God as Being, Part 3
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 1 John 4:16
While I find it problematic to picture God as a being, particularly as a human being, I find imagining God as a form of attracting, influencing energy and/or relationship to be helpful. I also find it practical in the sense that God’s presence is not typically physical, at least not as we are used to experiencing the presence of beings. Churchianity misses the mark when it portrays God as a being, as it so often does, because that description quickly falls apart when we attempt to apply it critically to our daily lives. When we understand God as a non-physical influencer, we cease expecting God to act like a friend or a pet, and we accept the reality that God acts in an infinite variety of ways. God’s influence is usually subtle and easily missed if we are not paying attention to or looking for it.
There is another common portrayal of God, although not necessarily helpful in terms of developing a concrete image of God, and that is the depiction of God as Love. Love is an attractive energy that shapes the relationship between two or more people or entities. It is a spirit that is unique to the relationship and the entities involved. Love is an attractive force focused on a common interest or purpose and expresses in countless ways, even in our limited earthly existence. I find the image of God as love to be helpful since love, too, is subtle and easily missed unless we pay attention to, nurture, and become present with it.
Love is not a being but an energy that manifests in the relationship with or to a being. Love is a type of power, like electricity, that can be used for good or evil, as in the transmitting or withholding of care. Love is embodied by beings. Love intensifies the bond between two or more beings in a way similar to how yeast intensifies the relationship between flour and water. Jesus frequently used the image of leaven in bread as an analogy to God’s influencing power upon matter and relationships.
The author of 1 John writes extensively of God as love. Consistent with what we believe about God, love expresses in a variety of ways. One can make a case that the attractive forces that hold the planets in their orbits is a manifestation of love. Romantic, brotherly, and parental love are types of love most of us are at least somewhat familiar with. These types of love typically benefit everyone in the relationship, although perhaps in different ways and to different degrees. There is also love that expresses as service to others. That is the type of love Jesus modeled for us. It is a sacrificial love where one gives up one’s life or a significant portion of something valuable – often time, money, or possessions – in order to serve others. Sacrificial love has no particular expectation of being reciprocated.
One advantage of seeing God as love is that it requires us to love others in order to experience and better understand God’s nature. To the extent that we hold back in loving others, to the same extent do we miss God with us. It is not that God is fickle or demanding or withholds anything from us, but if God’s nature is love, unless we are practicing love – particularly sacrificial love – we simply cannot experience God. It is like leaving yeast in its package instead of mixing it with flour and water. One can make bread with no yeast, but eating unleavened bread is a tasteless, shallow, and disappointing experience by comparison. It is as if when we act in loving ways toward another, particularly when that other cannot pay us back or does not know us as the source of the kind act, a doorway is opened through which God can enter. And God, as love, graces both the giver and receiver of the loving act.
According to the author of 1 John, we do not simply abide in God’s love by acting in loving ways, we abide in God!When we love what God loves, which is everything and everyone, God’s love flows through us to others. No wonder there is such an emphasis on love in scripture, particularly in love expressed as caring for others. Every being and every part of creation is a beloved offspring of God. When we care for God’s creation, even a small part of it, God’s love flows to and through us. We are the door through which God cares for and loves creation. When we willingly and regularly serve as that door, we take our place in the mutuality of the Divine Flow of Divine Love.
This is the 56th in the series of Life Notes titled Churchianity vs Christianity. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning and browse the archives of my Life Notes, Podcasts, music, books, and other musings.