A recent Baylor University study surprisingly revealed that Americans believe in not one, but four different gods.
Thirty-three percent of Americans believe in an “Authoritarian God” who is involved intimately with his creation, actively punishing transgressors. Twenty-five percent of Americans believe in a “Benevolent God” who has moral laws; is grieved by sin; but is ultimately motivated by love to forgive. Sixteen percent of Americans believe in a “Critical God” who sees and judges humanity’s actions, but is not involved in the affairs of people or nations. Belief for this group is constituted by an ethical life lived toward God, not an interactive relationship with God. Finally, 26 percent of Americans believe in a “Distant God” which is not a personal deity or a being at all, but rather an impersonal, cosmic force that created life, which we can discover — or not.
According to Jesus, whatever your image of God is, if that image is to be true, then it must involve the cross. As the Incarnation of God, Jesus made plain through Calvary that ours is undeniably the Crucified God who is both: the God of love who compassionately blesses the meek and the God of justice who angrily drives out the moneychangers. Can we hold those two competing truths together simultaneously? A God whose love is fulfilled on the cross. And a God whose power the cross could not destroy. According to Jesus, the cross is the only place where the answer is to be found; where the true nature of God is disclosed; and our fullest, best lives are discovered.
Dare to live that answer as you daily follow Christ. Take up your cross to incarnate God’s costly, cruciform love in self-sacrificing acts of your love. As you do, you will discover the Answer who saves.
John VanNuys is pastor at the Wabash Avenue Presbyterian Church in Crawfordsville.