WHAT DOES 'GOD IS LOVE' REALLY MEAN?
'Love conquers all things:
let us too give in to love'
Virgil 70 - 19 B.C.
St Paul gives us some idea in the thirteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians as to the way in which we should love but of course when Christians say that God is Love, they appear to be using the word more like a noun than an adjective or verb. And so, in order to get nearer to what the word really means when applied to the state or condition of God, we must consider love to be a concrete reality as opposed to an idealised notion or perception. Certainly, if we take the meaning of the word love to be that as described by St Paul then, presumably, it means that God is totally forgiving, totally generous, totally tolerant, totally patient and totally every other trait which we have come to associate with Pauline love. If He is all those things, and only those things to all eternity, then does that mean God is bland to the point where He reflects a complete lack of interest and concern?
The difficulty we face, as humans, is that our intellect and vocabulary are much too limited to enable us to successfully describe in written or oral form, anything that lies beyond the grasp of our senses. We might well 'know' what we mean, but we are unable to accurately and definitively express it in words. Perhaps the word Love, with all the connotations we have hung around its neck, is the nearest we can get to a description of God, but He has to be more than that and most certainly more than the Pauline meaning. The love that Paul spoke about cannot exist in a vacuum as it needs someone to love, and perhaps this is one reason why we have been created; although I somehow find it difficult to envisage the Creator God as being lonely, as this is just another human condition.
Perhaps, love is the only way we have of even coming close to describing the great reservoir of reality that is God. It is possible that we are simply an over flowing of that reality and that the sheer intensity of the actuality of God is so great that our eventual presence in a physical universe was inevitable. A natural outcome, just as steam is the natural outcome of applying an excess of heat to water.
Somehow, the reasoning I have just given doesn't sound particularly plausible as it reflects too much those emotions experienced by the flesh and blood of humanity. Having considered many of the possible options, I have finally come to believe that the statement 'God is Love' reflects a condition that is the actual fabric of God, whatever that might be. This state is such that the anti-love condition we call wrongdoing or sin, cannot exist within it, not because God has decreed that it should not exist, but simply because it is unknown. Just imagine for a moment an environment where dishonour, fault, vice, corruption, greed, pride, depravity, lying, or indeed any type of wrongdoing, are unknown; even the word wrongdoing is not a part of the understanding, for it would be describing something that has never been encountered. It would be as impossible for any soul, when it has been united with God, to even begin to understand wrongful deeds, as it would be for a fish that has never left water, to understand dryness. This means that when a soul enters this state it is deluged with Love, not feelings of love you understand, but the Love that is the very fabric of God, and which pervades the very core of the soul and incorporates that soul into the condition we call God. There will, at death, be a complete and total absorption of the soul into security, peace and light; the soul will become a part of the light and the light will become a part of the soul. Any need we might now have to express our theories regarding the make-up of God will become superfluous as we will then know we are in the fabric of the eternity that is God and back in the place that was carved out for us before time began. We will know we were there before the beginning of the universe and that we will still be there long after the end. We will be back where we belong but somehow different. The difference will be that we will, God willing, have taken the quintessential part of our humanity along with us; that knowledge of heightened sensual awareness that created beings could never possess. There will be no evil there, simply because evil is a negative state of behaviour brought about by faulty genes and conditioning, and all that will have dropped away with the earthly body that has been left behind. There is no such thing as an evil soul, no matter how bad the physical, earthly life of an individual might be or have been. The soul is a part of God and as such is without blemish. Christ told us to beware of gaining the whole world and losing [at death] our soul.
Many people have said to me, tongue in cheek perhaps, that they most certainly would not like to spend eternity twanging a harp. When we take up residence in the room reserved for us in God's house, we will become a part of God, and eternity will lose the meaning placed on it by finite creatures who only understand that which has a clearly defined beginning and end. Eternity with God will be outside time, and forever with Him will be as an instant and yet that instant will be filled with an eternity of joy. The actuality of time is that its influence is in direct proportion to our thoughts about it. As for twanging a harp; life with God, whatever else it might or might not be, will be more, much more than that, and never, ever will it be boring.
If we are to join God at death we must first come to love our neighbour as our self, because this is as close as we can physically get to God this side of the grave. St Paul tells us how to love our neighbour and Christ tells us who our neighbour is. But how do we learn to love the unlovable or those we actually dislike? We must make the effort, no matter how hard it is, and however little progress we seem to make. If we make a real effort to love, in a Pauline sense, exercising tolerance, kindness et al, so far as we are able, towards everyone we come into contact with, we will then slowly but surely find that we become increasingly capable of loving more widely and with a greater intensity. The more we try to love, the more we will find ourselves loving. Conversely, if we dislike someone, we will almost certainly find that dislike growing stronger to the point where it could so easily turn to hatred. In the human psyche, the condition of either love or hate has the potential for fulfilling a love/hate equivalent of Parkinson's Law, in the sense that given the right conditions they can and will expand to fill the desires allocated to them to the exclusion of all else. We must stop judging others, and try as hard as we can to love our neighbour as ourselves because our neighbour is a part of our self. We have all evolved out of the contents of exploding stars that came from the same universe and, therefore, the material that went into the building of your physical presence was also used in the making of mine. Princes and paupers share the same atomic structure and who is to say how many of my quarks, gluons and electrons have already inhabited the bodies of others, good and evil, famous and unknown - even that of Christ. Obviously we must exercise due caution in our affairs with others, but all that should mean is that we try and love whoever might be trying to do us wrong whilst at the same time recognising and disliking the methods they employ. Hate the sin but love the sinner is another way of putting it, as is, 'when you dine with [someone you think might be] the Devil, use a very long spoon'.
There will be no you and I in the condition we call God. We will be together, and each will be a distinct part of the whole; or as the Gospel of John so aptly expresses it, a part of the vine. We must begin the preparation here on earth for the time when we are invited to join with Love itself, and become a part of that Love, State, Condition or Fabric of God. We can never become part of that perfect Fabric this side of death for our humanity makes this impossible, just as an acorn could never become an oak tree unless it first enters the ground and ceases to be an acorn. Nevertheless, just as a part of the acorn will assuredly become a part of the tree, so we will carry into God, the very essence of our humanity that remains after death.
The Kingdom of God is undoubtedly within us, so we are told by Christ, and therefore the capacity to love must be ours by right. We are separated from the Kingdom of God, and kept from seeing it, only by the limitations placed upon us by our physical senses but it is palpably there for those who have 'eyes' to see and 'ears' to hear. Paul says that nothing can separate us from the Love of God, and nothing can, for the Fabric of God is eternally with us, at all times and in all places.
Knowing as I do, that the actuality of God is that of Love, means I also know that any kind of wrong-doing keeps me apart from Him. Not so much because He decrees it but because, like matter and anti-matter, God and wrong-doing cannot co-exist. That is why forgiveness is such a quintessential part of our relationship with God and with each other. We need God's forgiveness - or a better word would be forgetting - of our wrong?doing so that we might make progress. We need to forgive our neighbour, as to do otherwise must alienate us from God. Not to forgive someone who has wronged us, no matter what the crime, or how many times is has been perpetrated, means that we have ceased travelling the road home. And there we must remain until we begin again by forgiving and thereby entering anew into the Fabric of God. If we are unable to forgive, how can we seek forgiveness? We cannot ask for forgiveness whilst there is something we have not repented.
In the prayer our Lord taught us He phrased it thus: Forgive us our wrongdoing as we forgive those who do wrong against us. It appears that we deal with ourselves in exactly the same way we deal with others. If we cannot forgive another of some wrongdoing against us then we are equally unable to forgive ourselves and so bring us into a right condition with God. Even so, I find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe that God, who is the embodiment of Love, would destroy a soul, as, in effect, He would be destroying a part of Himself. Christ said we could gain our life and lose our soul and so it seems it is possible that one is able to kill off one's humanity, and for that humanity to then lose the part of God, the soul, that is attached to it, in the process. The soul would then return to source and the humanity would 'perish and die in its sins'.
God is Love and Love is God. Perhaps that is as near as we can ever get to what has been termed the Cloud of Unknowing. Certainly His continual presence brings a feeling of warmth and comfort to me even in times of great distress. Whilst I can apply my own sensual understanding of love to God, I know He must be much, much, more and so I will settle for that which I can understand with the full realisation that I have only tapped an infinitesimal part of His reality.
We must cling with all our heart, soul and mind to the Love that is God and give our very best shot at loving others as ourselves. In so doing we become an inseparable part of God in this life as well as in the next.
How do we get to Heaven?
Why does God allow suffering?
Why go to church?
The Holy Spirit
How to find God?