During any political season, you see a lot of caricatures of politicians, both in literal drawings and in descriptions by opposing parties. Caricatures typically emphasize one particular feature or belief of a candidate to the point of gross exaggeration. Sometimes, they’re meant to be humorous, but they are also used to deceive.
This week, I was on campus doing my free prayer outreach. I sit on campus with a sign saying, “FREE PRAYER” and wait for students to stop to ask for prayer. One student who is involved in our ministry stopped by just to say hello. As we were talking, another student walked up and began to talk about the preachers who regularly visit college campuses, including ours. He said what I was doing is what true Christians do, instead of yelling and condemning people like the preachers do.
The men and women who come to campus and preach what many would describe as “hellfire and brimstone,” create a caricature of God. They take one aspect of God, that he is the Judge of all humanity, and emphasize it in a way so that it seems the only aspect to God is his wrath. It’s almost as if God cannot wait to expend his judgment upon sinners. This has been a common caricature in our culture for a long time, and one of the reasons many people have no interest in the Christian God.
There is also another caricature of God that is increasing in popularity among Christians themselves—the Chill God. This caricature of God emphasizes only his unending love for people; thus, God appears to lack any concern at all about sin. In this picture, he accepts everyone no matter how they live and they can continue to live however they choose because God is, well, chill when it comes to sin.
The caricatures of God that we are often presented or manufacture in our minds, are meant to deceive us, to lead us away from the true God of the universe. It is what Satan planted in the mind of Eve and then Adam to lead them astray. He caricatured God as untrustworthy and secretive, someone who was keeping some great gift from them. Tragically, it worked, and still does.
With one caricature, the one in rebellion against God feels condemned and utterly worthless to the Lord. With another, one lives with a false sense of security, as if he can live as he pleases. And with the one Satan first used, one feels God is always out to spoil her fun and to make her life dull and unexciting.
These caricatures all have some truth to them. God will one day judge each one of us. It is also true that he loves us. And it is true also that he does desire us to abstain from certain behaviors. Yet, a caricature always fails to provide a complete picture.
This is why it is important to read and study the Scriptures. For in them lies a far more complete picture of who he is. What they tell us about our God is that he is a loving God who demands obedience. When we go our own way, it does damage to us and often to others as well, because he created us and knows what is best for us. Yet, because of his love, he is slow to anger, patient and quick to forgive when we acknowledge our sin. He seeks out the lost and welcomes back the repentant sinner. His judgment of us he withholds until the last possible moment, hoping that we will come to him through Jesus, who eliminates all condemnation.
This is the biblical God; let him be the one we proclaim rather than a mere caricature.
© Jim Musser 2020