Loving God Means What Exactly?

IconsMore than once I’ve heard or read people saying they love God but want nothing to do with religion. I can’t help wonder what those who hold this position mean when they say they love God.

Is loving God some kind of emotion we generate toward an icon, an idea, or even toward a person? I guess that question puts the focus on the main thing: what do people removing themselves from the constraints of organized religion mean when they say “God”?

I wonder if there is anything close to a consensus. I mean, without organized religion–people coming together in agreement–can’t “God” mean whatever a person wants? So God could be an impersonal force, like fate or destiny. Or God could be the Perfect or Enlightenment to which we all can strive. God could be nature or the universal good or a great pool of consciousness or a spark within each person or … well, you get the idea.

It seems to me, no one can love God unless they know Him. But how can we know what is transcendent? By definition, God is set apart as Other.

Sea_Goddess_of_MercyThe monotheist understands him to be supreme, the ruler, even the creator. Those of a pantheistic mind set see god in all things and all in god. In between are those who believe as the Greeks did or the Hindus do, that there are many gods, each needing to be kept happy in his or her own way.

With all these ideas floating about, how does someone come to an understanding of God? One common approach I’ve heard is to say, To me, God is …

That approach strikes me as odd. We wouldn’t do that with another person we know (and believe it), and we criticize others if we think they are inventing things about someone else. We even have slander and libel laws to punish people who make up harmful stuff about other individuals.

People do repeat false statements about celebrities and politicians, and we wrangle about lines like President Obama is a Muslim or George Bush is an idiot. Whether or not the public realizes it, they don’t arrive at these false ideas on their own. They’ve been fed those lines by a propagandist who wishes to influence public thought.

So too with God. Average people did not independently arrive at views such as, To me God is loving and would never care about a person’s sexual orientation; or, To me God is a cosmic force that put the world in motion; or, To me God is a divine spark in each of us. They’ve been fed these lines by an individual who “takes his stand on visions he has seen”–meaning, a spirit has put it in his head–who is “inflated without cause by his fleshly mind.”

God being God can’t be known unless He discloses Himself. In virtually all the definitions of God, he is understood to exist “apart from and not subject to the limitations of the material universe” (Oxford English Dictionary). How, then, could people subject to those limitations study, grasp, comprehend, or know One who is outside the confines of our abilities? The only way to know God is if God would choose to disclose Himself to us.

So when it comes to loving God, the first and foremost definition of love, as I see it, is recognizing God to be who He says He is.

There’s a business network online site called LinkedIn which allows individuals to endorse others with a click of the button. From time to time I get endorsed by people in subjects which don’t reflect what I do or who I am. I appreciate the fact that the endorser was thinking of me, but I also know the person doesn’t really know me or they wouldn’t have back-slapped me in an area in which I have no expertise.

God, of course, has unlimited expertise, but people who don’t know Him put limits on Him, essentially denying who He is. He’s loving but not a just judge. He’s powerful but not powerful enough to create the world with a word. He’s good but not so good that the hard things could actually be part of His plan.

How can we get past our limitations? Only by accepting God’s revelation. He, like any artist, poured His heart, His personality, into what He made. So we can look around us at the world–the parts that Humankind hasn’t tainted–and draw conclusions about God. He’s beautiful. He’s interested in the smallest details. He’s cosmic. He’s orderly. He’s nurturing. And so many others.

In addition, He’s disclosed Himself by talking directly to people and having them pass on His messages to the rest of us. Ultimately He put on skin and became one of us to show us His heart.

Because God made it possible, we can know Him. To love Him means we accept Him for who He’s told us He is.

Loving God also means agreeing with Him. Disagreeing with God is just another way of not recognizing Him to be who He says He is. How could He truly be transcendent and wrong?

In short, anyone who loves God will want to do as He says. This, I believe, is a response of the will and not one of the emotions. The funny thing is, where the will goes, the emotions are sure to follow.

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Published in: on August 7, 2013 at 2:15 pm  Comments (1)  
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One Comment

  1. This is definitely a ‘hot-button’ topic..I’ve written before about the “Coexist” bumper sticker that is almost a banner for this school of thought – God is who we make him, her or it to be; if my god works for me then who are you to judge?

    But as you so accurately pointed out, any god that we might create on our own can’t hold a candle to Almighty God.

    We can certainly have our times of argument with God (Job, Jacob, and even Moses are good examples of this) but as the Bible shows us, eventually it comes down to faith: do we trust God?

    People today would rather worship Joel Osteen than God. Joel smiles a lot, gives encouraging messages and never makes believing in God hard on folks. the problem is, Joel is not God. Life can be hard and we need an up close and personal relationship with God to help guide us through.

    I used to be an agnostic. I had a vague idea that there was probably ‘something’ bigger than myself at work in the universe. But I was very “live and let live”. After 40 years of Frank Sinatra theology I began talking with God. One night His Spirit was in the car with me and offered me an invitation. When I pulled into my driveway, I turned off the car, got out and knelt in my yard, praying to accept Christ as my savior.

    I went through all the ‘official’ salvation stuff afterward i.e. walking the aisle at church, confessing my faith, getting baptised. But my salvation came as a result of a personal, one-on-one encounter with God as I was driving home from work.

    So what about church? Is it necessary for salvation? No. But it is necessary for what comes next: the growing part. You don’t need a greenhouse to grow plants, but boy it sure comes in handy when winter sets in. Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King illustrate this for us in their excellent work, “Experiencing God”. The show us four ways that God speaks to us: His Word, Prayer, the Church, and circumstances.

    Sure, we can have a relationship with God without church. But for all that it is full of convalescing sinners, our families of faith surround us like a protective breastplate in times of battle. Paul affirms for us that, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

    We cannot travel this dark world alone. God has given us the church as a place to worship Him, serve others, deepen our faith, and fellowship with the family of God.

    Apologies for blog-bombing your post, but you are writing important things and I couldn’t help responding! Thank you for what you do.

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