One time Jesus’ disciple Philip wanted to see God. I would like to see God too. I think it is a very human desire. I see so much that is negative. Every day I see sickness and suffering. I see perversion and hatred. I see death. Sometimes I also see love and joy, but like Philip, I would really love to see God. He would make sense of all the rest.
So Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us” (John 14:8). Wouldn’t it be fantastic to know what God looks like? I think this is a good desire. Jesus’ answer to this desire is very surprising: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” It must have been incredible to know Jesus…
But you and I haven’t seen Jesus, so how do we see the Father? The truth is that God likes to show himself, but not just to anyone. Not just any eyes can see the holy God. He shows himself in ways that only the eyes of faith can see. He shows himself in his story. In fact, we do see Jesus—just the way God wants us to—because we have his story. And we do see God, just the way he wants to be seen. That’s why Jesus, when he was telling parables (stories!) would say “Whoever has ears, let them hear” (Matthew 13:9). He is saying, “Don’t you SEE?”
I work in the country of Chad with my wife and children. We are here to tell Jesus’ story so that people can SEE him and know the Father. The people we live among are Muslims. Some people might say that Muslims already know God, because there are many paths to knowing God. “After all,” their argument goes, “who are we to judge someone else’s faith? Aren’t they just as sincere in their faith as I am in mine?”
There are certainly similarities between Islam and Christianity: We both believe in one God, Creator of all things, and we talk about a lot of the same prophets, like Adam and Noah, Abraham, David, Solomon and, yes, Jesus. So what’s the difference? Well, it all depends on what story you’re telling.
We are in Chad telling a story of Creation, how God made all things in six days and called it all “very good.” There’s something in that story that Muslims find very surprising—and in fact, so do I, every time I read it! It’s on day six of Creation in Genesis 1:26a. “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image.’” Shocking, isn’t it? Then it’s confirmed in verse 27: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
But I wonder, do you SEE God’s image when you look at yourself? I tell my neighbors, “I have brought you God’s Word in your own language, because God created you with love in his heart, and he wants you to know his story.” Muslims don’t know that they are created in God’s image. And you can’t know, unless you hear the story. So we’re here to tell it. We’ve gone to great lengths to have the Creation story illustrated and translated into the local language and recorded so that everyone—and I mean EVERYONE—can know the story, and SEE God.
But we’re not stopping with the story of Creation. Because soon after Creation people lost the ability to see God’s image. They disobeyed God, rejecting his loving care for them. As a result, when they looked at themselves, instead of seeing God’s image, they saw nakedness. You can read that story in Genesis 3. And that story, also, we have translated, illustrated and recorded in this people’s language. Because how do you see the truth about God if you can’t even see the truth about yourself? And because they need to hear the rest of the story.
The rest of the story is what Jesus said to Philip: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” The Muslims know a little bit about Jesus. Their holy book, the Qur’an, says that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. But the rest of their story is not much like the story of Jesus in the Bible. The Qur’an says that Jesus performed a lot of miracles, but that he did not die. It says that God took him straight up into heaven. This might sound pretty cool, but our story of Jesus reveals him as the perfect image of God. It’s a story of his death on a cross of torture in order to destroy the shame of our sin. It’s a story of his resurrection from the dead to create a new humanity in the image of God! Want to hear the best part? He gives to you and me that new, restored, re-created humanity—the very image of God—when we hear the story and embrace its truth.
Don’t you SEE? It ALL depends on what story you tell.
You see God, because you see Jesus in his story. And when you see Jesus, you see yourself—the new re-created you—in love and peace and joy. This is the story we’ve just got to tell. Muslims don’t know it, Hindus don’t know it, Jews don’t know it, lots and lots of Americans and Canadians don’t know it, and the people of Chad that we live among don’t know it. So they don’t see Jesus, and they don’t see God. Which means they don’t know themselves—as his very image.
So we’re doing our very best to tell that story to people in Chad. But the eyes of faith are kind of funny: most of the time they’re completely blind. Only God’s Spirit can open them. Please pray for the people of Chad. And tell the story!
Is God calling you to mission work? Contact: [email protected]