Some time ago, we at Patheos held a conversation on “What does God look like?” Answers were supposed to be brief. Since I’ve been more-than-a-little-swamped lately — I have about 5 posts three-quarters of the way finished — I thought I’d go ahead and share my response:
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I am a Christian because I believe the Creator God spoke to the world in the Word. Although God reveals Himself in a thousand ways, God gave Himself to the world — fully, salvifically, and most clearly — in the person of Jesus Christ. This is the doctrine of incarnation: we can have a personal relationship with God because God became a person among us.
For this reason, we do know, in a sense, what God looks like. “If you have seen me,” Jesus said, “you have seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Of course he did not mean a physical resemblance. There is an entire theological tradition in the Christian church (the apophatic tradition) devoted to deconstructing our human concepts of God. God is like a shield, yet God is not a shield. God is like a shepherd, yet our concept of a shepherd is too small. God is like a father, but is greater than any father we have ever known. One of the great theologians in that tradition, Dionysius the Areopagite, says that the one word that comes closest to a proper name for God is Love.
That seems right to me. God looks like love. God looks like the loving Christ who forgave the woman caught in adultery. Like the loving Christ giving himself for the world upon the cross. Like the loving Christ whom the grave could not contain. God looks like love — love that overflows and creates, love that cherishes and sustains, love that seeks and finds and redeems, love that gives itself with extravagant grace, love that sacrifices everything for the beloved, and love that is so much stronger than death that it brings life to the world.