Two weeks ago we began exploring key concepts as they occur in Matthew 22:37 and Mark 12:33. That’s where Jesus described the first and second great command. We introduced the implied message of wholeness; then we looked at ‘love’; and now we come to ‘God’. But who is ‘God’, or does it even matter? As many ask, “Don’t all religions worship the same God?” When I encourage such people to elaborate, they often clarify by saying “I think there’s only one God and other religions simply use different names: Ahura Mazda, Allah, Brahman, El, Jah, Jesus, Ik Onkar, Ra, Yahweh, etc.” In open-minded societies that sounds respectful and kind, but it’s really not respectful or kind.
Yes, it’s true that at home I’m “Jeff” or “Honey” to my wife, “Dad” to my children, and “Papa” to my grandchildren; at work I’m “Chaplain” or “sir” or sometimes “Lieutenant Colonel”; and when buying something in town I may be “Mr. Dillard” or just “Next!” But I’m always only one being, not a dozen. And, of course, logic dictates there cannot be only one God and many gods, too. So, many people who believe that only one God exists often reason, “Maybe the name is just semantics”. But it’s not.
Consider some significant parts of life that would be neglected or distorted by faith in a generic ‘God’.
It’s not just semantics or kind to believe that a generic ‘God’ cares for physical concerns if he/she/it doesn’t. Some religions’ writings tell us that ‘God’ cares only about spiritual things. If that’s true, we have no real reason or hope for concerns over the poor, our physical health, our sexual intimacy in marriage, etc. In the Bible, however, we see that God values the spiritual and physical (Psalm 31:9, Malachi 2:15, Matthew 10:28, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, etc.), so we are to do the same. Jesus’ physical incarnation (God adding the form of human flesh to Himself) proved His physical and spiritual care.
It’s not semantics or kind to believe that ‘God’ is both gracious and just if that’s not true. Some religions teach that ‘God’ commands us to convert or kill anyone who does not submit to those religions. In the Bible, however, we read that God commands us to love even our enemies and to leave the results to Him. (Matthew 5:43-44, Romans 12:14-21, etc.) And the Bible teaches that God ordains governing officials (e.g., police, courts, military, etc.) to punish those who intentionally abuse others. (Roman 13:1ff, 1 Peter 2:13-17, etc.) We see God’s ultimate grace and justice in Jesus’ death on the cross in the place of sinners who deserved only God’s wrath. (Romans 5:7-9)
It’s not semantics or kind to say that ‘God’ can’t be known if that’s not true. Many religions say only vague understandings of ‘God’ might be known in nature, or that only the best of us are enlightened through their superior lives. But the Bible reveals that God graciously came to ordinary people and proved His presence, His prophets, and His apostles by public miracles. (Exodus 4, Matthew 10:5-8, Acts 14:3, etc.) And He still comes and proves Himself by His supernatural work in ordinary people. (Romans 8:16, 2 Corinthians 3:18 & 5:17, Galatians 6:15, etc.)
Consider more specifics of who God is and what it matters in this week’s video.
You can see other articles and the embedded videos in this series here.