Troublesome Topic: God Gave Us a Mural Not a Snapshot

Lesson 2 of 10

We are incapable of fully understanding God and how He works. It would be beyond impossible to attempt to describe God on one short paragraph. We have the whole Bible so that we can get a full picture of God, at least as full as our finite minds can grasp.

The Example of a Mural

Imagine that some of your friends or relatives recently took a trip and each day of the trip they all sent photos from their phones to your phone of what they had seen. One day they told you they were going to see a beautiful painting that was rather famous in that area. As they visited the place the text messages with the photos of the painting started coming in.

The first photo of the painting depicted a park with lots of trees and a beautiful lake.

The next photo to arrive was of a family eating a picnic on a blanket, and children catching butterflies.

That was followed by one of a man fishing in the lake.

You said to yourself, “Ah, they have gone to see a painting depicting a park and the various things that happen at that park.”

Just then your phone beeped again, and the next text had a photo showing children playing on a playground with houses in the background. You thought, “The playground must be on the edge of the park, close to an adjoining neighborhood.”

But the very next text showed that same playground from a different angle and it was now obvious that the playground belonged to a school.

That was followed by pictures of things that obviously did not belong in the park. There was a man grilling burgers on his back deck and boys throwing a football in their front yard. There were children riding their bikes on a sidewalk through a neighborhood while an elderly couple was taking a walk.

Now a new batch of pics started coming in. These depicted young people playing various sports; there were softball and baseball games going on at the same time in two different location, while a soccer game was also going on, but the location of the soccer field was unclear to you. Still others were practicing tricks at a nearby skateboard park.

“I see that my first idea was far too narrow,” you said to yourself. “This must be a painting of a small community.”

Others started sending photos that were very different from the previous ones. They sent you photos of a busy train yard, and a warehouse with trucks being loaded and unloaded. There was a construction site, and somewhere else there were various pieces of heavy equipment tearing up a road that needed to be repaired.

Next came pictures of busy highways and even a traffic jam.

Then you saw photos of garbage bins that were overflowing and some of the bags had been torn into by prowling dogs. But close by were some beautiful flower gardens.

Next you were sent a picture of a Policeman who had pulled someone over. Finally there was an ambulance with its lights on pulling up to the hospital, and a medivac helicopter waiting on the helipad.

By that point you realized that this was not at all what you originally thought it was. You thought, “This depicts a large city in many of its facets, both good and bad.” You texted one of your friends and asked, “Is this one painting on canvas, or is this a mural on a big wall?”

You had finally guessed correctly, this was a mural of an entire community painted on the outside wall of a large building.

We Need to See the Entire Mural

Our view of God should have the variety and inclusiveness of this large mural. The Bible shows us many facets of God and we need to look at the entire word of God to get the best understanding of who God is and how He acts.

We live in an era in which people like quick, easy answers. Therefore, many people think they can present one or two points as proof of their position, and say, “I win!”

But life is complex. The Bible deals with the complexities of life, therefore, the Bible is complex (and we have made it more complex by our many arguments and theories).

God gave us a mural instead of a snap shot because He wanted us to understand Him fully and see how He fits in every aspect of our lives.

We Need Balance

Looking at just certain aspects of God’s character will always produce an unbalanced view of God and therefore an unbalanced view of our responsibilities before God.

Some people are too hard on themselves. They see only God’s high standard and the work involved in living the Christian life (the people working and the person getting pulled over by the police officer). Therefore they often beat up on themselves, which is unnecessary and unproductive. If you are one of these people, I recommend that you read through the Bible looking for the parts that talk about His grace, forgiveness and acceptance. Yes, God knows your failures and your shortcomings, but when He looks at you, He sees your great potential, a potential which He planned out and placed within you.

Other people are not concerned about anything and live a Christian life that is care-free and freewheeling. These people focus on God’s grace, forgiveness, and acceptance, and don’t want to hear about God’s standard. The problem there is that we don’t make the rules. We cannot grant ourselves the freedom to decide what is acceptable behavior and what is not. If you are one of these people, I recommend that you read through the Bible looking for the parts that explain the high standard God expects of us. You will find that the word “holy” and words derived from it are used more often than any form of the word “love.”

One reason I recommend those reading assignments is that many of us are imbalanced, and God loves balance, so He wants us to exhibit more balance than we do at this time. God wants us to see that He is both holy and loving at the same time. He accepts us as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us that way. We need to hear the full counsel of God in order to get something close to a full concept of who God is.

In a mural of an entire city there need to be depictions of people working and playing, both are important. There are flowers and garbage bins in a city, and there are happy times and hard times in our lives. God’s character is likewise multifaceted, and while we cannot know everything about Him, drinking in all of His word will give us a better understanding than only focusing on parts of it.

In conclusion, strive to understand as much as you can about God’s character and His balance.

The next lesson is The Bible is Like a Double Sided Puzzle