Scripture in Text
We all want to live a very good and happy life. That’s what God wants for us too. Our God is not a God who’s jealous about us having a good time. Our God is not a God who only sees our negative side and makes us feel guilty when we are happy. God is happy. God doesn’t want his children to be miserable. Like parents don’t want their children to be miserable. You know, we’re not jealous when our children are doing very well. In the same way, our God is very happy when his children, we are doing very well, but surprisingly many people have a distorted image of God. I wonder how that got into our consciousness, but we have so many people living with this distorted image. You know, depending on what image you have about yourself, your life will be very different and your life perspective will be different. The distorted image is the image of God who’s always angry, fearful and ready to punish us. Somehow we have this nagging thought about God, that God is always not pleased with you, not happy with you and always ready to do some negative things to you. See, I have this distorted image of God. We can never become close to God. How can you become close to a person who’s always fearful, critical and negative? You don’t want to be around them. You don’t want to approach them. In the same way when you have that distorted image about God, you don’t want to come close to God. You want to have a safe distance. So you live your life maintaining the safe distance from God. Okay? God, I’ll pay my respect, but I don’t want to get too much involved either. So instead of loving God, we fear God. A lot of people, their faith is about fearing god rather than a loving God.
We keep up our kind of religious life, but not really life of faith. We have tremendous guilt within us and that guilt assess certain distorted images about God. Then where does this distorted image come from? I was wondering maybe from Sunday school? When you’re young with your sensitive ears, your teacher really scares you. If you don’t act well or do well, you’ll go to hell and hell is like a big fire, then you will forever suffer there. I don’t know maybe you got that from Sunday school or from your fearful parents. If your parents are disciplinary kind of parents, we sometimes get the image of God through our parents because we cannot see God. So they create a certain image of God and everybody creates a certain image of God and then they create the image of God through the image of their parents. Maybe sometimes from the Bible. I mean there are some scary passages in the Bible, so whatever it is, I don’t know where that distorted image came to us and ingrained in us. My suspects, my suspicion is that we have created our own distorted image. It’s not from a Sunday school teacher, it’s not from the Bible, It’s not from a parents. We have imposed this distorted image upon ourselves. We are the culprits. We are not 100 percent satisfied with ourselves and we ourselves are the greatest critics and maybe the worst enemy to ourselves. Sometimes we do not live up to our own expectations of ourselves, so when we experienced failures and disappointment about ourselves, the failures confirm that we are not as good as we want to be. Guilt becomes piled up in us.
Accepting Myself and Others
I don’t know why we live with such a negative image of ourselves. I don’t know why we live with such a deep seeded guilt and this distorted image about ourselves is easily and readily translated into God’s attitude towards ourselves. when I cannot accept myself, how can we expect that God will accept me, when I am not pleased with myself? How can we say that God will be pleased with me? God knows me more than I know myself. God knows my deepest secrets and all the dark sides that I don’t even know sometimes. We hide as much as possible. Nobody knows, but God will see that and how can God love me? How can it be? This is why you’re scared of God? We fear God because he knows what you do when you’re alone or in your thoughts sometimes, you think “I don’t want anybody to know, I don’t want God to know”, but God knows. We know that God knows everything about us. We don’t think God has such a great image about us and God is not 100 percent pleased with us. We have firm belief in this negative thinking about ourselves and about God. We can never hear the good news that God loves us. This theory, God loves me. That sounds good, but I cannot believe that. Believing in Jesus Christ means that you believe that God loves you. God sent Jesus Christ to us because he loves us, but we’d never can truly accept that without a doubt. Believing in Christ, it’s not really abstract images, You just believe. Believing in Christ means that, “Oh, God loves me that much, that he sent Jesus Christ to us”. That’s what believing in Christ means.
Zacchaeus, all his life lived with this distorted image. He was a tax collector, during that time tax collectors were the lowest of the lowest, the worst in society. Not because they are poor, they are rich. Actually, the scripture says that he was rich, but morally and ethically, they were the lowest of lowest. You don’t want to deal with them. Everyone says, “oh, you’re a tax collector really?”, you don’t want to associate with them. Think about what that does to the self image of Zacchaeus. He lived all his life with that distorted image about himself. He didn’t want to live with that guilt and that image all the time. So he wanted to be healed somehow. He didn’t have a fiscal disease, he didn’t have any other problems. He was rich. He didn’t have financial problems, he was okay with this right? But he had a problem with this distorted image. So he wanted to be free from that and came to Jesus, not because he has an illness, but because of this bothering thought within himself. He was so short and went up to the tree to see Jesus and you know what? among all those people, Jesus chose Zacchaeus. He noticed Zacchaeus. Nobody really paid attention to this man, but Jesus noticed this man and called him. Choose him, “I’ll stay at your house”. Among all those people, God chose Zacchaeus to make him a special portion for Jesus to stay at his house. Jesus did not choose him because he was great. Jesus choose him precisely because he thinks that he is not great. Zacchaeus then all of a sudden, realized that I’m a special person. I’m not this or that, I’m a special person, I’m a precious person. When we are free from distorted image, we change. When you feel guilty, you don’t change. Zacchaeus changed completely. He restored his image. So what did he do? he said, “half of my position, I’ll give to the poor”. So he gave half of his position to the poor and if he ripped off anyone, he would pay them back four times. He has changed completely. When we are free from distorted image, we can become free and we can become generous and from self sufficient people we can became generous people.
Why can’t we forgive other people? because of distorted image. See, if you’re confident about your image and somebody criticizes you, whatever, it doesn’t bother you that much, but when you have distorted image and then somebody tells you that, then you get really angry, and can never forgive that person. when we are free from the distorted image, then we can be truly free from our selfishness, greed and narcissism. Jesus said two things to follow Jesus Christ. One, deny yourself and the other, take up the cross. Selfless sacrifice. He is talking about Zacchaeus who was able to practice that, not just in theory. In real life he was able to practice that. We are the victims of greed, selfishness and narcissism. I want all of us to be free from that. Faith is not about your feelings. Faith is very concrete. Zacchaeus concretely, was able to give out for the poor. That’s salvation. That is evolution, evolution is not just going to Heaven after you die. Salvation is total freedom. To be able to be the self giving people.
Be With God
That is the power of healing. I hope that we may be free from this distorted image. My friends, you are created in God’s image. You’re not created in that ugly image that you have. You are created in God’s image. I hope that we can all believe, that’s a fundamental belief that we have to have about ourselves. Then we can build our life upon it. This year you may be free from that distorted image and then actually press on to know God. As long as we have that distorted image, you would run away from God. You will hide from God continuously and you’ll catch yourself doing that. People do that in a very sophisticated way, but instead of hiding away, come close to God and get to know God in an intimate way.