I wonder if there is a back door way of peaking into our view of God. Is it possible that the way we treat others is a reflection of how we perceive God treating us? I know that there are many different reasons that we act the way we do and relate to people the way we do, but I wonder if we can see inside our hearts through our actions.
For instance, the Bible tells us that we are to love one another, to consider others more important than ourselves, to encourage one another, to support one another, etc. These are the ethical teachings that describe how we are to act as God's children. Now if we start with ethics, then the focus is on our efforts, one our obedience, on our submission to these commands. But the fact is that I can do all of these things and not do them out of love. I can do them out of a sense of duty, out of a sense of wanting a reward in heaven or out of a sense of looking for God's approval. In other words, I can make obedience about performing the right actions.
But if this is how I "obey" God, this reveals something about how I see God. It reveals that God is someone with high standards and he expects me to fulfill his high standards. (Some might at this point proclaim, "The Bible states that we are to be holy as God is holy and that we are called to be 'perfect.'" But these scriptures are not commands to live up to a certain moral standard. Instead they are about a state of being. To be holy is to be set apart, to be called out from. To be "perfect" is about being distinct, not about accomplishing some kind of moral standards test. We can be "holy" and "perfect" and still fail at times.) Ok back to how I view God. If my focus lies on doing stuff for God and trying to fulfill a certian list of what I think it means to be a good Christian, then I must view God as impersonal an uninvolved in my life. I must think of him as putting the pressure upon me to perform and not as the imitimate lover of my soul.
Let me take this a bit further. If I'm a person who uses people for my own gain, I take advantage of every opportunity at others' expense, and I am basically selfish, is it possible that this is how I perceive God. If I see God as an egocentric being in heaven who demands obedience and worship without any sense of relationship or explanation, then God is a tyrant who uses others for his own benefit. I then reflect this tyranical experience upon others.
We reflect the God we know and experience.
So what kind of God am I reflecting? What is the reflection seen in me?
1 John tells us that we love because he first loved us. Is it possible that we love people with self-sacrificial, other-oriented, choice-based actions and emotions because that is what we experience in our relationship with God. So we could spend lots of effort on getting our actions to line up with loving actions or we could allow God to reveal his love to us and shape us from the inside out.