Thougths of faith: God is up close, personal

How would you feel if you knew that someone was watching your every move?

We live in a world with security cameras watching us almost everywhere, GPS location devices in our cell phones and cars constantly broadcasting where we are, and seemingly endless information about us on the internet.

It seems that the time is getting shorter between somebody’s offensive remark or outrageous behavior at a place they thought was “private” and the posting of a video of that event on You Tube.

Many people are furious about recent revelations of the extent to which government organizations are gathering information about us that we used to think was private and protected.

A popular song several years ago proclaimed, “God is watching us?from a distance.”

The Bible has a different point of view. God is not watching us from a distance; God is watching us, every moment, every day, up close and personal.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You?are acquainted with all my ways.” Psalm 139:1-3

“Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?” Psalm 139:7

How do we feel about that?

Our reaction is intimately tied to our concept and knowledge of the nature of God.

If God is a tyrant to be feared, this is not good news. It’s like the negative images of Santa Claus: “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.

If God is like that, that’s not good news.

Some of us were raised by parents or Sunday school teachers who tried to scare us into good behavior by filling us with images of a God who was constantly looking at us, and certainly you wouldn’t want God to catch you doing?..!

Or we may just cherish our sense of privacy. I once was teaching a Sunday school class of teenagers and we were talking about God’s presence. One boy responded in disgust: “You mean God sees me when I’m kissing my girl friend? Yuk!”

In contrast, the writer of Psalm 139 found it to be good news that God was constantly with us, for God’s presence guides and protects us.

“?even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.” Psalm 139:10

“?even the darkness is not dark to you; for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:11-12

I heard someone say that the definition of a true friend is someone who knows you as you really are, and still loves you and wants to be with you. A true friend is someone who will stick with you not just when you’re lovely and interesting and “good”, but also when you are tired and irritable and doing some unpleasant things.

Many Christians are used to singing a hymn that is among their favorites: “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!” They believe that Jesus, as God’s incarnation, is a true friend, who knows us as we really are, loves us completely and unconditionally, and will never give up on us or abandon us. That is good news.

In an adult Sunday school class I was attending, the teacher asked, “When do you find it most difficult to be good?” A man whom I had come to trust as very wise replied, “I find it most difficult to be good when I think nobody is watching.” The more I listened to him, the more I realized that he cherished the idea of God being with him and watching him as a source of the strength he needed to live every moment of his life according to the highest ideals that he held.

In the end, the writer of Psalm 139 comes to the same conclusion: “O Lord, you know me completely. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me? I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I come to the end-I am still with you.” Psalm 139:4,14,18

May you also discover the love and grace of God that enables you come to the same joyful conclusion.

Karl Kumpf is a retired minister living in Marietta.