The best theological statement ever

“God is great. God is good. And we thank Him for our food. Amen.”

 

Did you say that grace before meals as a child? My sister and I did, many times.

That remains one of the best theological statements I’ve ever heard.

God is great

According to the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible, God created Earth. Whether he did it in six literal days (he rested on the seventh) or not (a day is like 1,000 years, the Psalmist said), God created everything that exists.

Including you and me.

Every religion that believes in God believes that God is great. He is much bigger than we are.

Many people, however, struggle with this. We don’t like to acknowledge that we aren’t in control of our own lives. There are forces at work beyond our control, beyond what we understand.

Science teaches us new things as we discover truths that have always existed.

Still, there remains plenty we do not know – about the human body, about the oceans, about the universe – about so many things. We continue to learn and discover. It’s exciting.

All of those things we learn and discover had to come from somewhere. There had to be a beginning. The fact that God has no beginning and has always existed is something we will never understand.

God is great.

He created the atmosphere, thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes and tsunamis. Whether he directs such storms to hit certain places or just “allows” them to develop, I can’t say.

Either way, humans cannot control the weather. We can prepare for it. We certainly clean up after it. We are at the mercy of forces larger than ourselves.

Is this all we know about God? That he is great and powerful? That he allows pain and suffering? Do we think he sits on a throne in the sky and directs earthly forces to do things?

In some religions, yes.

In Eastern religions, God is nothing more than a force, something out there that is unknowable but that we have to please – not knowing whether we’ve ever done enough to reach nirvana, or whatever the afterlife is called (assuming there is an afterlife).

In Western religions, God is personal. In some of these, he still is distant and judgmental. Again, we never know whether we’ve done enough to earn our way to heaven.

God is good

This is a major selling point of Christianity for me, and why that table grace is so powerful. The God of the Bible is good. No other religion can say that about their God.

In the Old Testament, God chose Israel to be his people. He challenged them to think differently and live differently than everyone else. Frequently, Israel did not want to be different. For example, they wanted a king just like every other nation. God said he is their king; they don’t need an early ruler. Israel insisted. So God gave them kings, who ruled over them in the way we know kings rule.

Kings thrive on power, not on serving their people, right?

Still, God did not give up on Israel, but redeemed them over and over. You can read the Old Testament as God judging and punishing Israel; I read the Old Testament as God forgiving Israel again and again, even though the nation did not deserve it.

God was good to his chosen people.

Next, God did something no other religion’s God has ever done, before or since. He transformed himself into a human being and walked the earth, to show us how to love our neighbor and then to die for our sins.

Since when does God himself suffer and die?

That was the ultimate act of being good. In the Old Testament, God required frequent sacrifices of animals to pay for the screw-ups of each man and woman from Israel. I think it became a ritual, so that the sacrifices didn’t mean much any more – even though animals had to die.

So, God himself died instead. Once, to take the place of all present and future sacrifices. Then God raised himself from the dead, proving that our sacrifices were no longer necessary.

Many of us just celebrated this on Sunday, which was Easter.

God is good. He wants the best for us. Perhaps he allows suffering in our lives so that we will turn to him for protection and guidance. If we lived life happily ever after, why would we need God, or a force, or anything else bigger than ourselves?

Why some people suffer more than others, I can’t say. Why I was born in the United States, the wealthiest country that has ever existed, instead of, oh, Sudan, I’ll never know.

We take so many things for granted. We think God owes us.

We have more going for us than we realize. God owes us nothing.

But he has given us a gift. A friendship with himself, starting now and lasting forever. All we have to do is accept it.

God is good. God is really good. The God who created the human body, the oceans and the universe wants to be our friend.

And we thank him … for a lot more than food, actually.

God is that good.

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