It goes without saying that we should never try to reduce God to our level. Our goal should be to elevate ourselves to His level in regard to thinking, motivation, and love. However, we need to realize that we already are near God’s level to a certain extent because we have “His” image.
So God created the man in his own image. In the image of God he created him. Male and female he created them.Genesis 1:27 (REV)
Perhaps it’s better stated in the Revised English Version online commentary.
“Being in the image of God is not something that we humans have; it is something that we humans are.” Ever since the fall, we humans acquired a sinful nature, but we can and do still manifest God’s image in a variety of ways. For starters, we are capable of independent thinking, can make free-will decisions, and we have, display, and act upon emotions.
As a child, I never thought of God as having emotions like me. God was just “the man upstairs” who was in control of everything. As I grew older it not only made sense, it also became apparent when I read the Bible where God shows wrath, compassion, anger, hatred, jealousy, sadness, and so forth, that He is a God of emotions. Now imagine having any or all of these emotions, but at the same time also having complete control over your reaction to them.
Did you ever have a day or situation where you didn’t feel respected or perhaps even felt disrespected? I’m sure we all have. My latest time happened recently with my perennial nemesis, my internet service and cable provider. After obtaining a new ISP, I followed all of their procedures, returned their equipment, and made several phone calls to get the account closed and get the partial refund I was entitled to. I even had a promise of getting a return call from a “supervisor,” which never came. I went over the situation in my mind later while I was driving and could feel the resentment and anger start to build up in me again. I just wanted and expected to be treated fairly and honestly. Was that too much to ask?
Then I started thinking about God. Doesn’t He want and expect to be treated fairly and honestly by us, His children? Treating God fairly and honestly just means following His commands and living our lives as He requests. He doesn’t demand, but requests, our obedience. That’s what He’s wanted and expected from all human beings from Adam and Eve all the way through history to us living today. That includes Israel and everyone else who’s ever lived. Think about it: once sin entered the world through the first human couple’s disobedience, the only person who actually did treat God fairly and honestly 100% of the time was His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. This means that of the billions of people who’ve lived, every one of them has needed God to forgive them. Thankfully, God does offer grace and forgiveness to every truly repentant person.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9 (REV)
However, this also means that at some point in their life, everyone has disappointed God and caused Him sadness, which as we all know is painful. Upon realizing this, I was shocked thinking about how many many times I’ve had to confess my sins and ask for God’s forgiveness. How many times have I prayed, asked for forgiveness, and just moved on with my life as if forgiveness was a Christian right, always available and expected? I have been guilty of taking forgiveness for granted. This became very eye opening when a few days later I read this Bible passage about Israel.
How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness yes, they hurt his feelings in the desert!Psalm 78:40 (REV)
Most other versions read “grieved him,” “angered him,” “vexed him,” “distressed him,” “insulted him,” “caused him sorrow,” etc. However, I think translating it “hurt his feelings” is spot on. Many of us would and have gone out of our way to avoid causing sadness or pain to a spouse, friend, parent, sibling, co-worker, or even people we don’t really know. Yet every time we sin, it’s painful to God. Christians should not take sin lightly just because forgiveness is gracefully offered by God. It’s freely given to us, but like every free lunch you’ve ever had, somebody paid for it.
If thinking about God being emotional is a new concept, perhaps thinking about the Lord Jesus Christ as an emotional being seems more realistic. After all, Jesus is the image and son of God and he’s also the son of man. Imagine how Jesus felt during his life and ministry.
When Lazarus was dead? Jesus burst into tears. (John 11:35)
When he healed a crippled man on the Sabbath? “And looking around at them with anger, being grieved at the hardness of their hearts, he says to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.” (Mark 3:5)
When his hometown rejected him? “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they were offended by him.” (Mark 6:3)
When he was taken to the high priest’s house after his arrest? “And the men who held Jesus mocked him, and beat him. 64And they blindfolded him and asked him, saying, “Prophesy! Who is he who struck you?” 65And they spoke many other things against him, insulting him.” (Luke 22:63-65)
When he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane? “And having gone forward a little, he fell on his face, praying and saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”” (Matt. 26:39)
Jesus felt a wide range of emotions during his ministry and there’s absolutely no reason to think that he doesn’t still feel emotions today. The same is true for his Father, God. God can forgive mankind’s sins, and Jesus is the reason. He was the sacrificial lamb provided by God, created to ultimately die so that all human beings might have the opportunity for forgiveness, salvation, and life in the age to come.
The next time you’re tempted to sin, think about the pain it will cause. Not only pain for you and those around you, but also the pain it’ll cause God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Neither salvation, life in the age to come, nor forgiveness should ever be taken for granted.