I recently heard somebody saying that they were pulling into a parking lot and the space closest to the building opened up and they said it was a sign that God was with them. And then probably about two weeks ago I heard somebody talking about two people who’d been sick and the one of them had been healed, and they were talking enthusiastically about how God had intervened to heal the one person; and the whole time I’m thinking, “Yeah, but, what about the other person? I mean, they didn’t get healed. Where was God, why didn’t God intervene with them?” And then it was last night, just last night I heard somebody say that they had been in a store and they’d seen something they’d really wanted and it was on sale, and they said, “This just shows how good God is.” If God can help people find things on sale, then why doesn’t God spend time doing things that seem more important like earthquakes or famines or sickness?
When you think about God, when you hear the word “God,” what images come to mind? Like this old man with a long white beard and he’s behind a curtain and he’s working these levers, he’s healing some and then he’s find parking spaces for others? See, for many people their concept of God is built around a God who’s outside of everything, a God who essentially is somewhere else; a God who made the world, but then stands back; and like watches it from this other vantage point. A God who’s “there” and then from time to time comes “here.” The problem with this concept of God is you end up having to even prove that this God even exists. And so what happens is we start with real life, we start with existence, “this,” what we all agree actually exists, and then people end up arguing and debating and discussing whether there’s a God somewhere else who has something to do with “this.”
But the writers of the bible seem far less interested in proving whether God exists, and far more interested in talking about what God is like. Like in the book of Exodus, a man named Moses wants to know God’s name, and God responds, “I AM.” And then later God reminds Moses that when Moses heard God’s voice he saw no shape or form. God is beyond anything our minds can comprehend. What’s it mean to have a personal relationship with this kind of God? I mean that’s like… that’s like hard… hard to get your mind around. You know, I believe that God listens and God cares and God’s involved, but I find the whole relationship idea hard to comprehend; and then loving this kind of God. What does that look like? What does it mean and how do you do it?
When I think of God, I hear a song. It’s a song that moves me, and it has a melody and it has a groove. It has a certain rhythm. And people have heard this song for thousands and thousands of years across continents and cultures and time periods. People have heard this song and they found it captivating; and they’ve wanted to hear more. Now there have always been people who say there is no song and who deny the music, but the song keeps playing. And so, Jesus came to show us how to live in tune with the song. Like that he’s the way and the truth and the life.
This isn’t a statement about one religion being better than all the other religions; I mean the last thing Jesus came to do was start a new religion. He came to show us reality at its most raw. He came to show us how things are. I mean Jesus is like God and… taking on flesh and blood and so in his generosity and in his compassion, that’s what God’s like. In his telling of the truth that’s what God’s like. In his love and forgiveness and sacrifice that’s what God’s like. That’s who God is. That’s how the song… that’s how the song goes.
This song is playing all around us all the time. This song is playing everywhere. It’s written on our hearts. And everybody is playing the song. See the question… the question isn’t whether or not you’re playing a song. The question is: are you in tune? Like it’s written in the book of Acts; it says that God gives us life and breath and everything else. God is generous. So when I’m like selfish and stingy and I refuse to give, I’m essentially out of tune with the song. Later, in one of John’s letters, he says that God is love; unrestrained, unconditional love. So when you see somebody sacrifice themselves for another, for the well being of somebody else, it’s like they’re playing in the right key. That’s why it’s so inspiring and powerful; they’re in tune with the song.
Now some people know all sorts of stuff about music. They know stuff about pitch and modes and keys and instruments, and so they can hear things that maybe other people don’t. They hear subtlety and nuance in the song that other people might miss. They appreciate things others might miss, but it’s also possible to be so caught up in the technical aspects in the song that you miss the simple, pure, enjoyment of the song.
I mean there are people who talk as if they know everything about being a Christian, and yet they can seem way out of tune. And then there are others who would say they don’t know much at all about the Christian faith and yet they can seem very in tune with the song. I met lots of people who struggle with what it means to have a relationship with God, but they haven’t lost faith and love and hope and truth and compassion and justice and generosity. And maybe you have this sense like you have no sort relationship with God because all these things… these ideas you have about what that means. All these things that you’ve been told about what it is or what it isn’t. And an infinite massive kind of invisible God… that’s hard to get our minds around; but truth, love, grace, mercy, justice, compassion… the way that Jesus lived… I can see that. I can understand that. I can relate to that. I can play that song.
So may you come to see that the song is written on your heart, and as you live in tune with the song, in tune with the creator of universe. May you realize that you are in relationship with the living God.
– Rob Bell