In my previous post, I contend love has become “god.” That is, we have our self-made definition of love and we shape our understanding of God around it and hold him accountable to that particular definition. But in the final analysis, we must insist “God is love.” He himself provides the essence and definition of love. This likely means our definition of love is going to be found wonting.
Let’s press into this farther and explore the notion that God loves God.
“This is my beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17; 17:5).
“The Father loves the Son…” (John 3:35; 5:20).
“The reason my Father loves me…” (John 10:17).
“…you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
“I have made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).
“…I love the Father…” (John 14:31).
It is impossible to overstate the affection the Father has for his only Son and the love the Son has for the Father. God loves God.
Now, as one actor put it, this seems to be about “ego.” Is God egomaniacal? That assessment would work if we’re talking about another human being. To love oneself sounds like vanity. But we’re talking about God. Think about it: once there was only God. For millions and billions of years, there was only God. “I’m better than everybody else” deserves to be on his business card. The moment we stack up the infinite, transcendent, omniscient, holy God against any human character, to accuse God of being an egomaniac is going to fall short and appear just plain silly.
Admittedly, I’m still in process on this and all the implications that fall out of it, but there’s another thought-provoking idea to consider. What if God’s love for himself is his supreme love? What if God loves himself more than he loves anyone or anything else? Don’t hang up the phone, stick with me.
Let’s say there’s a good, moral atheist out there who demonstrates tremendous care and concern for other human beings. But in all his actions, he does not acknowledge God - he is an atheist. Would we not say that by caring for people sacrificially, but failing to even acknowledge God, they are stuck in idolatry? Or to put it differently, to love someone or something other than God more than God, is idolatrous. Why would it be any different with God?
If God loves any aspect of his creation more than he loves himself, would we not say he has become an idolater? “God must love and delight in his own beauty and perfection above all things. For us to do this in front of the mirror is the essence of vanity; for God to do it in front of his Son is the essence of righteousness” (Piper, The Pleasures of God, 29).
Like I said, I’m still in process on this, but if this is right, it’ll cause a dramatic shift in the tectonic plates of our understanding of God’s love.
God is love.
Love is god.
Look at those two short sentences closely. Take a minute to do so.
I believe the juxtaposition of those two statements summarizes the fraying taking place within the broader Christian community. The implications of this are quietly, perhaps invisibly, enormous. Journey with me on this musing.
When God’s Word says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8), it’s NOT saying there is this thing out there called ‘love’ and God measures up to it. There is no external, standard of love to which God is accountable. God himself provides the essence and definition of love. So, if it was possible, dictionary writers ought to study God first then provide their definition of ‘love.’
But this is not how things are done in the “real world.” Rather, we human beings possess a perpetual drift towards self-declaration. The result is autonomous definition writing. We come up with our own understanding of things and pronounce them good or bad. This is one of the many consequences of the Eden travesty.
Such is the case with the concept of ‘love.’ Once we’ve put a period on the end of our definitional sentence, we are then positioned to say things like, “As long as they aren’t hurting anyone, we should accept…” Or “If God is loving, then surely he wouldn’t…”
But notice what is happening. We have our definition of love and we are holding God accountable to it. Love, our concept of it, has become god.
The remedy to this gross distortion is simple: we need to go before the God of the universe and ask him to tell us what he is like. We need to ask him to define love for us. His answer may surprise us.
Jesus was a busy man. He was in high demand. Crowds flocked to Him. Everybody wanted a piece of him. He knew what it was like to be busy. How did he handle it?
"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: 'Everyone is looking for you!'
Jesus replied, 'Let us go somewhere else...'" (Mark 1:35-38)
Jesus, God in the flesh, the 2nd person of the Trinity, didn’t do it all. By not healing everyone, by not ministering to everyone, did Jesus disappoint anybody?
Imagine living in the 1st century. You’re blind. You hear this guy, Jesus, is healing people left and right. You travel a full day on foot to go see him. You’re in a long line with others who have physical and emotional problems waiting to have Jesus heal you. Just as you’re about to get to Jesus, he decides to leave and go to another town to preach or to get away with his disciples, or get away by himself to pray. How disappointing is that for you? Here’s the kicker, Jesus disappointed people and he never sinned by doing so.
Please note: Jesus didn’t say ‘no’ to healing more people so he could go watch the game at Buffalo Wild Wings. He said ‘no’ to one good thing in order to spend time doing another good thing. He said ‘no’ to healing more people so he could spend time in prayer. Jesus shows us it’s possible to disappoint people and still be holy in doing so. Did you hear that? It’s possible to disappoint people and still be holy in doing so. Just because you’ve disappointed someone by saying ‘no’ or not meeting their expectations, doesn’t mean you’ve sinned. Jesus disappointed people. In order to deal with your busyness problems, maybe you need to as well.