A few years ago my son Rowan came home from school with a question: “Do we believe in the right God or the wrong God?” he asked me.
Turns out, that’s what a friend had asked him at school, and although he admitted to me that he hadn’t really understood the question at the time, Rowan had answered, “The right God.”
Now, though, he wanted to know the difference between the two. “Who is the wrong God and who is the right God?” he asked me.
I’m not sure what Rowan’s friend had meant by his question. Who was the wrong God?
Was it Mohammed? Krishna? Buddha? The Old Testament God? The God of non-evangelical Christians? The Lutheran God? The Catholic God? The Pentecostal God? The God who accepted gay people? The God who accepted everyone?
Initially the question made me angry, because I assumed the young boy was making a judgment…or at least repeating a judgment he’d heard from his parents or his pastor.
But the more I thought about it, the more my anger turned to sadness and shame when I realized I, too, have made a distinction between the “right God” and the “wrong God.”
I know from my own experience that it’s tempting to define myself and my beliefs against someone else’s. And when I do that, I naturally consider myself on the “right” side of the fence, and a whole bunch of other people — people who don’t believe what I do or practice faith or religion (or politics) in the way I do — on the wrong side.
When I define myself against someone else, that person becomes “the other,” and I become “better than.”
This is not at all what God intends for us.
When he created humanity, God did not envision division and lines of demarcation. He envisioned us as one – different ethnicities, different nations, different languages, different custom and cultures, yes, but one in grace and love, one as children of God.
John described such unity in the Book of Revelation:
“After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, ‘Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10)
John’s vision is of heaven, but we forget, when we read these verses, that heaven starts here on earth. The vision John described so beautifully begins with each one of us.
Instead of drawing lines in the sand to declare who’s in and who’s out, who’s right and who’s wrong, who gets salvation and who doesn’t, it’s our job to live out God’s vision, which is much broader, wider, deeper and more spacious than we could ever imagine.