How does the way we perceive God affect and influence the way we interact with others? A lot! Frankly, it affects every area of our lives.
Why is this? Because our identity is in God. He made us with a purpose — to have a relationship with Him and one close enough that He can call us “Beloved.” How we perceive God will influence how we interact with Him. How we perceive Him will influence how we interact with others. Allow me to explain.
If I perceive God as mostly a God of truth and justice (which often is applied and interpreted as angry and unmerciful), I will very likely view myself and others with a lack of compassion and will very likely tend to be hard-nosed, rigid, inflexible. I may tend to be over-bearing in my parenting, seeing my children as the enemy and doing anything and everything to force their compliance. I may overuse the word “No.” I may tend to use more criticism and overlook opportunities when praise and encouragement should be given. I may operate out of a spirit of fear. I may live with lots of personally enforced lists of “do’s” and “don’ts.” I may tend toward legalism (operating out of a works-base or set of rules then from a true heart of love and willing submission). I may seek friendships with people who tend toward following rules and man-made standards. I may witness, focusing only on God’s wrath with over-emphasis on Hell rather than on the work of Christ.
It may also mean that I react in anger and rebellion and avoid anything having to do with God.
If I perceive God as only mercy and grace, I may think that religion is only about making me feel good, everything and anything goes, that I can do whatever I feel like doing, that there are no absolutes. I may tend to parent with a permissive attitude, only using rewards and never punishment to correct a child’s behavior. I may avoid using the word “No” when communicating with my children. I may avoid conflict at any cost — even when it means I compromise all my beliefs and stand for nothing. I may surround myself with only people who are positive thinkers. I may live carelessly and without discernment, lacking respect of God and other authority figures. (My faith may be careless and casual.) This may mean I avoid any reference to punishment, sin, or hell. I may see any form of judgement or punishment as being wrong.
If instead, I have a proper view of God, as set forth in Scripture, I will understand that He is a God of mercy and truth. He is loving. He is just. He is righteous. He is long-suffering. He is forgiving. He is holy. The list goes on…
With a balanced view of God, I respect God because He is worthy of my respect: He is Truth! He is holy and righteous! He is also just. I also love God because I see that He is long-suffering, forgiving, gracious, compassionate, merciful. I desire a relationship with Him because of this. I also understand that in order to have a relationship with Him, I need to be obedient to Him and repent when I do wrong. I am free to have a closer walk because He does forgive and is gracious. I have freedom to obey Him because of His grace. I cannot have a proper relationship with God without understanding these concepts regarding God.
A balanced view of God will help me to understand how I am to interact with others. I need to speak the truth but always in love. I am to be compassionate and loving when presenting God’s justice and also His forgiveness. This will help me to have friendships/interactions with people of all walks of life and to be willing to invest in their lives, even when it means I might suffer personally.
My parenting should reflect a balanced usage of positive reinforcement and negative consequences. We should be able to use the words “No” and “Yes” properly. We should lead by example through personal obedience to God and through kind but just guidance in the lives of our children.
It is crucial that we have a proper understanding of God because it does and will influence our relationship with Him and then how we interact with others.