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  • Writer's pictureKyle Davis

Totem Theology

As a kid, I was fascinated with other cultures, precisely less developed ones that held to the old ways of life. I grew up in the Northeast, where Native American tribes are regularly a part of a school's field trip program. We learned about the Iroquois and the Hurons, but more importantly, we learned about how they viewed the world.

Their lifestyle was and still is drastically different than the modern American one I grew up in. But what fascinated me most was their totems. Most Native American tribes have symbols to represent them—a wolf for family or an eagle for wisdom. Maybe the Great Wind Spirit watches over them. Usually, they chose some natural thing and turned it into a deity to represent what they wished for their family.

If you ever watched the Disney movie, Brother Bear, then you know what I'm talking about. In that movie, when a boy becomes a man, the great spirits give him a totem to represent how he should live his life. The boy gets a bear because it symbolizes love. I won't get into the movie, but you get the picture.

I see the same thing happening in our culture today with God. I believe in the Christian God of the Bible, but even in my religion, people are making God something he's not. To be frank,

They are making God into themselves.

I don't mean that they think of themselves as God, although that happens to0. I mean, they make God's character a mirror of their own. God hates the people they hate. God judges what they judge. God honors what they honor. God thinks and acts eerily similar to how they think and act.

Now there is nothing wrong with resonating with a particular part of God's character. I love that God is wise because that's something that I aspire to be. I know some women who have gone through sexual abuse connect with the gentle side of God. Both of those things are great. We want to connect with God to know his character. After all, we were made in his image.

But let's be clear here, God is not like us. We might be like him, but he is not like us. God's character is different than our own in that he is more excellent. Our love is a shadow of his love, and our righteous anger is a whisper of his righteous anger.

So what do we do with that? Well, there are two options.

The first is to do a bit of an inventory to make sure we are actually worshipping and following the God of the Bible as he revealed himself to be. Is there anyone that you hate that God hates? Is there any side of a moral argument that you and God disagree on? Does God think and act a lot like you? If so, there may be some areas where you are bringing God down to your level. He is not a totem to represent yourself but a king who must be obeyed. Because of our sinful nature, there should be things within the Christian life that are hard or feel impossible to do. That is a good thing.

The second thing to do is to push ourselves to be like God. Of course, we will always fall short of his character, but that doesn't mean we cannot improve. God says, "Be holy as I am holy," and Jesus says, "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." So we can aspire and make decisions to bridge just a little more of the gap between who God is and who we currently are.

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