What God is Like (Musings on the character of God) #4

trinity 2

No bad days and no bad parts…

“Holy, holy, holy…”  Revelation 4:8

Everyone has a character. We have either a good character or a bad one, or – most likely – a mixture of both. We’ve all used the figure of speech, “That guy has character,” or, “She has no character at all.” But in the strictest sense, everyone has character – of one quality or another.

God has character, a good one; in fact, the best character in the world, the only one that has no flaws in it. God is the only Person who never has to apologize to anyone at any time for anything! And fortunately for us he doesn’t have any bad days, times where he acts contradictory to his reputation of perfection. I have days like that, and I assume that you do too. That’s because we’re an annoying combination of virtue and the lack thereof. Even if you’re considered a “good person” – a person of good character  – there will be times when it looks like you don’t deserve to be called “good.” It’s predictable; you’re going to let people down, even those that you care about most. But God has no such mixture. He has no flaws or inconsistencies; he possesses unmitigated integrity.

Another way to put it is that God is consistent with himself at all times. Not only does he not have any bad days; he has no bad parts. A.W. Tozer said, “All of God does all that God does.” In other words, there is no conflict among his characteristics. His love and his justice never collide. His truth and his grace are never at war with each other. He never has a schizophrenic moment where one part within him feuds with another. All of his perfections work in collaboration with each other. He always acts consistently with who he is. His excellencies operate in collusion with all the rest of himself. In my case, instead of a consistent collusion within me at all times, there’s often a collision between my intentions and my actions. Not so with God – he’s got complete integrity and never acts “out of character” with himself.

We could also say that God’s personality traits are equal with respect to one another.  He’s not more “loving” than he is “just,” or more “holy” than He is “merciful.” When we imagine one aspect of God to be more important than another or elevate one of his attributes above another, we create a lopsided God, and are in danger of a form of idolatry.  All his attributes are compatible and there is perfect unity among all his perfections. All of him cooperates with all of the rest of him.

When we’re informed that God is “holy” I’m not convinced that the Bible is speaking of a separate characteristic of his, an attribute to be distinguished from the rest. It seems to me that his holiness is the sum total of all of his characteristics. Holiness is another way to say that he is whole. All that God is, he is perfectly. He’s missing nothing, a holy God.

The words integrity, whole, and holy are all related. Someone with integrity, i.e. a holy person, is someone who is whole, who has no gaps in their personality. All of their parts collude rather than collide. God has the premium on integrity. He’s the only one of us who is whole. Unlike us, he has nothing missing! He’s the “whole-est,” the holiest of all.

I said that God “has no bad parts.” But, since he exists in a single and un-complex unity with himself, it might be more accurate to say that God has no “parts” at all. What we call his “attributes” are simply the way he is and how he reveals himself to us. When he loves us he’s simply being himself, the God who is love. When he treats us mercifully, he’s just acting like the merciful one that he is.

Since his actions always match his character, forgive the language that God is “simple.” That is, because of his integrity we can always count on him to be the same person every time we encounter him. He may or may not do the same thing he did in the past or do it in the same way, but we can always expect him to be the same God of integrity that he’s always been. When we come to him we don’t have to wonder whether or not he’s in a receptive mood. In fact, he doesn’t have moods – which swing him in one direction or the other. He’s never out of the office or out of sorts. He’s always available and is always the same.

He said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He’s faithful and good and merciful and gracious and loving and just… all the time. There’s never a moment when God is anything but himself. He never has to say, “I’m just not myself today!” He is who he is all the time.

“Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace,

is drawn away from love of the thing he tells,

to love the telling till, down in Deep Hell,

they cannot be interested in God at all but

only in what they say about Him.”

(C.S. Lewis)

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