I have been thinking about God recently - how do we know what he is like? One reader sent me a collection of URLs to look at, including one featuring someone calling themselves an avatar. The idea intrigues me and I intend to write on that fellow soon, thanks John.
I guess we could use the concept of Avatar to talk about Jesus (there's an interesting exercise to do a comparison). What would we learn about God from Jesus?
Jesus taught of God’s loving character; indiscriminate (Mt 20.1-16), extending to enemies (Mt 5.43-48) and demonstrated in providential care (Mt 6.25f), yet eschatologically exclusive (Mt 7.21). He is patient (Mt 21.34-36) with recalcitrants, the peacemaker (Mt 5.9) but also acting in judgment when justice requires (Mt 21.41). Likewise, God’s love is not soft, requiring the same forgiveness of us as he himself displays (Mt 18.35) and the exercise of discipline (Mt 18.19).
Furthermore, God’s character is good (Lk 18.18) and pure (Mt 5.8 tacit).
Jesus reveals the Father (Mt 11.27), for seeing him is seeing God (Jn 14.9) in his works (v11; 5.19f). Jesus shows compassion to the lost (Mk 6.34, 10.21) and suffering (Lk 7.13). He could be angry at sin (Mt 3.5), pronouncing judgement (Mk 11.15-17) and showing frustration at lack of faith (Mk 4.40). He also grieved (Mt 23.37) at unbelief and suffering (Jn 11.35-38). This is hardly an impassable God!
Evangelism & Discipling
Evangelism is the presentation of the person of Jesus. He teaches and demonstrates the character of the God with whom we are to relate to and obey. This God is revealed to be one who longs for humans to respond in faith and grieves when we do not, a God who responds to human suffering and waywardness with compassion.
Likewise, Jesus commanded the disciples seek disciples, not decisions (Mt 28.18-20). Discipleship and evangelism are part of the same pilgrimage, beginning with a message about Jesus that leads to following Jesus.
God or man?
I've been reading a book where a classical theist debates an open theist: Does God Have a Future?: A Debate on Divine Providence by Christopher Hall and John Sanders. I must admit I have a hard time swallowing Hall's contention that when Jesus suffers, it is only the human part that suffers, likewise the emotions. That's just too neat. Assume God can't suffer, then ignore the Old Testament texts that say so as athropomorphism (anthropopathisms?) and then in the New Testament, split Jesus up.
It seems to me that God volutarily engages the world in an intimate way. The implications of this I am yet to tease out fully, but Jesus is the clue.