Brent begins the discussion by saying, The other day I met a business man at a birthday bash who was funny, happy, and very alive. He told me that just last year he’d had a real, saving, encounter with Jesus Christ, which led him to leave the church he was in, and to join an independent, “born again” type of church. I believe his view of God really changed, through this experience. Many people in this country say they believe in God, but they seem to have no living faith or personal relationship with Him, even if they go to church!
Fr. Henry: I think we can all agree that our view of God affects, profoundly, how we see our-selves, and how children relate to our parents, and us to our children, and people who are “different.”
Benedicio: Yes, and I believe that if people had a more biblical view of God, and an experience like that of the man Brent described, there would be far fewer “lost” people, and many more “saved” souls—people living rich, meaningful lives, serving the Lord and their families, and influencing society for good. This Biblical view of God is effectively portrayed in Philip Yancey’s superb What’s So Amazing About Grace?: “My study of Jesus’ life convinces me that whatever barriers we must overcome cannot compare to what a holy God. . . overcame when he descended to join us on planet earth.
“A prostitute, a wealthy exploiter, a demon-possessed woman, a Roman soldier, a Samaritan with running sores and another Samaritan with serial husbands—I marvel that Jesus became a “friend of sinners” like these. As Helmut Thielicke wrote:
‘Jesus gained the power to love harlots, bullies and ruffians. . .he was able to do this because he saw through the filth and crust of degeneration, because his eye caught the divine original which is hidden in every way—in every man!. . . First and foremost he gives us new eyes. . . .
‘When Jesus loved a guilt-laden person and helped him, he saw in him an erring child of God. He saw in him a human being whom his Father loved and grieved over because he was going wrong. He saw him as God originally designed and meant him to be, and therefore he saw through the surface layer of grime and dirt to the real man underneath. Jesus did not identify the person with his sin, but rather saw in this sin something alien, something that did not really belong to him, something merely chained and mastered him and from which he would free him and bring him back to his real self. Jesus was able to love men because he loved them right through the layer of mud.’
“We may be abominations, but we are still God’s pride and joy. All of us in the church need ‘grace-filled eyes’ to see the potential in others for the same grace that God has so lavishly bestowed on us. ‘To love a person,’ said Dostoevsky, ‘means to see him as God intended him to be.’”
Amen to that, said Fr. Henry. And God proved that through the hideous death and glorious resurrection of His Son. As we relate to Him personally, coming to the cross and letting Him in to really be Lord and Savior, we will no longer be lost, but found, and set free to love. . .
And with that, Brent has his wife close the meeting with the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today, our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever, amen.