According to Dictionary.com, profiling is “the use of personal characteristics or behavior patterns to make generalizations about a person.” I trust we all agree that racial profiling (i.e. assuming that people behave a certain way because of their skin color) is wrong. On another level, though, we do profile all the time–and it can be very innocent.
For example, every time we meet someone new, we use our past experiences to give us some information about that person. We may call it our “first impression.” You see a woman wearing a long loose black gown and a traditional Roman Catholic head covering, and you would profile her as a nun. You would probably be right. When we meet someone, we automatically look for a category that seems to make sense to put that person into. Are they old or young, rich or poor, polite or rude, etc? As we get to know the person, of course, we may need to change our impression.
It makes sense that we tend to profile God, too. What category does He fit into? The popular approach is to imagine that God is a lot like us, except bigger and better—much like the image of God as a kind grandfather with a long white beard. What if that isn’t true, though? Just as we can be wrong when we profile other people, so we can also be wrong in the way that we profile God.
Even the early Apostles struggled to know how to profile Jesus. Let me give you an example from Mark 4:35-41. One day Jesus and His disciples got into a boat and began sailing across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was exhausted from a long day of preaching and healing, and He fell asleep in the boat. A raging storm suddenly appeared. The other men in the boat struggled valiantly to keep the boat from sinking, while Jesus remained asleep. When it looked as if there were no hope left, they woke Jesus up and asked whether or not He cared that they were all going to die.
Jesus stood up and said, “Hush, be still” to the storm–and it stopped instantly. Think about it. One moment there was a strong wind and pounding rain rocking their boat and threatening their very lives. Seconds later, there was no wind, no rain, and no waves. The threat to their lives was gone, but then “they became very much afraid…” (Mark 4:41). Why?
The storm was scary, to be sure, but at that moment Jesus scared them even more. They had never met anyone who could make nature obey instantly. They had no category for that kind of person. That is why they said, “…Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mark 4:41). Can you imagine suddenly realizing that the Creator of the universe was actually in the boat with you? What if you found yourself in the presence of the One who had the power to speak the entire universe into existence?
The disciples already knew that Jesus was a captivating preacher and could heal the sick, but His power over the storm put Him into a category all by Himself. (You can read similar reactions to Jesus in John 7:46; Mark 2:12; and Matthew 9:33).
God’s profile is totally unique. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’ ” (Isaiah 55:8–9).
Here is the point: God’s profile is NOT whatever we think or whatever we want Him to be. God tells us that He is holy, eternal, pure, and in control of everything. That is why He hates all of our sins. In fact, He hates sin so much that He crushed God the Son on the Cross in order to pay for it.
“The Lord was pleased to crush Him, [Jesus] putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering. …As a result of the anguish of His soul, He [God the Father] will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:10–11).
God’s love is amazing, but we can’t appreciate that love until we accept that Jesus had to suffer greatly to pay for our sins. Only the forgiveness He purchased made the way for a holy God to love us eternally. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten [one of a kind or unique] Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).