The late Christopher Hitchens wrote a book called, God is not great: Why religion poisons everything. He is responding to the many times on the news when we see conflicts going on around the Arab world and when a mortar flies or a bomb goes off we hear one of the fighters shout, what is known as the Takbir, or Alluha Akbar (الله أكبر) translated as “God is great” o”God is greater” or more accurately, “God is greatest”. Hitchens refutes this in his refreshingly unsubtle way. Now this is the “God-talk” of many Muslims. God is the greatest being in the universe. Hitchens begs to disagree.
As I was reflecting about our “God-talk” recently, I wondered what we say about God. What is God’s most important attribute? What I mean is how we talk about God? What do we say God is? I know we do refer to God as “He” or “Him” and so we tend to think of God as a man; which, of course, is not true. God is not male, nor is God female. God is both. Is God’s most important attribute greatness? Many Christians may say, “yes”, I would say “no”.
The Bible has a clear stance on this, Yes God is great but God’s most important attribute is love not greatness. In fact we could probably say that God’s greatness is seen in his love. The most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16 says this. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son”. God’s love immediately leads to giving not getting. From the start God serves humanity. In the Garden of Eden, God provides food for the first humans. In most other creation stories, humans are created to provide for the God. Not so with the biblical God.
There is a danger in that we start to talk about God in, what amounts to, a non-Christian manner. In our context where there is a perceived conflict between the Islamic world and the West, Christians feel that there is a need to defend God; to super-inflate his greatness. Chris Tomlin’s song “Water you turned into wine” falls into this trap. “Our God is greater, our God is stronger our God is higher than any other”. My first beef is to ask, just how many God does Tomlin think there are? As far as I can see the Bible discounts the existence of any other God who desrves worship. And secondly, this is not a competition between competing deities. It smacks of “my dad’s bigger than your dad” of a childhood playground. If our God is great then he is great because he serves.
By extension then, if we want greatness, then its down on our knees to serve as well.