Often I wonder why God won’t overtly appear to people. Can’t The King of Physics just transfigure himself out of clear air, strike stunning eye contact with unbelievers, and beyond spoken words manifest his glory to them as the very Word?
God clearly loves everyone and yearns for us. So why not? Is God God? Why Abraham, Moses, Paul? Why not us?
Christ is different to Eastern philosophies. He is different to new age Western spirituality that suggests the divine is a love energy force that holds us all together. Christ reveals the divine to be personal being.
Three persons as one being, distinctive only by their relationships to each other, God is a character we commune with.
It is for this reason that God choses to reveal himself to others through people.
The Spirit-filled Church is given the vocation from Christ to imitate Him to the world. And despite our horrendous failure to do this well, in fact we often achieve the opposite, God still choses this to be the way of communicating the gospel to his beloved world.
God speaks to people through people because God is a person. Henceforth the means by which this message is communicated aligns with this very message.
The gospel is personal because God is a person.
And this strategy seems to be working. Although it doesn’t feel this way in New Zealand, the Christian witness to God’s love for the world continues to grow.
Of all the humans going about their business, God selected a sole human – Abraham – from whom to launch His rescue mission to the world.
From Abraham sprouted a small family of believers. The family of believers mushroomed into an entire ethnic group. The ethnic group seeded Christ. From Christ, grew the Church. Now the Church limitlessly sprawls across ethnicities, across nations, across oceans.
Church continues to grow globally. And Church is the biggest group of theists in the entire world, imitating Christ to the cosmos, still rapidly multiplying. Wellington may be the capital with the largest number of non-religious people per head of capita in the world, but that narrative is not the narrative of the planet.
When the entire history of God’s mission to the world is taken into account, we see that a miniscule mustard seed stretches into the largest of garden plants – a ballooning tree. One person’s faith has expanded into a multi-billion person network.
God doesn’t transfigure himself out of clear air, striking stunning eye contact with unbelievers, because he doesn’t need to.
God’s recuse mission that is being outworked through His Spirit filled Church is working just fine.
Besides, there was a time when God turned up face-to-face with unbelievers. God stood right in front of people, hugged people, kissed people, miraculously healed people, yet, people still did not believe. “Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him,” (John chapter 12, verse 37).
In fact they didn’t like Him very much.
Too inconvenient. God didn’t seem very realistic. God didn’t seem to give us what we wanted.
That character Jesus directly reveals the true character of God – the Servant kind of King. But the people want a grand powerful King, or want to become a grand powerful King. Not many are willing to follow a servant into the suffering of the world.
Abraham was stubborn, Moses, a murder, and Paul seemed to get a kick out of torturing all the Christians. This lot followed the Other into the sufferings of the world because they knew they needed an antidote to their suffering.
But now that the very Spirit of God resides within Christ’s Church, Church carries the same sort of divine intervention into unbeliever’s lives that Abraham and Moses experienced. And as for Paul, when Paul came face-to-face with Jesus, Jesus’s words were in reference to him first interacting with Church – although he was killing them.
So why won’t God overtly appear to people? He does every day – as the Holy Spirit within the people of God.
May we work out our faith with fear and trembling because that is quite the responsibility.
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God,” (Ephesians chapter 3, verses 16-19).
Andrew Hill is a true-blue Kiwi, born and reared in Aotearoa New Zealand. He has lived between Auckland, Dunedin and Hamilton, chasing his passion: Knowing God. Andrew has studied theology through various institutions, served as a Youth Pastor and as an Associated Pastor at a couple of Baptist Churches, and currently spends time with people with disabilities as a Community Support Worker through Spectrum Care. Andrew has just finished writing his first novel which he intends to publish shortly, and for fun, live streams on twitch.tv @theophilus_nz.