What is Glory?
What is glory? That is a question I have been asking nearly all my life. Yet I still feel I am only scratching the surface in discovering a satisfactory answer to this question.
Initially when I was young, the notion of glory was typically associated with something like a halo or a bright light surrounding a person's head or body. I'm sure this was heavily influenced by artwork used to illustrate stories like Jesus being glorified on the Mount of Transfiguration where certainly bright light was involved. There are the horrible pictures from medieval ages where Jesus and various 'saints' are depicted with some sort of pious halo of light around their head. I never found any of those pictures attractive in the least, but clearly these artificial halos were intended to convey the idea of holiness about a person (whatever that was supposed to mean).
As I grew older and learned more and more theology from instruction throughout my entire educational life as a student, I was taught that the concept of name as well as glory had to do with character. This made more sense though it raised questions about the story of the transfiguration. But the concept of light associated with truth as it is throughout Scripture, glory and light do seem to fit with each other.
Then there is the issue of deception and the ability of the enemy to transform himself using bright light (2 Cor. 11:14) to dazzle and seduce people into believing that his character is holy and pure simply because he can produce a spectacular light show. The current entertainment industry relies on this association of light for glory by using special effects to convey the idea of superiority of power or character by casting a brilliant aura around a person whenever they want us to believe something special about them. But again, I sense the use of a great deal of intentional deception designed to distract from the real truth about glory.
We are just ending a holiday weekend here in the U.S. called Memorial Day. During this season the religious media establishment overwhelms us with patriotic movies and clichés as flags fly everywhere including in churches to honor veterans of our military in particular. This makes me uneasy because I sense it is an overt attempt to amalgamate blind loyalty for our country and anything it chooses to do with its military might, with God and religion. During this time of year along with the upcoming Independence day celebrations, this sordid amalgamation of violence as godliness rises to a fever pitch. Anyone daring to even raise questions about this intense patriotism is instantly branded as disloyal and maybe even a traitor. Little discussion is tolerated as to the inappropriateness of such fervor making me even more suspicious that it is rooted in intentional deception and designed to entice the masses into conforming to the political whims of our leaders.
There is likely nothing more overtly designed to use violence and the use of raw force than our military. This is how we impose arbitrary authority over others in our world. The very concept of any military is intimately linked to the idea of force through violence intended to overwhelm any opposition of opponents. What we are unwilling to admit is that this betrays a deep addiction to the philosophy of violence. We have glorified our military to the point of making it a religion that we are not even allowed to question.
If you think I am exaggerating about these things, let me give a very practical example you can try yourself to prove my point. Just try raising a 'Christian' flag on a flagpole above an American flag in public and see how long it takes to draw the fury of someone deeply offended at such an arrangement. This has happened and I can assure you that patriotic people in our country and especially military veterans will easily become offended by such an arrangement. Yet what this literally means is that we endorse the belief that our government must have higher priority over our lives than Christ whether we are willing to put that into words or not. In fact this may well be the case yet we are afraid to admit it.
How ironic can it be that we are eager to integrate all sorts of military and Christian symbols in our stories to glorify our military and country as being endorsed by God, yet be so offended if someone dares to fly a symbol of God above the symbol of a country addicted to violence through military force. If a person is honest, which is becoming more and more rare these days, the contradiction can hardly be more obvious. Our country has embraced an addiction to violence as seen in our video games, our movies and entertainment, our sports and in what we choose to report as news every day. We may try to mitigate that violence by launching campaigns to reduce it in the streets or against women or whatever, but we are fighting a losing battle because we continue to glorify violence as something noble while we raise our children taught to believe that force is an indispensable part of life.
Violence as a necessary part of governance has infected every philosophy and religion on this planet. Christianity is no less guilty of promoting violence than Islam, though many would vehemently reject that claim. We are blinded as we embrace violence as the only solution to these threats while we condemn Muslims for relying on violent tactics. We view them as our enemies and thus cannot condone anything they do. Yet in fighting violence by resorting to even greater violence are we not endorsing the very philosophy we insist is not appropriate for our enemies? We live the height of hypocrisy no different than religious leaders in Jesus' day who ultimately resorted to violence to murder the Lord of Life and Love. Then to justify our addiction to violence we accuse God of being behind the violence against Jesus as some sort of sordid way to vent His purported wrath against sinners.
This takes us back to the very source of our obsession with violence and our resistance to the true gospel of Jesus Christ – our beliefs about God. The philosophy of this world is all rooted in the origins of the author of violence, Satan himself. The symbol of his form of governance was a tree called the Knowledge of Good and Evil and it represented a system of reliance on enforced rewards and punishments designed to control behavior and maintain order. This philosophy has saturated humanity so thoroughly throughout history that it comes as a shock and even a threat to imagine that maybe God does not endorse violence or rely on it to accomplish His sovereign will.
What happens is that we resist believing that God's ways can work apart from employing coercion and violence. We believe it is impossible to overcome evil without indulging in it, so we form our opinions about God in ways that conform Him to be what we want Him to be rather than allowing Jesus to be the only trustworthy revelation of the truth of God's character and methods. Yet no matter how much we may insist that God will sooner or later resort to the methods we prefer to defeat our enemies, the truth remains and will always remain that God is not like us and never will be.
These things you have done and I have been silent; you thought that I was one just like yourself. But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you. (Psalms 50:21)
The god we have created in our image is purely an imaginary god we have formulated out of our own desires even though we may use sacred texts to justify our system of beliefs. No matter how much patriotism we might wrap about our religion, it can never hide the fact that our version of God more closely resembles our imagination as conveyed in cartoons or hero movies than the humble Jesus who loved His enemies and forgave them unconditionally in real time even while they indulged in violence to torture Him to death.
So what does this all have to do with glory? It has everything to do with it, for like nearly every other religious term, we have hijacked this word to mean things very different from its origin associated with God. We worship and value violence as the ultimate means to win over our enemies; we glorify as heroes those who risk the most through violence or who experience violence in military conflicts. Yet Jesus taught and demonstrated that we have no business hating our enemies to begin with. That means violence is completely inconsistent with true Christianity, for to favor one side over another when it comes to any conflict is against everything Christ taught or lived. If we give preference to our own military while demonizing our opponents, we cannot authentically claim to being a Christian nation because the Christ we profess to worship clearly commanded us to unconditionally love and pray for our enemies, not to attack them with violence.
The only way we can begin to discover the true kind of glory that comes from God is to be willing to abandon the distorting lies and the slander about the character of the One we claim is in charge of the universe. God is not like us and never will be despite all our demands to the contrary (Mal. 3:6). The artificial god of violence we have preferred to glorify and worship is a far cry from the God Jesus came to reveal as completely humble, willing to make Himself fully vulnerable and to allow Himself to be exploited by His enemies without resistance while forgiving and loving them all the way to death.
This gets closer to the real truth about glory, an overwhelming kind of glory so intense that we find it offensive and reprehensible because it is so incompatible with everything we want to think about God. Deep inside we are afraid that if God refuses to resort to force and use violence at some point that evil can never be defeated. But this only betrays the reality that we do not really believe in Jesus' version of God but prefer a savior who will do things our way like the Jews wanted. We reject His instructions to lay down our arms and be willing to die for our enemies and create a god more to our own liking.
Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26)
So what does true glory look like? It looks like Jesus dying on a cross in extreme agony because those He loved hated the fact that He was undermining their systems of power and domination with crazy ideas about being great by being humble and loving enemies. The God that Jesus came to reveal to the universe was so radically opposite from the one they wanted in charge that when the real God showed up looking and acting like love alone, they found Him reprehensible and an intolerable threat to national security. And the very same attitudes are still present today.
One of the reactions you get when suggest that Christianity should reflect what Jesus taught is that if we were crazy enough to try the principles of Christ in the way we ran our country, we would quickly lose everything to our enemies. That notion is unthinkable for a nation addicted to reliance on power and violence to maintain our status in the world. Yet it only goes to prove the fact that our claims to be a Christian nation while glorifying our military escapades is patently hypocritical and antichrist to its core. To insist that our culture of violence is endorsed by the same God who sent Jesus to reveal Him as willing to humble Himself and allow us to exploit Him to death could hardly be more incongruent. We are attempting to amalgamate incompatible concepts which force us to blind ourselves to the truth as revealed in Jesus.
To come to a knowledge of the real truth of original Christianity, we will have to renounce the false images of God we have created and go back to learn from the meek and humble Jesus what God is actually like. We must repent of the myriads of lies we have believed and promoted about God that deny His ability to govern through love alone. We must allow Him to define Himself through Christ and retrain us if we ever hope to participate in His kingdom that will endure throughout eternity.
This means we will have to learn to speak the truth in love alone, renouncing all attempts to impose what we think is truth on others by use of threats and intimidation. God does not rely on violence to get His way despite all the opinions throughout history to the contrary. Jesus, the Son of God, is the only one we can trust to reveal the truth about His Father and we must be careful not to rely on any other source that dilutes the clear truth as it is found in the example and teachings of the only Son of God.
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:1-3)