Tuesday 28 July 2020

The Love of God, what it could mean to Christians

I tried to explain a couple of days ago why Jesus affirms in the New Testament that Love of God must come first - and what it means to 'come first'. But the picture is incomplete without the knowledge that God loves us, each and individually, as children.

Firstly, God is the creator; so that this world is God's work - and 'creation' includes create-ing, moment to moment.

Then God loves us as ideal parents love their children - all and each. God wants for each and all children to grow, spiritually, each in his own way - to become 'Sons of God'.

This means that the world has meaning, being organised around this principle and aimed-at this result; raising Men to become Sons of God by their experiences and choices; which means dwelling in Heaven and (at least some Men) growing-up spiritually towards greater divinity.

So this Love by God (who is creator) structures the world. Then comes our personal love for God. What this means is that we come to know that God is creator and loving parent; and, knowing this, we ourselves come to love this reality.

It is a close analogy with human families of the best sort. The parents will love the children - but for the family to work requires that the children also love the parents - which means the children wish to join with the work and purposes of the family. This is decided by each child as he matures - will I, do I, love my parents?

The wishes of the individual children are all the while being harmonised by their love for each other (i.e. love of neighbour) as well as the (primary) love of God (i.e. love of God: love of the basic set-up, full accord with Gods basic motivations in creation).

So love by God is a fact; but love for God is our decision. 

And that's it.


Anonymous said...

Before your post today, and following your last post on this topic, I have been reflecting on this theme...

1)If you don't believe in God you despair or need to spend your life deceiving yourself to forget that no ultimate meaning is possible and to assume the stance of atheism/nihilism inevitably must lead to existential despair if examined honestly (which it often isn't)

2)If you do believe in God but only abstractly as a set of moral imperatives and physics-like rules, then you can't really love God, as that would be rendered meaningless, like loving the ten commandments in isolation as a self-standing set of laws/legislation or the dharma/eight fold noble path being an object of love instead of a process of karmic liberation from what is at least consistently and logically (within the ideological coherence of Buddhism) a negative and undesirable situation of existing to begin with.

3)But if you believe that God is *personally* invested in you, loves you more deeply than any flawed, transient and human relationship and is working behind-the-scenes, on your side and to specifically help you achieve everlasting fulfillment and joy; whilst forgiving you your personal failings as long as you acknowledge and repent them! Well, who wouldn't love someone like that?

Perhaps quite a few who don't, do it in full knowledge because of resentment or self-loathing,like Satan himself, but also those who cannot imagine such a 'too good to be true' reality actually being real can dismiss it as not really on the table anyway and despair at the absence of what would be most desirable. I must admit that is a recurrent snare for myself. It is a little bit like the famous illusion of looking at the two faces or the jar, one flips to the other and back again but you can rarely, if at all, hold them both in mind with full reality at the same time. Sometimes my mindset just flips and I can see it how I used to do as a lifelong atheist. At such times the world is drab and I feel a deep alienated sorrow, as though places like this are an internet support group for the chronically deluded, trying to stave off the encroaching despair of an impersonal universe by trying to conjure a deep conviction in the pie-in-sky parents who we want to be their to love us as the foolishness and futility of humanity inexorably destroys up on an increasingly rapid time frame. For me now, the antidote to bypass all of these redundant and bleak alleyways of the mind, is to reassert a heart-focused and intuitive, rather than head-focused and reductionist approach. The resultant gestalt usually enables me to reassert a clear picture of heavenly parents instead of a dead material jar.

For me, conception of deity and my path through the world simply *must* be personal and focused on love, faith and hope or it rapidly unravels. Indulging doubt, likewise is a step to perilous demise off the striding edge. Remaining focused on the loving *motivation* of God is imperative, just as our own motivations to meet God half-way can guide us onwards in trust, despite the necessary periods of the journey where God may appear concealed to us. But those of us who have had brief encounters can return to those experiences in recollection to 'reality check' and spur us on towards the inspiring and personal goals of salvation, and thesis beyond the climb of the mountain once the clouds clear and we see the loving smiles of our heavenly parents again, encouraging us to become the best that they know we have the potential to become.


Epimetheus said...

Seems like the West is in trouble because we basically view reality and truth as hostile existential enemies - we unconsciously see ourselves as surrounded by a howling void of empty, pointless cold - whereas the only possible solution is to actually discover that reality and the God behind it love us and are no true threat to our existence. No-one's curious about reality when reality is thought to be a bottomless pit beneath our dangling feet. I liked what you posted from William Arkle, that we are in no true danger; God has existential safety nets around us as we go through life, just as a father would protect his children.

Sean G. said...

And for those who say they don't know God all that well, making it difficult to love Him—a 9 month old baby hardly knows a thing about his mother and father yet loves them like no one else could. It's the same with parents who love their baby that they hardly know, when he hasn't learned to express himself in any meaningful way. With our heavenly father it is a rather simple thing to love him as a child would, while continuing to learn more about Him and grow closer to him.

God shines through the eyes of our children, flows through rivers, and thunders in the sky. Even in this fallen world God's magnificent work and presence can be seen and felt. It's inescapable. But gnomic will is NOT a path to love. We don't deliberate and reason our love for our children and it's just as useless with God.

Stephen Macdonald said...

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
-- Romans 8:35-39

Bruce Charlton said...

@Epi - The Arkle piece you mention was http://williamarkle.blogspot.com/2019/02/enjoy-process.html

@Sean - Great comment - a very relevant comparison, I thought.

@David - "those who cannot imagine such a 'too good to be true' reality actually being real"

- I personally don't worry much about these people; because if they really do want what Jesus offers, then when they find out (after death) that it is *true* - they will recognise and can follow The Good Shepherd, who will lead them to resurrected life eternal in Heaven.

The ones I think are most likely to be (self-) damned are those who hate the description of Heaven (e.g. those who hate/ despise/ mock the best imaginable loving family - e.g. for sex/ sexual-identity-related reasons). I expect they will get what they want - (bodiless) existence without love.

Others simply don't want resurrection and Heaven - where they will remain 'persons' and engage in a relationship with a personal God and Jesus Christ; but instead want to lose their self/ ego/ personhood (and bodies) and melt back into (absract) deity. I expect they too will get what they want.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me a lot of George MacDonald, particularly his sermons - with all those published by him in books being now both scanned in the Internet Archive and transcribed at Project Gutenberg. And C.S. Lewis's MacDonald Anthology with excerpts from his sermons and other works for every day of the year is a fine introduction, or good little daily helping of food for reflection.

David Llewellyn Dodds