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The invisibility challenge

He is the image of the invisible God
I have long been fascinated by the challenge of invisibility. One of the things people say when you discuss with the question of God with them is that there’s no evidence for God. Usually what they mean is that God is not physically obvious to them. God is not something that they can feel and touch so they struggle to accept that he exists.

The idea that God must be visible in order to accept his existence is folly.  There are many things that cannot be seen which we have absolute confidence that they exist. So in truth it is not really the problem of invisibility at the heart of their rejection of God, it is simply folly, as King David called it.

Nevertheless there’s something challenging about the invisibility of God. When I reflect on my own life, I see that it is largely an expression of the tension between the invisible and the visible. I live predominantly in the visible world and struggle to relate and give significant thought to things that are inherently invisible. I just breath air, I don't pause to contemplate it. I just receive love I don't pause to wonder about it or even dare to understand it. 

We all struggle to relate with invisibility. You cannot have a good relationship with someone invisible because it would be disorienting. You can never be sure that the person is there because everything else in your life is grounded in visibility. People around you won't even understand that relationship! Imagine you fell in love with someone invisible and told your friends about it! How would they react? 

I was recently reminded of the problem of God's invisibility when I heard the sermon on the famous "goldern calf" in Exodus. The chidren of Israel are in the wilderness. Moses has disappeared from the scene, and it seems along with him presence of Yahweh. The people start pressuring Aaron to build a “golden calf” so that it can lead them back to Egypt.

The people got restless and opted to have a “visible god” instead of invisible Yahweh.But perhaps its was more than the absence of something physical. It is was also the absence of something transcendent. Perhaps when Moses left, it was not only that God's man is not there to remind them of Yahweh. It was also that absence seems created transcendent void.  Yahweh's power and presence seemed less obvious. 

What is interestingly reading through the Bible is that God is not actually embarrassed by his invisibility. It is a mark of his perfection. Apostle Paul writing to the church at Colossae openly declares that God is invisible. He says the same thing to young Timothy that God is the “eternal king, immortal, invisible, the only God”. Clearly what Paul means in one sense is that God is incorporeal. We cannot see God with naked eyes! 

Apostle John says, “no one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known” [1 John 4:12]. The point then is that God is fundamentally different from us in substance. He is not corporeal like us! He has no material in him. He is not made of stuff in the universe. He is the Creator, we are created.

The very fact that God is not like us points us to another layer of meaning. God being invisible also means that he transcends physical reality. He is over and above all created reality. He is above space, time, matter, norms and ethics. This is why Paul says again to young Timothy that “God alone possesses immortality and lives in unapproachable light, whom no human has ever seen or is able to seen”.

To Apostle Paul, God’s invisibility is intrinsically woven with his transcendence! There will always be something about God that is beyond us [or invisible], because he is over and above us in every dimension. Not just quantitatively but also qualitatively, of which his incorporeal nature is only one dimension of that qualitative transcendence.

This of course does not mean God is beyond our grasp. The Bible says just as in Jesus we see the incorporeal God made known corporeally, in Jesus we also see God’s transcendence made immanent. The writer to the Hebrews says, “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word”. Paul echoes these word to the church at Colossae, “in [Jesus] all things hold together”

It seems what Paul is saying to the Colossian church, and us, when he says Jesus is the image of God is simply this: Jesus makes sense of God to us! Jesus is God made visible in every dimension. When you look at the corporeal Jesus you see the incorporeal God. When you look at the glorified Jesus you are looking at the transcendent God. In every dimension Jesus is the embodiment of the visible and invisible. He is the embodiment of the immanent and transcendent! Later on he says in his letter to the church at Colossae he says that "in Jesus the whole Deity dwells bodily". 

What a comforting truth! Knowing Jesus means we not only know God truly, we are also connected to God in a deeper relationship. The relationship with Jesus bring us in full communion with God the Father and God the Spirit.

In God the Father, we have one who is invisible, incorporeal and yet all his eternal attributes have been seen throughout all creation. In God the Spirit we have this incorporeal God living within us as a down payment of our eternal future with God. He equips all followers of Christ daily with power and strength to live for God. When we stumble he gets us up again and reminds us to look afresh at the Jesus, God made visible, who has been wounded and crushed for our sins so that we may be with God forever! 

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Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2014

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