Tom Steller, of The Bethlehem College & Seminary, relates this story in a sermon from 1 John 5, “Little Children, Keep Yourselves From Idols”
The movie The Wizard of Oz almost destroyed my faith when I was a little child. Or at least it opened the door to doubting the existence of God for the first time in my life. Dorothy and Toto are carried by a tornado into a far away land called Oz. They are told their only hope of going back home to Kansas was to meet face to face with the great Wizard of Oz. So spurred on by hope, Dorothy journeyed on the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, evangelizing along the way. The Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man are converted and accompany her to the Wizard’s palace. As I watched the movie, I was converted, too. My hopes soared. I could hardly wait to see the Wizard. I had grand expectations. And sure enough once they got there the Wizard was more awesome than we could have imagined. His face was bigger than life, his booming voice reverberated off the palace walls. But then do you remember what happened toward the end of the movie?
Toto wanders behind the curtain, pulls the curtain open, and reveals the truth behind the great Wizard of Oz. The Wizard of Oz was a hoax. He was a kindly but pathetic old man without any special powers. He merely projected his face on to a giant screen and amplified his voice. What Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man, and I had hoped in turned out not to be real.
As a result of this movie I can specifically remember wondering for the first time in my life if God was a hoax. Maybe my priest, Father Winzerling, was a fraud, or perhaps he too was deceived. Maybe there was some mastermind who thought up religion and who created the Bible to fool naïve, desperate people. Maybe God wasn’t real. Maybe there really wasn’t a God at all, except the ones we could dream up in our imagination. What a frightening thought for a religious boy like me to have. Have you ever had those thoughts? Do you even wonder now sometimes if God exists—I mean really exists? Is God real, or is he a concoction of our wishful thinking. Are we just playing games here Sunday after Sunday? Sometimes, even since I have become a Christian, those thoughts enter my mind.
Jesus Is the Evidence That God Is Real
What is the solution to this doubt? The apostle John’s response is “Jesus.” Jesus is the evidence that God is real. According to verse 20 Jesus, the Son of God, “came and has given us understanding in order that we might know him who is true.” In 4:7, 10 we are told that God, by sending Jesus to die for our sins, manifested his love for us, that is, he made his love real, concrete, tangible, unmistakable for those who had eyes to see.
The realness of Jesus guarantees for us the realness of God. That’s why John is so concerned throughout this letter that his readers remain true to the real Jesus. Some false teachers were saying, “Jesus isn’t the Christ” (2:22), or, “Jesus didn’t really come in the flesh” (4:2). But John insisted that Jesus really did come in the flesh, that he really is the the Christ.