I recently learned a new word: anthropopathy. I’ve heard and used “anthropomorphic/ism” but had never heard of anthropopathy. I looked it up in my trusty New World Dictionary and found this definition: anthropopathy = the attributing of human feelings and passions to a god animal, etc.
I came across anthropopathy in a book I’m currently reading entitled Hebrew Word Study: Revealing the Heart of God by Chaim Bentorah. I quote: “Jewish philosopher Abraham Heschel often referred to what he called “divine anthropopathy.” We often speak of God as anthropomorphic, symbolically ascribing to Him a human body, but we rarely consider God anthropopathically, as having humanlike feelings.”* I don’t know if this is true of any, some, or most Christians. I liked it because one, the word is fun to say, and two, it reinforced my conviction on how important relationship is to God.
I doubt anyone needs me to quote it but John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the word that He gave His only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” If you’ve been around a Christian for any length of time or attended a church or read a social media post, you’ve no doubt heard that believing in Jesus means you get to go to heaven when you die. I don’t dispute that but going to heaven when I die is not eternal life. Don’t believe me?
When I continue reading John’s gospel I come to chapter seventeen and verse 3. “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” The word “know” in this scripture is the exact same word used for intimacy between a husband and a wife. It’s the same word used to relate her words when Mary asked, “How can this be, seeing as I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:34) Relationship with God is not just knowing about Him. It’s knowing Him in the most intimate way, like a married couple know each other. I can’t help thinking of how many times the Bible speaks of weddings, wedding feasts, Jesus as Bridegroom, His people as Bride. The I Am, the Father, longs for a deep, personal relationship with each one of us.
We can’t know God. I assume that, if you’ve read this far, you believe in God. What do you think of Him? I can’t fathom Him. I can’t find words. However, going back to John 3:16, He gave His only Son. I can know the Father because Jesus has revealed Him (John 1:18). Staying in John’s gospel, I find John chapter fourteen verses six and seven: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know My Father also.” In Jesus, I can relate to the Father through someone who is human like me. In Jesus, the Father has a face.
And yet, I can’t go anywhere on this earth and see the human body that walked the shores of the Sea of Galilee, lived and worked in Nazareth, ate and drank. So how do I know Jesus? Wouldn’t it have been better for me to be alive then? Am I missing something? No! Jesus Himself says it’s better for me, expedient, to my benefit that He goes away (John 16:7) because the Comforter will come. It is through the Holy Spirit living in me where I am knitted to Jesus and, through Him, the Father. “When He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine…” John 16:13-15a
The Holy Spirit is vital to my relationship with God. It’s not possible without Him which is why I’ve been talking about Him so much and why I’ll continue to do so as long as God allows.
The importance of relationship, this longing of the heart of the Father, is why I use the hashtag #relationshipnotreligion on my posts. When I say “religion” I’m not always thinking of a denomination or an ism. I am thinking of that which perpetuates a false image of who God is and who we are in Christ. I recently saw a social media post where a dear sweet child of God said that Jesus had to come and die to save us from God. I can’t even. Where is that written in the Bible? Save us from God? The very same God who so loved-so loved-that He gave. No one made Him do it. He did it because His great heart is one of love. He loves us and, through Jesus, made the way for us to know that love. To quote on of my favorite songs (Real Love by Blanca), isn’t it true that the veil was torn? Relationship.
Religion defined in its original language can mean something beautiful. Religio means “reverence for the gods, holiness” which is beautiful and true. Religare means to bind back and then, breaking the word down further; re means back and ligare is to bind or bind together. This too can be beautiful. In relationship to the Father, we are bound to Him in Jesus through the Spirit, knitted together in such a way that we too can cry “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) When I say “religion” I think of the system that seeks to bind its converts to a set of rules, to a never-ending hamster wheel of trying to be good enough, not being good enough, trying harder, doing more, and hoping one day to be acceptable to God. Instead, may your eyes be open to see He is love now. He so loved He gave. He has feelings just like we do.
Maybe I need a better word than anthropopathy. John really does say it best: We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
*Quote is from the study “God hides His face” page 283