I was driving the other day when I saw a car with a bumper sticker that said “God is . . .” and it listed a political position. I thought that it was kind of interesting as I was pretty sure that there wasn’t anything in the Bible that described God in that way.
But that got me thinking. What normally does follow the words “God is?” So I did a little search using the NRSV version of the Bible (the version we use in worship.) I found 172 results but I focused on times when “God is” was followed up with a verb or an adjective or a phrase. And there were lots of choices but a few stood out. It was amazing how many times the phrase “God is giving” was used, especially in the Old Testament. “God is God” popped up a few times. “God is gracious” and “God is faithful,” and “God is my salvation” appeared a decent number of times. “God is with you” was all over the place.
This begs a question: what is the point of all of this? Here is the point: we get in trouble when we try to make God something God is not. To assign something at the end of the “God is” phrase that is political is a very dangerous slope. It assumes we know what God is thinking and how God acts in the world. It makes us put God into a box.
You know what God does when God is put into a box? God destroys that box. God showed through the death and resurrection of Jesus that God will break through every barrier in order to save us. I think instead of trying to define God in our ways we should let the Word of God speak for itself.
And what do we find? We find a God that is concerned about the other. God is giving, gracious, faithful, and loving. God projects outward from Himself unto you and all of creation. Maybe this is how God wants us to be? To be giving, gracious, faithful, and loving. Maybe this is a clue that God would like us to live for the other instead of for ourselves. “God is with you” is repeated so often as a reminder that we are not alone and that God meets us where we are and walks with us every day.
Maybe we need to make bumper stickers with phrases of “God is giving,” “God is with us,” or “God is faithful” to counteract the poor bumper sticker theology that wants to define God beyond the witness of scripture. But even better would be to live as people of God trusting in a faithful, loving, and giving God. Even better would be to emulate those characteristics in our daily lives. Most importantly, remember that God is with you. For that we can say, “Thanks be to God!”