After years of struggle with the truth of divine love I now have an overwhelming sense of God’s great love and mercy toward me. I have come to experience this love through Jesus Christ. He reveals the eternal God to me in trinity; e.g. in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I will later seek to show why the trinity, a most under appreciated and misunderstood understanding of God, is so important to what we believe and how we live in loving, faithful obedience to God. If we are to be immersed in the love of God, and then love him and others with divine love, then we must grapple afresh with this great truth of God’s being, the truth that towers above all other divine truths – “God is love.”
When I am asked to speak about God, or to pray to God, I begin with these words:
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him (1 John 4:7-9, NRSV).
Simply put, when I am asked who God is, I answer: “God is love.” In the past I would have qualified this answer. I would hedge it against all kinds of distortions, distortions which are quite real. (I will elaborate on many of these along the way.) But I now understand these distortions prove the truth – God is love! These distortions become subtle ways of actually moving us away from the depth of God’s true love. I often hear Christians says: “God is love but ______.” This is then followed by a list of qualifiers that all but remove the power of the startling truth: God is love.
To say that God is love is to say that God is most perfectly characterized by love. He is self-giving love, namely the eternal relationship of love shared by the Father and the Son, which overflows into the world by the Spirit. All of the attributes of God (mercy, grace, justice, wrath, etc.) are excellencies of his divine nature but love is who God is. (I have come to deeply doubt the usefulness of speaking about divine attributes in this form of language.) God is, because he is God, eternal love. This means that from his love all other loves derive their real meaning. Simply put, all other love is but a shadow, or reflection, of him. He is true love. All the good – thus all the love – that you have ever seen in this world has its source in the creator who is perfect love. The Creator made the world out of love and as the redeemer he redeems it out of love.
If this is true then being a Christ-follower, a simple disciple of Jesus, is not first the result of an ethical or moral choice, at least not at its root. It is a whole-hearted, full-on, deeply human response to being loved. It is an “encounter with an event, a person, that gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2006, 1).