die so that creation might be whole again.
Why am I talking about Job? I’m talking about him because he is a perfect example of a human being who is humbled when faced with a revelation of who God is, who is humbled by how little he understands of the immense work that God does.
But although it is impossible to fully comprehend God, he does want us to come to know him more. I believe that one of the key reasons for Jesus coming to the earth as a human was so that we have something to identify with. Jesus ate, slept, laughed and cried. He felt all that we feel, and he faced the struggles that we faced and more.
One of the clearest ways that God has given us to know him is his Word – the Bible. I say it’s one of the clearest, and there are many things that are clear (such as ‘God is love’, ‘God is holy’, ‘Jesus is Lord’ etc.), but the Bible similar to God in that no one will ever understand it completely. And we shouldn’t expect to! If we can’t fully understand God, we’re never going to completely grasp his word, there’s just too much to it. But he does teach us through it, and every time you open it, there’s the potential for you to learn more about who God is.
As well as the person of Jesus and his Word, God reveals himself to us through his creation – in the beauty of the cosmos and the intricacy of a single cell, his character can be seen. And although creation is fallen and broken and does not all point to God by any stretch, there are little signs that point us to him.
Those signs might be the chorus of a song you’re listening to, or a sudden revelation as hundreds of pieces slot into place and you understand finally why things happened the way they did. Maybe you read a paragraph in a random book and you understand something more about why Jesus had to die, or maybe a friend says something in passing that strikes you as profound.
God is constantly talking to us, and constantly looking to be a part of our lives. I love being able to say that I don’t know anything, and that he is constantly showing me more and more of who he is. If you know him today, then don’t be content with what you’ve seen so far. Stay hungry, and keep asking God to show you more. If you don’t know him, then you are missing out on a lifetime of discovery.