Tuesday, July 26, 2011

God is Love, But Love is an Action

What is love? I remember a teacher in grade school asking that question. I remember it appearing to be something that wasn’t very clear and I can’t say that it’s much clearer now. Some people say love is a feeling. Some people say that love is sexual desire. There are many things that people say love is. The Bible says that God is love. But it also shows love to be an action. We are commanded, for example, to love our neighbor as ourselves. That doesn’t mean that we always have to like our neighbor as much as we like ourselves. What it does mean is that we are to do those things that will benefit our neighbor. The Bible tells husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the church. In other words, husbands ought to be willing to die to save their wives. That’s not just when a husband feels loving toward his wife, that’s something he’s supposed to be willing to do, no matter what. Most husbands fail in that regard, but that’s the example Christ gave.

I’ve kind of been trying to wrap my mind around the two concepts that God is love and that love is our loving actions. Since both are true, what does that mean? I don’t think it is so simple as to say that God = Love and Love = Our Action, therefore God = Our Action. The problem with that is that our actions are flawed, whereas God is not. But love is of God and love comes from God. Any action that we do that is truly in love is only possible because God is working through us. No act of love can be done apart from God. Since that is the case, it begins to make sense that God = Love = Our Action. But a better way to state it might be that God = Love = Our Action + God’s Action. Our inaction doesn’t prevent God from performing some act of love, but God is able to use us to show his love toward people. We become God’s hands and voice to a hurting world. When we give to help others, it is God’s way of helping them. When we encourage others, it is God’s way of encouraging them.


Citizen Atheist said...

God is not love.

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Timothy Fish said...

Citizen Atheist,

Someone once said that the person who defines the words wins the argument. I see something of that in your comment. Because of that, I hesitate to argue that God is not the long list of words you included in your comment. If I were to do so, you would likely point to some of the things that the Bible says God did and say that they are examples of God being a petty, unjust, control-freak. It would largely come down to a question of how to define these words that generally carry a negative connotation with them. Even with the word Love, we could argue that God is a liar because he doesn’t fit our definition of love or we could argue that our definition of love is wrong because it doesn’t fit what we know of God. The two of us would get nowhere arguing that back and forth.

You describe the Old Testament as fiction. While I disagree, I’m willing to discuss it as I would a work of fiction, since I see that as being a side issue to the current discussion. As such, let’s consider who this character God is. He isn’t an ordinary being. The book begins, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” It then goes into detail about how he did that over a period of six days, first creating light and creating man at the end of creation. It tells how he had Adam name the animals and when Adam didn’t find a suitable companion, God made Eve. It tells how God made a garden for man to live in. The garden was such that it didn’t need someone to till the ground or to water the plants because a mist watered it. It tells how God walked with Adam in the garden. God gave Adam everything he needed, but Adam was not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But Adam disobeyed. The curse came upon mankind because of Adam’s disobedience.

Throughout the Bible we see that God blesses those who obey and he curses those who disobey. In that, we see the jealousy of God. He wants people to obey him. He is not willing for people to worship other gods. But we also see the holiness of God in that. He turns his back on sin. He will not look at it. Adam was cast out of the garden because his sin prevented his fellowship with God. Anything less than perfect righteousness isn’t good enough for God.

But look what God does. The penalty for sin is death. Man could die and pay the price, but death would prevent him from having fellowship with God. So God sent his son to die for the sins of the world. We see the first mention of this in Genesis 3:15 as it talks about the seed of the woman bruising Satan’s head. By dying in our place Jesus paid the price and because he did not sin, death had no power over him. Even though man, who is from the dust of the ground, disobeyed the being who created the Universe, that being made a way for man to be reconciled. To me, that is love.

If we’re looking at this as a fictional story, I see no problem with a being who created man expecting man to obey. Didn’t Frankenstein expect his monster to obey him? Should we not expect a being like God to be even more demanding and have the right to punish when his creation disobeys, since he created everything? But what an amazing thing that a God who can speak and form the wonders of the Universe would care enough about lowly man to die in his place.