There's something else about all of this, about the features of Christ's face and the form of God's spirit (going back a few posts). I've said before that the people who know me best would tell you that one of my gifts is practical theology. I mentioned this in conversation with one of my ministers the other day, in passing, and then joked: I prefer impractical theology.
But ain't that the truth? The problem that so many outsiders have with Christianity, and indeed, that so many Christians have with Christianity, is that it seems to be full of impractical theology. That is, the question we're all asking boils down to "What good is your God?'
The answer is tricky, which is why we keep running up against the impractical. Because when you talk about what good God is, it's easy to connect Him to circumstances. To tell about the tangible things God has done for you, or does in your life. It's easy to stay on the surface.
It's not that hard to see. It's the woman that tells you that God brings joy, but you haven't seen her smile in 20 years. It's the man who talks about the God of peace, but he hasn't slowed down enough to even breathe. It's the guy who talks about the love of God while he holds a picket sign of hate against the hot issue of the day. It's the girl who says that God is gentleness then locks herself in the bathroom with a razor.
Even worse, it's the woman who tells you about God's comfort when it's plain as day she's simply ignoring her grief. It's the man who talks about God's truth but it's obvious he's in denial of the facts. It's the person down the street who tells you that God is above all things when that person is under so much burden.
It's all of these grand ideas we have about God that we've connected only to circumstances and not to our hearts. It's all of these concepts of God that ignore the heart of God and keep us a safe distance from the God of the heart.
It's impractical theology at its best. Because the God of circumstance will fail people. Stuff happens. Things happen. Circumstances happen. If God is in your circumstances, you're setting Him up to fall. If God is not a presence in your heart, He cannot be of any good to you. If He isn't touching that which is most deeply you, then He's not God at all. He's an idea. He's a figment.
This is what bothers people about God. I think it's what bothered me for so many years. All of the Christians I ever ran into, all of the religious that I ever talked with, had a lot to say about God but nothing to show for Him.
So what is a practical theology? It's quite simple. It's the God that gets at the heart of things. It's connecting a man's raw heart to the pulse of God, drawing the life of God into the life of man and making Him relevant. Not about circumstances and not above circumstances but beyond circumstances. Beyond any face this world might want to put on Him.
The true face of God is revealed in the woman who speaks of God's joy and can't stop beaming it with her beautiful, un-self-conscious smile. It is shown by the man who talks about peace and isn't shaken by hurry or time. It's shaped by the guy who talks about love and embraces a brother with whom he has a fundamental disagreement. It's in the girl who looks in the mirror and finds grace staring back at her.
The face of God is shown in the eyes of a grieving woman who is torn but not tattered. In the lines of a man who holds onto truth without ignoring the facts. In the person down the street who is raised up by the God who is above all things and learns to stand on her challenges.
Practical theology is the God of the heart, and it brings us to the very heart of God. It brings us the place where God is good again, where He is not only good but He is of good to His people. Where God makes a difference and matters in this place. Where God changes things.
And where the face of God is revealed in our own, as we show in striking rawness just who God is. And what He means to a people like us.