We seldom consider how strange it is as Christians that our greatest love is someone whom we’ve never met in the flesh. Love has a tangible object in every other area of our lives: our spouse, our children, our family and friends. But our love for Christ is a love of faith, a love that grows from faith, is sustained by faith, and will be consummated in faith (Rom. 1:17).
The sad part of it is that sin has gotten so deeply embedded in the human heart that we actually perceive God as a great stranger. While Thomas fell to his knees and uttered, “My Lord, my God” (John 20:28), many people today might say, “My stranger, my God.” Is God a stranger to you?
I ask this question even if you are a professing Christian, because many of us do not treat God as a truly present being. Conceptually, we acknowledge that God is everywhere, that he knows and cares for us personally, and that he calls upon us to speak to him in prayer. But do we really treat God as our most intimate, first love (Rev. 2:4)? Or have we resolved to let God be a mysterious acquaintance?
There’s really only one way to make a stranger a friend: speech, language, which is what I call communion behavior. This is tough for us because God is a Spirit (John 4:24), and we practice speech with embodied creatures. But that doesn’t change the truth. In order for God not to be a stranger, we have to speak with him and he has to speak with us.
There’s really only one way to make a stranger a friend: speech, language, which is what I call communion behavior.
But God does speak with us . . . all the time. He does so in two senses, both of which are a part of God’s revelation. First, God speaks to us directly in the words of Scripture (special revelation). The Bible is not man’s words to men, but God’s words to men. The Bible is the speech of God to his people. When you read its words, you are hearing God speak . . . to you. Second, God speaks to us in the world all around us (general revelation). Talking about the natural world, Jonathan Edwards wrote,
As the system of nature, and the system of revelation, are both divine works, so both are in different senses a divine word. Both are the voice of God to intelligent creatures, a manifestation and declaration of himself to mankind.
Jonathan Edwards, Miscellany 1340
There is a mysterious sense in which even the natural world “speaks” of God, in the sense that it reveals something about him. John Calvin described the natural world as a “flood of light,” overwhelming us with God’s presence.
The question for all of us is very simple, but we must ask it over and over again: Is God real to you, and is that reflected in the way you interact with him? You see, the moment we set aside Scripture (the verbal revelation of God) and stop looking for God in the world around us (which “speaks” of God in some way) is the moment we become ignorant of God and spiritually estranged from him. You cannot be intimate with someone whom you never speak to, or with someone who never speaks to you. Thank God this is never the case from his side of things! He’s always speaking to you. And he’s always listening, too.
Are you listening? Are you speaking? Dialogue with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is and will always be the barometer for our spiritual health. Less divine-human dialogue means more spiritual estrangement. More divine-human dialogue means more spiritual communion. Let us listen. Let us speak. Let us never be content to call God a stranger.