Portraying God

As Christians we want to portray God accurately to others. Misrepresentation is a serious thing. So serious that there are laws in place to protect people from misrepresentation and compensate them when it happens. This is certainly the case in the UK where I live and practice law and I am sure in other nations.

Although this week’s blog will have a bit of a legal influence (it’s my day job after all) I promise it won’t be boring…now there’s a possible misrepresentation if ever there was one!! 😊

This theme of misrepresentation caught my attention recently when I read again Job’s story. It’s certainly not the easiest book in the bible to read. As a heads up, the things that happen to Job and his family are terrible. If you’ve never read Job before then do try it and persevere as it has lots of rich nuggets in there and spoiler alert…a happy ending.

One of the things though that we can easily overlook as we get to the end of the story and the good stuff for Job is that God is not happy about some things that have happened. In fact He is angry that Job’s friends have not spoken accurately about God in their discussions with Job when they were trying to ‘help” their friend. They have misrepresented God in their talks and God is now taking them to task for it.

That’s serious stuff and really got me to thinking and it’s a big challenge. As a Christian do I accurately represent God to people or do I misrepresent Him? Do I accurately reflect God in my blog and my writings? In my family life, church life, with my Christian friends and in my workplace. When I preach in church and in our small group fellowships. This is a massive topic for thought and discussion and I’m sure will prompt lots of thoughts and comments from others as we reflect and consider this more.

Now in legal terms there are different levels or types of misrepresentation because the law realises that not every type of misrepresentation is the same. There are two though that I thought might help us think about this a bit more.

There is an “innocent” misrepresentation where the person didn’t realise that they had said or done something wrong. They hadn’t meant to mislead the other person into believing something which wasn’t true because they believed it to be true themselves.

That’s an easy thing to do and it can happen to us. We say something about God that we believe to be true, perhaps it’s something we have been told by others or taught, even brought up in faith to believe or was our mindset before but actually it’s not correct. Our source of information was wrong or we have not interpreted it incorrectly. We didn’t mean to mislead anyone but we have done it. We have believed and repeated a false teaching or doctrine. We have become the blind leaders of the blind that Jesus warns about. We may have given the wrong impression about God perhaps because we don’t want to offend someone

There are consequences for both parties though when this happens because even an innocent misrepresentation is wrong and leads us on the wrong path. Someone suffers along the way. Perhaps not immediately but at some stage it will have an impact.

When I read the story of Job I think that’s what his friends have done. They were sincerely trying to help. They thought they were giving Godly advice and they were learned, sincere, passionate and believable. There’s a responsibility on us to ensure that what we tell others about God is true especially when we think we are helping others with Godly advice. I always remember being taught in class that “ignorance of the law is no defence”. In other words if I’m caught speeding I can’t say I didn’t know that the legal speed limit was 70 and I was doing 90. I’m expected to find out what the requirements are to be a responsible citizen.

The good news is that as believers we have been given the tools to portray God properly. We have the bible, Jesus’ example to follow and the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of Truth and God himself that lives within us. Thank the Lord that we can trust in God that He will lead us and guide us into all truths. If we have doubts then we have the ability to discover the truth about God. We need to have that humble attitude of heart though and be willing to listen and be corrected. If we think we know it all then we will be heading for a fall.

We also need to take our responsibility seriously to check things out for ourselves and apply ourselves to knowledge and understanding and seeking guidance from Godly leaders and teachers. God has blessed us with the gifts of ministry especially the gift of teaching within the body of Christ for this very reason. Paul used to do this within the early church and there are examples in his writings. This is why it’s beneficial and necessary to belong to a good fellowship of believers and meet together to be discipled.

The other type of misrepresentation is a fraudulent misrepresentation. Now in this case the person knows that what they are saying or doing is wrong and they are deliberately misleading the other person for their own gain in some way..it could be for a material benefit or for more subtle benefits. This is why Jesus himself warned us about the wolves in sheep’s clothing. Those within the body of Christ who are pretending to be believers but are deliberately trying to sabotage the work of the Church and hurt believers. They will be exposed and they can and will be identified. They won’t display the fruit of the Spirit and Peter and Jude’s letters to believers also help us to look out for the signs and warn us to avoid following their behaviours.

I want to portray God accurately. I ask God to forgive me when I have not done so and pray that He will lead me and guide me in His truth. To put the record straight when I have got it wrong. Teach me your ways God so that I may and will also help others to discover you, the one true God, your son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit of Truth.

Let me know your thoughts and have a blessed day. I have a feeling that the Lord has much more to teach me on this topic. Bless you.

After the Lord had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.”
Job 42:7

We all need a helping hand

8 thoughts on “Portraying God

  1. Thanks for this insightful post.
    Perhaps you can consider this along with me: His friends gave their counsel. The book of Job is the Word of God. When we apply scripture, as we rightly do – to bless and help both ourselves and others. Do we quote his friends as the word of God and therefore helpful wisdom, and if so – how does this sit with them being rebuked as wrong? I have often pondered this and am still pondering. 🙏🏼

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes something to ponder on as we look at scripture carefully in context together. I love the fact the bible isn’t just a monologue from God but includes the stories of people discovering God and their questions/challenges/difficulties. I’m going to re-read Job with those questions in mind- where did the friends go wrong and how was their understanding of God incorrect in the context of how God reveals himself in scripture and through Jesus.

      Like

  2. I enjoy the day job being reconciled with our faith

    We all need to do just that…Jesus spoke using common examples those He was speaking to would have also known…and we so need to do the same – thankyou for this post

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this beautiful piece.
    Your legal background is so helpful in reflecting how do we portray God. It was only after reading your piece have I realized that an honest mistake in portraying God, an erroneous portrayal of God is a kind of misrepresentation. Even if there is a lower level of culpability as you have explained, it is still a wrong portrayal of God. How sad that so often, God is wrongly portrayed throughout history! I think the key is humility and simplicity. The three friends of Job for me all have “airs” of knowing all in the way they talked to Job that God was angry in the end. They took upon themselves as know it all, truly a misrepresentation. Portraying God without misrepresenting him is when we “share” our thoughts and feelings and experiences of Him, simply telling others God as we encountered in prayers and daily living. Misrepresenting God happens when we claim to know what God knows and worse, insist on them as the truth like what the enemies of Jesus did during his time. We can never truly portray God fully, only by piecemeal; these little pieces of portraying God are like those tiny chips of mosaic that eventually when put together, that is when we get a bigger picture, a more full portrayal of God. An honest portrayal of God always leads to getting the bigger picture of God like what you do in your blog that is why we follow you. Your writings jibe with our own experiences and prayers. The thoughts of Job’s friends never jibed with his.
    Thank you for taking the time and patience in reading this but, I feel so joyful with your blog on this, Portraying God. I love it.
    Nick

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts. So encouraging. I sense God is taking me on a journey as I consider this aspect more and receiving your thoughts on this very helpful. It’s a learning curve for me.

      Liked by 1 person

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