Mark Twain said, “Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” This quote hit home recently when I read this passage from 1 John 3:2: “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is” (NLT).
As soon as I read this verse, I knew why it bothered me. John says that when Christ appears, “we will see him as he really is.” Inherent in this phrase is the fact that right now I do NOT see Him as He really is. And how can I? How can my puny, finite eyes really see and understand the infinite reality of our God-become-man-become-Savior?
How do I see Jesus? Usually, I see Him as I’d like to see Him-friendly, forgiving, easy to get along with, gently prodding me along to become a better person but mostly agreeing with my hopes and ambitions. I like to focus upon His place as King (Zechariah 14:16) because it gives me hope and security, but don’t spend too much time on His position as Judge and Lawgiver (Isaiah 33:22). I don’t like thinking about the many ways I’ve broken His law, and I can’t help but think that the final review of my life will be a disappointment to Him. And to me.
Furthermore, I don’t spend time seeing Him in light of my own desires and lusts. It is just too hard to imagine He ever had THOSE thoughts. Until, that is, I read Hebrews 4:15, which reminds me that He was “tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin.” Yes, Jesus was even tempted with THOSE thoughts. But unlike me, He never gave in.
It seems I’m a master at creating Jesus in my own image and likeness, making Him the type of God who comforts, forgives and accepts me, while at the same time rejecting my enemies (NOW I like to see Him as Judge. Why is it so easy only to see God only in the ways that suit me?).
Of course, Jesus is an American consumer who would choose to live in my neighborhood, shop at my local grocery store, eat my favorite foods, spend four dollars on a cup of coffee and buy only fluorescent bulbs. (Actually, I’ve never purchased a fluorescent bulb. I just thought my green-minded readers could relate).
There are so many ways I don’t see Him as He really is. For instance, I have trouble seeing Him as the creator of the universe, eternal and omnipotent. Just thinking about eternity brings my mind to a screeching halt. Conversely, I have difficulty thinking about Him as a mortal man-hurting, tired and hungry.
Finally, I cannot comprehend how He will return. Will it be at the literal sound of a trumpet, with blazing glory and a universal audience, with vengeance and retribution on His mind? Or, will it be in meekness and quietness, gently appearing to share His final act of love as He gathers His cared-enough-to-die-for loved ones into His strong, pastoral arms?
I don’t know. And maybe that’s good. Maybe not seeing Jesus as He really is makes the longing to know Him stronger and more effective. Perhaps that is why Paul could say, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Galatians 3:8). Instead of trying to figure out all the unknowns, maybe I just need to concentrate on Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Perhaps then, I’ll begin to see Him as He really is.