This is a question that most Christians have pondered a bit... "What does God really think of me?" We may hesitate to even think about it, because we know God is perfect and holy and we are so far from either of those attributes that we can only assume He is at least a little disappointed. He might be really angry - He has a right to be since we have made such a mess of His perfect world.
Fortunately, we don't have to wonder about the question because God knew we would have it and He gave us plenty of ways to arrive at the answer. The author of Hebrews puts it like this:
"Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the their of all things, through Whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high."
God let us know on multiple occasions how He felt about us through His constant forgiveness for our transgression, and by His plan of salvation through sacrifice. He sent judges and prophets to remind us of His love. And then, in the person of Jesus, God sent the ultimate message of love.
That's not much of a blog post, Matt... we know about this. Even people who have never stepped foot into a church have heard "for God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son..." Yes, though it bears repeating, this is a pretty simple message. Now, in your best "2-am-infomercial" inner voice, say it with me: But wait, there's more!
Notice that I highlighted a few words of that passage above in bold - exact imprint of His nature. This is where this message starts to get really good! This phrase comes from the Greek word χαρακτήρ, or charaktēr, the word that we have translated into the English word "character." (If you'd like to try to pronounce it in Greek, it is KA-rock-tare with the "ka" sound coming from the back of your throat like you're trying hack up a hair that's stuck back there...)
As we begin to examine the importance of this Greek word, look to the graphic I chose for this blog post - this was intentional. Charaktēr would have been used by the Greeks to describe the image pressed into a wax seal or the image on a minted coin. When you press your sigil into wax, the impression you leave behind is the charaktēr. It is the exact imprint of the original - so exact and perfect that it is used to certify that the document or coin is genuine and not counterfeited.
So, let's step back for a moment and consider the scripture in light of this new knowledge. Jesus is the perfect and genuine image of God, imprinted into human flesh. You may be thinking "I already knew Jesus was the Son of God and Immanuel (God with us), our God in flesh..." but, for me, at least, seeing Him in the light of this illustration makes it even more real and applicable.
Imagine you were cleaning out an old warehouse and you found a machine for minting coins. It was loaded with a die, a minter's block, that could not be removed. Because of the narrow tolerances, there is no way for you to see what was on the die. What can you do? How can you ever know what kind of coin this was made to produce? Well, why not just produce a coin?! Once minted, that coin will bear an exact likeness of the maker's die.
Do you see where I'm going with this? We cannot see God. How can we know what He's like? How can we know, without any doubt, how He feels about us? We can look to His exact imprint - Jesus - God in flesh. I've chosen a few examples of people who, like us, were far from perfect and came into direct contact with Jesus. Through these examples, we can examine how God might respond to us.
Zacchaeus (the tax collector)
god in flesh & a man with a very ungodly occupation/reputation
We know that the Bible says 'So, "whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31) We can be a preacher for the glory of God, but we can also be a Walmart cashier for the glory of God. That said, there are some occupations that really can't be done for God's glory... it's hard to justify being a mob boss for God...
So how does God feel toward a person who has a decidedly unholy lifestyle and occupation?
Zacchaeus was a Roman tax collector, which meant he was literally in the business of ripping people off. The Romans had too large of an empire to reasonably be able to collect taxes from everyone through their government staff so they farmed out the job to local people. When you became a tax collector, your job was to get tax money from other Roman citizens plus whatever you decided to charge as a commission. As you can imagine, this led to some shady practices. Luke 19 indicates that Zacchaeus was a rich man, and we know where that money must have come from so we can deduce what kind of guy he was.
Despite this, Zacchaeus must have felt a pull toward God because he really put himself out to get a peek at Jesus when He came through town. From his perch up in a tree, watching Jesus walk by, Zacchaeus found himself locked eye-to-eye with Christ. What would God have to say to such a man as this?
"Hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today."
The crowd couldn't believe it! They began to murmur about the supposed "Son of God" who had just invited Himself into the home of a notorious sinner... Clearly, God was not caught up on Zacchaeus' past. He saw through to his heart. As soon as Jesus stepped foot into Zacchaeus' house, the tax collector blurted out that he would repay fourfold every dime he had taken unfairly, causing Jesus to respond:
"Today, salvation has come, since he also is a son of Abraham, for the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."
Notice, while God was not caught up on Zacchaeus' past, He makes it perfectly clear that continuing in sin cannot be tolerated. Zacchaeus, in his previous state, was "lost" and in need of saving. Once changed, however, Zacchaeus was fully restored - a "son of Abraham."
For the redeeming story of another hopeless sinner, see also: John 8:1-11 [the woman caught in adultery] Jesus' response: "Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on, sin no more."
Are you living a life that is intentionally running against the will of God? Are you knowingly involved in sinful behavior? God does not hold your past against you and wants to redirect your future. Turn from wickedness, put on His righteousness, and walk in a refreshing newness of life.
The Woman With an Issue of Blood
God in flesh & a woman completely rejected by society
In this case, the person we are examining is a woman "with an issue of blood" that has persisted for twelve years. Because of the law written in Leviticus (see chapter 15 if you would like it spelled out), the woman would have been considered ceremonially unclean. Additionally, her clothing, her bed, and anywhere she sat would be unclean. Anyone who touched her or her bed or her clothes would, themselves, become temporarily unclean.
When I get sick, my wife insists on disinfecting any surface I have been near... my chair and the immediate area around it is a quarantine zone. Everything must be washed, bleached, sanitized. It's tolerable to live this way for a day or two, but it gets really exhausting if the illness persists any longer. I cannot imagine trying to live this way for twelve years!
Add to her physical condition that women were already second-class citizens - naturally a notch lower in the social order than men. It is likely that anyone close to this poor woman would have abandoned her because of her physical and social condition. It had slammed her life and the lives of those around her to a standstill. She was completely rejected, despite the fact that she had not done anything wrong. Anyone passing by her in the street would have given her a wide berth - she was probably used to avoiding even eye contact.
And then Jesus comes to town... And how does God handle this social outcast? After she sneaks up to Him, almost as if to steal a touch of His robe, Jesus addresses her:
"Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease."
To see another social outcast lifted up by Jesus, see also: John 4:1-42 [the woman at the well]
Are you living a life of rejection? Have your friends and family turned from you? Turned against you? Do you feel as though it would be impossible for anyone to ever show you love or kindness? God desires for you to be healed, to find peace, to find your place in the world. If you possess the faith to seek Him out, He possesses the capability to restore you.
The Man With the Unclean Spirit
God in flesh & A man with an unsound mind and a troubled spirit
Arriving in Gerasa, Jesus met up with a very disturbed man. He was a complete menace to the population of the town, living among the tombs and screaming day and night as he cut himself with stones. This guy was probably covered in scratches and scabs with matted, unwashed hair, trailing the pieces of chains that had been used in failed attempts to restrain him.
As soon as Jesus stepped out of the boat He arrived in, this man rushed toward him, crashing at His feet. In this situation, most anyone would have recoiled, would have turned and run for safety. They would have put as much distance between themselves and this person as possible.
How did God react? After healing the man of his demon possession:
"Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you."
Have you ever felt completely out of control? Are you wrestling with issues much larger than yourself, perhaps even struggling with forces that invade the peace and solitude of your own mind? Nothing is impossible with God. He wants to give you back your peace so you can share it with others.
These are some pretty extreme cases... most of us probably fall short of feeling this isolated, this far from God. But we all can recognize that there is a gap between Him and us. We are separated by our sin, by our perception of self, by the oppressive intrusion of our past mistakes. But God is not a white-bearded, lightning-bolt-bearing accuser biding the time until your judgment. He is the one after whom Jesus is modeled. The kindness and mercifulness and understanding that is exhibited by Jesus is the exact imprint of His nature.
What does God think of you? He thinks you are a child of Abraham and a rightful heir of His promises. Embrace His grace and begin living a life that seeks His will and purpose so you can become an agent of change that helps others find that same source of life and peace.