What if God was one of us?

A song leads us to consider our Savior, who became one of us and give his perfect life as a sacrifice for all sinners.

Timothy J. Westendorf

Some of you reading this are too old or too young to appreciate the reference. But as a guy who listened to pop music in the ‘90s, the song has always stuck with me. I sometimes find myself singing it 20 years later.

“One Of Us” was written by Eric Bazilian and released by Joan Osborne in 1995. It was the theme song of a television drama called “Joan of Arcadia” about a decade later. The song was nominated for a Grammy in several categories. I find the tune catchy and maybe a bit haunting.

But some of the words have always intrigued me. If I ever talked to Eric Bazilian or Joan Osborne, I might ask them what they had in mind when they wrote and sang:

If God had a name what would it be?

And would you call it to his face?

If you were faced with Him in all His glory

What would you ask if you had just one question?

And yeah, yeah, God is great

Yeah, yeah, God is good

And yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah

What if God was one of us?

Just a slob like one of us

Just a stranger on the bus

Tryin’ to make his way home?

If God had a face what would it look like?

And would you want to see if, seeing meant

That you would have to believe in things like heaven

And in Jesus and the saints, and all the prophets?

Was it just another song trying to appeal to the masses and make some money? Was it satirical, mocking dearly held Christian beliefs? Was it written out of frustration with what God claims to be and what he often seems to be? Was it a reflection of the embittered heart of a person who’s only known a perverted version of Christian teaching? Was it a true searching and longing for a God who is good and great and holy and glorious . . . and yet chooses to be so near and dear to the people of the human race that he knows by experience their pain, trials, loneliness, and weakness?

A longing for God

That last possibility seems to stick out from the rest, doesn’t it? It catches our eyes and hits our hearts as something desirable and refreshing. That’s not only true if you are a Christian. It is true if you are a human being. There is a longing for a Supreme Being who is so powerful that he is able to help in every situation. So glorious that he is bigger and more worthwhile than the small and fleeting accomplishments of our world. So holy that he has noble standards that revolve around selfless love. So great that he can be boasted of and be held up as better than any challenger. So good that he wants the best for his creatures and acts to carry out that desire. So just that the injustices and unfairness of this world might be fixed and forgotten forever.

And yet, if we are honest, wouldn’t all of us be asking ourselves some pretty serious questions about such a Being? What would such a good, great, holy, just, glorious and powerful Deity want with someone like me? How many times would his power be exercised to hurt me because I have harmed somebody more worthy of his love than I am? What would I have to offer his glorious Majesty with my short life, small accomplishments, and minimal worth? What would someone so holy think of my foul thoughts, whining pettiness, vengeful plans, spiteful words, and lazy work ethic? What would he say about my level of thankfulness for all the good gifts he has given?

While I need and even want God to be holy and great and powerful and glorious, more than anything else I need him to be kind, compassionate, gracious, forgiving, brotherly, and fatherly. I need one who is holy but does not cast me away because of my sin. I need somebody who is great yet still takes time for insignificant me. I need one who is powerful but is, without a doubt, on my side with that power. I need somebody who is glorious but uses it not to consume and crush me but to console and comfort me.

God is with us

The Bible tells us that such a God is not only possible; he is reality. The Scriptures answer that provocative question, “What if God was one of us?” with this utterly astounding, incomprehensible, and awesome response: “He was. He is.”

Matthew’s gospel tells of an angel who appeared to a man named Joseph. Joseph’s pledged wife Mary had become pregnant without his involvement. The angel assured him that this child was like none other, conceived in Mary’s womb by God himself. He told Joseph that this was the fulfillment of an ancient promise of God penned by his prophet Isaiah, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’)” (Matthew 1:23).

What if God was one of us? He was. He is. If he had a name what would it be? Jesus, “because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). What if God was just a slob, a stranger? He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected (Isaiah chapter 53). The world did not recognize him, did not receive him, even though he had created it (John chapter 1). If God had a face what would it look like? A face of compassion, with pure and pitying eyes, truth-speaking lips (Matthew 9:35,36), and a face set like flint to carry his highly important, brutally difficult mission (Isaiah 50:6,7).

He, being the eternal God, would enter human history to take care of the world’s long-standing curse of sin and death. He, being divinely holy, would live among sinners yet be without sin and give his perfect life as a sacrifice for a guilty human race. He, the beloved and pleasing Son of God, would allow himself to be forsaken by his Father that rebels might become his brothers and sisters, dearly loved children of the heavenly Father. He, the everlasting Word, would speak words of good news and good cheer to all nations, but choose to reveal them and their power in a gospel message recorded by prophets and apostles that comes to human hearts in word and water, wine and wheat. He, the All-knowing and All-ruling, would serve as the only needed mediator, pointing God and man to his sacrifice that made peace, once for all. He, the Ever-Present, would visibly leave, yet promise to be near to hear and answer his siblings’ sighs with the empathy of one who knows the human experience all too well.

What if God was one of us? He was. He is. That is the marvel, mystery, and meaning of Christmas. We no longer need to ask the question because he has answered it once for all in Jesus Christ! Find your Christmas joy and peace in him, the God who is your brother.

Timothy Westendorf is pastor at Abiding Word, Highlands Ranch, Colorado.



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Author: Timothy J. Westendorf
Volume 104, Number 12
Issue: December 2017

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