God was ‘One of Us’

John 14:8-11 Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father”

“What if God was one of us?” This was the catch question in the song ‘One of Us’ written by Eric Bazilian and sung by Joan Osborne in 1995. Many people have wondered what motivated the song. And for many Christians the most intriguing question is; did the writer know that the Bible says God was indeed one of us? That is obviously a question only he can answer. But in an interview about ‘One of Us,’ Eric Bazilian said something that interests me; he said
“When I write songs, I don’t have any agenda. I often learn a lot about what I’m thinking about any given issue from the songs I write about it. There was no conscious decision to write a song with the “G” word in it, but it ended up sort of summing up my world view inadvertently, just by the words that happened to pour out of me at the time” (songfacts.com).
I think this happens to many artists. They have sudden bursts of inspiration and only after expressing what’s in them do they then sit back and go ‘Oh yeah, I guess those really are my thoughts.’
I have put the words of the song below. Some Christians may feel there is a tone of irreverence in the words, and there may be. Either Eric is fully acquainted with the belief that Jesus was ‘God with us’ and is mocking it, or he is unaware and is wishing that God really would walk among us so we can know him in person. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt here and assume he is not mocking and that he would be interested in knowing a God who walks among us as ‘One of Us.’
With this view in mind, I think this song says what many people desire. People desire that God be a friend; someone that you don’t have to fear, someone you can chat to over a cup of coffee, someone who experiences the difficulties of this life and can say “Yeah, I know how you feel.” So often God is portrayed as someone distant who is too holy for anyone to get near, and who gets angry at the slightest thing we do wrong. Many people have this concept of God and may even worship him out of that fear, but is that the right way to worship? Surely worship is about love, and love is about a close a relationship? If this is what Eric is really saying, I’m on his side. That’s my desire too.
Here are the words of the song. You decide what is being said:
(For the sake of space I have not included the repeats)

One of Us

If God had a name what would it be?
And would you call it to his face?
If you were faced with him in all his glory
What would you ask if you had just one question?

And yeah, yeah God is great
yeah, yeah God is good
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home

If God had a face what would it look like?
And would you want to see,
If seeing meant that you would have to believe,
In things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints,
And all the prophets?

[Latter chorus follow on]
Tryin’ to make his way home
Back up to heaven all alone
Nobody callin’ on the phone
‘Cept for the Pope maybe in Rome

The song ‘One of Us’ asks some interesting questions about God, and as a Christian, my answers would go like this:
1. What if God was one of us?
Well, according to the Bible, God was one of us. Jesus was and is the incarnation of God. The Old Testament refers to him as ‘Emmanuel’ which means ‘God with us.’
The song adds the description ‘Just a slob like one of us.’ I think ‘slob’ here means a ‘lowly human;’ something lower than heavenly beings. And again we can say yes God did become a lowly human, he was like a stranger on the bus trying to make his way home.’ Jesus was often on foot and occasionally a donkey doing precisely that. He experienced the normal difficulties of human life and more.
2. If God had a name what would it be?
The main biblical name God gave us for himself is YAHWEH (Exodus 3). It means ‘I AM’ in reference to him being ultimate reality – the one from whom all reality comes. In the New Testament Jesus claimed to be YAHWEH when he is said “Before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58).
3. Would you call God’s name to his face?
I certainly would. Christians have no problem saying YAHWEH to God’s face. In fact there are a number of Christian worship songs that have the name YAHWEH in the lyrics, and Christians sing those words to God’s face all the time.
4. If God had a face what would it look like?
One of Jesus’ disciples wanted to see God’s face. Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us’ (John 14:8). Jesus answered with an answer that also answers this song. He said, ‘If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.’
I want to assert something here. WE ALL NEED GOD TO HAVE A HUMAN FACE. We need God to become ‘one of us’ if we are going to be able to understand him and relate to him. If he doesn’t have a human face we will probably end up worshiping a man who is not God. There are a number of religions that exalt the main message bearer to a status that exceeds respect for an ordinary human being, and when they do this they have begun to worship that person. Either a person is God and deserves our worship or they are not God and deserve the respect given to any ordinary human being, but we should never exalt an ordinary man or woman so they are at a level that is between us and God!
Christians lift up Jesus to the status of God, but that is to be expected because they believe he is God. It’s perfectly in line with what their scriptures say. In the New Testament the apostle Paul said, ‘In Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form’ (Col 2:9). And the writer of Hebrews said, ‘The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being’ (Heb 1:2). Jesus himself said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). In the original language of the New Testament (Greek) the word ‘one’ here is neuter so Jesus was saying, “I and the Father are one thing.”
5. Would you want to see God’s face if seeing meant that you would have to believe in things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints and all the prophets?
This is a very good question. If we say, “No, we wouldn’t want to see God’s face if it meant that we had to believe in Jesus,” we have shown we would rather live a lie than find out that God is real and that he walked the earth. And it is unfortunate, but I think this is true of many people; they don’t want to be accountable to God or have to alter their lifestyles to please God, so they avoid any evidence that suggests there could be a God and don’t check the facts to see if it is true.
If we believe that Jesus is the human face of God, then this last question actually reads, ‘Would you want to see Jesus if it meant you would have to believe in him?’ In Bible times and modern times every person I know of who has had a supernatural vision or visitation of Jesus has ended up WANTING to believe in him. It’s not that they have to; it’s more that they WANT to. They all find that Jesus is an amazingly attractive person.
So, if I have understood the words of this song correctly then Jesus is the answer to all the questions raised in the song. In fact if the song had an ending that went, “Yeah, yeah Jesus is the name; yeah, yeah Jesus is the face,” the song would, I think, be more complete.
I prepared this message as a lead up to Easter, why? Well, the cross only makes sense if the man on it was God. Some people have said Christianity is barbaric because an innocent man died on a cross for bad people. Well, Christianity would be barbaric if the man on the cross was only a man, but that’s not the claim. The claim of the Bible is that God became a man and gave his very own life on the cross; the Lawmaker subjected himself to his own laws, lived them out perfectly and then took the punishment of the transgressors willingly by dying on a cross. It is the Lawmakers mercy in action, this makes all the difference.
Let me finish by saying; I like God. I like him because I think he is like Jesus. It is a God that speaks and acts like Jesus that has won my heart. It is a God who knows humility, selflessness and submission that I love, follow, worship and serve. I think many people who believe in God, but do not claim to know who he is, are in fact hoping that God is like this. Certainly the song ‘One of Us’ seems to suggest that. Well, hullo, in Jesus your dreams come true!

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