The Nature of God
This guy dies and goes to heaven. When he gets there, St. Peter is standing at the gate. He says, “If you can answer these three questions I will let you into heaven. First, how many seconds are in a year? Second, how many days of the week starts with a ‘T’? Third, what is God’s first name? You have until tomorrow to answer these questions.”
The guy comes back the next day, St. Peter asks the first question and the guy says, “Twelve.” “Twelve?” says St. Peter, “how did you get that?” The man replies, “January 2nd, February 2nd and so on.” Peter thinks it over and says, “Well that is not exactly what I meant, but it’s technically correct, so I will give you credit.”
Then St. Peter asks the second question and the guy answers, “Two.” St. Peter asks how he got that answer and the man explains, “Today and Tomorrow.” St. Peter again admit that wasn’t what he had in mind, but he’ll accept that.
Peter then asks the third question — God’s first name. The man says with confidence, “Howard. ” St. Peter, really perplexed, inquires how the guy got that and the man says, “You know — it’s in the prayer: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Howard be thy name…’”
Well, this man definitely failed to memorize the Lord’s prayer correctly.
Today, I would like to talk about God’s name. Obviously, God’s name is not Howard. In order for us to think of God’s name, we need to think of God’s nature. Here is a question for you. How do you describe the nature of God to someone who does not know God? It is not an easy question.
When I was a college student, I went with a group on a mission trip every summer to various rural areas in South Korea. What we first did was to visit homes and deliver the Good news from God. It was not an easy job. It was hot summer and sometimes, raining heavy. Sometimes, we were too tired to visit homes. No matter what, we visited many homes and delivered the Good news. In fact, the tiredness and weather were not a big deal. The big deal was to describe the nature of God to those who didn’t know God’s name.
I remember that we tried to explain the nature of God to many people on the trips. We said, “God is love. God loves you. God forgives our sins. If you need help, pray to God. God will answer.” Sometimes, they asked some questions, but we answered, “God knows everything and God loves you.” We were right but we had a superficial knowledge about God at that time.
In fact, I still have a superficial knowledge about God, even though I have studied theology for many years and struggled with various theological and practical matters. The more I study, the more challenges and troubles I have understanding God.
How do you currently understand the nature of God? How do you explain the God in which you believe?
Today’s text gives us the messages to help understand the true nature of God. The message is that God is holy because of love. When we say, “Holy God,” we should know that it has a much deeper meaning than piety or morality. It is righteousness rooted in love. Because of love, God created the world, sent Jesus, and redeemed us through the resurrection of Christ. A life of holiness is a life that reflects the love, serves in humility, and acts to share the love. Love is a sign of the holy. Hosea proclaims that love is the heart of true holiness. So now I can say that God’s name is not Howard but Love.
Now let us think of the nature of ourselves. It is a cliché but the truth is apple trees can only bear apples, not oranges or pears. Our fruits are the results of our behaviors. The way we act is a reflection of who we are. In Colossians 3 in the New Testament, Paul says that since we identify with Christ, being raised in him, our words and deeds should reflect that nature of Christ. We should “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God… When Christ in your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory (Col.3:1-4).”
We are God’s creatures and we know what love looks like. Consider the young mother of a three-year-old son. She learned that she was pregnant, and encouraged her son to help him prepare for this new baby sister. He would sing to his mother’s tummy to welcome the new life that would soon emerge. When the mother went into labor there were complications. The infant was born in serious condition and not expected to recover. The newborn’s brother insisted on going to the hospital to sing to the child, but it was against hospital rules.
Plans for bringing the baby home changed into making plans for her funeral. The three-year-old sibling begged to see his sister. “I want to sing to her,” he insisted. The mother took her young son by the hand and led him to the scrub room. Donning a surgical mask and an oversized gown, he entered the neonatal unit where his sister was tended by machines and nurses. Over loud protests from the nurse in charge, the little boy sang in a pure angelic voice, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray…” The dying infant’s pulse rate responded, and she calmed to the steady, familiar voice. He kept on singing and the baby lulled into a restful, healing sleep. She fully recovered and was dismissed from the hospital the next day! For family and hospital staff, it was indeed a miracle. The mother called it a miracle of God’s love! Through this experience, this family definitely learned that God is love.
Hosea’s message teaches us that if we have love in God and others, then we could also be holy before God. God is holy because of love. We are created by God’s love and we are a projection of it. Our lives as God’s people are meant to be sharing the love so that we can be holy as Jesus is holy.
God’s name is love. Therefore, the nature of God can be found through our act of love. We cannot explain God’s nature in words but we can explain it through our act of love. When we show love to others, that is the moment when God is revealed. The act of love is a way to explain the nature of God. I pray that you can bear fruits of love through your lives. God will be with you whenever you show your love to others. The name of God is love.
Let us pray.
Loving God, thank you for your words this morning. And we give thanks for your love toward us. Now help us to show your love to others, so they can know who you are. In your name, we pray. Amen.