personally speaking

I was recently reading some essays by a person who takes a more universalist view of God and the spiritual life, accepting all the major religions as descriptions of the same truth. And I can certainly appreciate the parallels that are obviously there. They do seem to reinforce the truth of many of the important teachings of Jesus (and others).

It seems, though, that the personal nature of God seems to get lost with the universalist approach. Like with other universally accepted truths, such as the physical sciences, the focus tends to be on consistent laws and forces that everyone can observe or experience. So there's lots of discussions on ethics or morality or helpful religious practices. And also lots of references to God as a force, or life, or as Reality, Truth, etc. But God as Person doesn't easily fit with the "all religions are one" belief, and it's usually set aside.

Maybe it doesn't make much difference to our ethics or actions whether or not God is personal. But it would seem to make a difference to how we think God feels about us, and how we feel about God. We are personal. And we experience love in a personal way, through parents and friends and spouses. We are loved by persons and we love as persons. We can experience and believe in the force of gravity, but we are not loved by gravity. So it seems pretty important that God is personal if we are to know the love of God, and love God. And isn't that the main thing, at least according to Jesus? Not to believe in God, or fear God, or obey God, but to love God with all your heart.

Perhaps the biggest difficulty in accepting a personal God is dealing with the possibility that our suffering (and others') may be connected somehow to a personal will, rather than impersonal laws and chance. A bitter struggle indeed.

But as I contemplate right now the relationship of a child to his parents, and anticipate looking on my son with love, I cannot help seeing that as a powerful sign for us. An image so fundamental—and universal—in human experience that I recognize the revelation of God in it. Not many religions speak of God as our Father, but Jesus did. And he taught and showed us that we are loved, and that the God of the universe desires to be loved by us.