“God is always watching, Beth. Never forget that.”
As a teenager, Beth always heard those words before going out with friends. It led her to view God as an angry hall monitor waiting for her to skip class so He could send her to the principal’s office. She promised herself that she would never say those words to her own kids if she became a mother one day.
There is a sad irony to Beth’s story. The Bible does tell us God is ever-present and always watching (Jer. 23:24; Proverbs 15:3). Being constantly reminded of that truth, however, led Beth to think less of God’s presence, not more.
When theology—even accurate theology—is used as a means to modify behaviour, it almost certainly creates stories that are untrue. Rather than reflecting on the beauty of God’s character, we end up dwelling on a caricature of Him.
How we think about God
Whether we are aware of it or not, we all have a theological viewpoint—a certain way we think about God. This thinking impacts not only how we explain who God is, but also how we interact with others—including the children in our lives—during the ordinary comings and goings of life.
The story Beth believed is that God is always watching, ready to punish her if she ever steps out of line. It is one of the most common false narratives Christians, particularly those who have grown up in church-going homes, tell themselves.
When Beth pushed back against that belief, she unknowingly told herself an equally false story—that God doesn’t notice, He doesn’t care, and “our best” should be good enough for whatever judgement may await.
Both narratives are false, and both will be passed on to the next generation unless the Spirit of God writes another story on Beth’s heart and mind. Her heart—and yours and mine—needs to be shaped by God’s story.
In our next post: What it looks like to have a heart shaped by God’s story.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bill McCaskell is the National Director for One Hope Canada.