Mr. Mertle and Misunderstanding God

Have you ever thought you knew someone and then spent more time with them and learned something new or different? Or did you realize you didn’t know who they really were?

Legend had it that Mr. Mertle was the meanest old man that ever lived who owned a man-eating dog, Hercules (The Beast). When Smalls hit his stepdad’s Babe Ruth autographed baseball over the fence into Mr. Mertle’s yard where The Beast lived, he realized he was in big trouble. Smalls convinces his friends to help get the ball back. But when Benny (Small’s good friend) attempts to get the ball back, he is chased by Hercules, who eventually knocks down Mr. Mertle’s fence. Summoning their courage, Smalls and Benny walk to Mr. Mertle’s door to return Hercules. But to their surprise, they meet a gentle, loving man who said he would have given the ball back had they just asked. Mr. Mertle invites the boys into his house, where they quickly learn that not only did he play with Babe Ruth, but he and the Babe were friends.

Understanding Smalls’ predicament of using his stepdad’s autographed baseball, Mr. Mertle offers a trade. He would give them an autographed baseball of the 1927 New York Yankees in exchange for them coming by his house once a week to talk baseball. The boys realized that Mr. Mertle was not “the meanest man who had ever lived” but, in fact, a gentle, loving man. The boys has made assumptions about Mr. Mertle and had believed all the rumors. They had misunderstood who this man was.

This story from the Sandlot illustrates how I have misunderstood God.

I used to see God as someone waiting for me to screw up (sin) so he could smite me or punish me for disobeying him. I saw him as an angry, wrathful, vengeful God. He was someone who I didn’t want to make angry. Often as a child, I would pray the prayer of salvation every night before I went to sleep, just in case I died in my sleep. It was hard for me to understand how God could be described as loving and yet, be so mean. You would not find me knocking on God’s door, returning his dog, and admitting I knocked down his fence.

But then, I realized I was misunderstanding God and maybe had made assumptions or believed some rumors that weren’t really true.

In Hebrews 1:3, the writer says, “The Son (Jesus) is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. ” Jesus even tells us, “I and my Father are one.”

Now you are probably saying, “well, duh, Phil, Jesus is part of the Trinity and is God. Maybe you should read your Bible more.”

But wait, there is a subtle shift in what this means. I had not seen something before, and it has changed everything I believe about God.

If Jesus is the “exact representation of God’s being…” then Jesus reveals who God the Father is. He shows us what The Father’s character is like. God, the Father, is just like Jesus! Jesus speaks for God. Jesus’ life reveals to us what God cares about. What we see in Jesus is true of God, all of it! Nothing that Jesus reveals contradicts the character or truth of who God the Father is today.

So the question now is, what do we learn about God the Father by looking at Jesus’ life and teachings? I’m willing to bet that we will discover not the “meanest man that ever lived” but a God who is love. But why don’t you read about Jesus’ life for yourself and ask God to reveal Himself to you?


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