I have a Jewish friend who says that his religion is “being spiritual and believing in God as he understands him.” He says his views are very open and that he dislikes the intolerance and narrow-mindedness of people who preach their own ideas about God and what He expects.
He explains: “I talk to God as I understand him every day, and though he does not answer, I know that he is there. I am not afraid of him. He does not condemn me. He fills me with peace and joy. And so, rather than the God I was told I should believe in, I chose the God I could believe in.”
Though I’ve heard this dozens of times from people who came from a “Christianized” or Church background, many Jewish people also have left synagogues, particularly the more orthodox ones, for similar reasons. After all, the God whom many people don’t understand and choose not to believe in — the God who actually wants to have a say about our personal lives — revealed Himself in the Hebrew Scriptures long before what we now know as the New Testament was given.
God promised in the Hebrew Scriptures, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). This shows that God wants to be known for who He is, not merely our best guess at who He might be.
The catch is the “all your heart” part. It implies that to truly find God, we have to be willing to give up our own prejudices and preconceptions, should they turn out to be untrue. A “God as I understand Him” is really a lower-case god who has no actual power other than what we choose to impart from our own understanding or preference. The real, all powerful God whom we don’t always understand says His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:9). He is holy as well as merciful, righteous as well as compassionate. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. But He also can’t forgive us if we think we’ve done nothing wrong, and we can’t understand what’s right or wrong if we treat God as the divine re-enforcer of our own choices.
Perhaps in the final analysis the key question is: Would we want to know God as He understands Himself, if that were possible? Prayer is a great place to start. Even such a simple one as: “God help me to understand who You are, not just who I want You to be.”