Sunday, 14 January 2007

The God who is Love

Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. (I John 4:8)
Two things quietly demanded my attention when I read this verse last night. God is love. God = Love. The normal grammar construction for a statement like this is noun-(to be)-adjective, or "God is loving". This phrase is special because it uses a noun-(to be)-noun construction, which offers us an equation. How interesting the Bible is! I would simply have written, "God loves", but John says that God not only loves, he IS love.
The second surprising thing about this verse is that it links loving with knowing God. While the second "love" is a noun, the first "love" is clearly a verb. Loving (action) comes from Love (noun) = God. Those of you who have encountered love have encountered something of God. I worried for years how the people without a Bible in their own language could ever know God. If you believe this verse, they could know him without even knowing his name! Could the Bible be saying that your response to love is your response to God? Let me take this even further. Is it possible that we could come to know God by loving?
Oswald Chambers (my favourite writer!) says in his book "The Shadow of an Agony" that a human being's response to her own conscience is her response to God. He points out that conscience varies from person to person - what you consider wrong is sometimes something that seems okay to me and vice versa. He defines conscience as the highest and best that a person knows.
Loving is arguably the most painfully difficult thing we can do. Oh, I know, falling in love can be as soft and wonderful as a cotton candy cloud. But loving - ! That is another quantity altogether. It requires all your energy, creativity, understanding, determination. Who has loved much and suffered little?
Love has been defined as "the giving up of self for the sake of another".
I've been awash with great and lovely thoughts of deep emotion, passion, loyalty, friendship, comfort. Suddenly, I realise how gritty love is at its core, how un-storybook-like, and how un-glamourous! And how little I really love!
It's a concept that is not culturally defined, but basic to the human experience. It fits into everything we know, although we can't see it, can't touch it, can't measure it - but every human being longs for it. To shut ourselves off from love is to shut ourselves off from life, beauty, meaning, peace.
Do you long for love? Maybe you long for God = Love. Maybe you didn't know his name. Or, maybe you ONLY knew his name.

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