The Otherness of God

Lou Lotz

READ : Luke 18:9-14

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even

lift up his eyes to heaven,but beat his breast, saying,

“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (v. 13)

I remember reading somewhere that ancient Hebrew
scribes were so awed by the holiness
of Jehovah that they would wash their hands before they
wrote his name on a scroll.
Imagine that.

We’ve come a long way. Now we put God’s name on
pencils, Frisbees, refrigerator
magnets. We write books and articles about God,
explaining who he is and what he does. We
have lost our appreciation for what theologians call the
otherness of God. We are like the
Pharisee in the parable, who is so taken with his own
knowledge and piety that he forgets
how holy God is. But the tax collector stands in the
back of church, head bowed, beating
his breast. He is unable even to lift up his eyes. He
understands something of the
otherness of God.

When I was a small boy my father took me to work with
him one day, and I realized, for
the first time, that he had an existence of his own
which was beyond my experience; that
there was a part of his world with which I had no
contact, and didn’t even know existed.
Is it so hard to believe that this is also true of God,
that there is an otherness to him?
That he is not small and simple, as we like to think,
but high and exalted, holy and pure,
timeless and eternal? God’s ways are not our ways, and
his thoughts are not our thoughts.
No wonder the tax collector won’t lift up his eyes. Who
can stare at the sun?


God, be merciful to me, a sinner. Amen.