This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This week’s topic is “Love.”
“Don’t know much about love
Think it starts with belief
I’ve seen it there for healing
Can feel it beneath my feet
Don’t know much about love
Don’t think it can replace belief
I can feel it when I’m kneeling
Coming up from underneath
Wondering at the mystery.”
— Sarah Masen, “Jenni’s Face“
The older I get, the more time goes by, the more I realize how little I know about love.
And, really, I’m OK with that.
Sometimes, the best thing, the most important thing, you can learn is that you have learned nothing.
The apostle John wrote in his first epistle that God is love. I read in the book, The Knowledge of the Holy,an argument by A.W. Tozer that any desire to take this phrasing to mean that love is a particularly important attribute and defining attribute of God above other attributes is misguided, and that we should know that phrasing isn’t meant literally because if it were, algebraically, it would require that the opposite also be true — Love is God.
Now, some today might call me a heretic for saying this about Tozer — or Piper or Augustine or Driscoll or Calvin — but I’m gonna side with John on this one.
What if he’s right? What if John, who was the beloved apostle of the incarnate Christ Jesus and who of the New Testament writers was particularly intrigued by the power of the word, wrote that, more than once, for a reason? What if God is love?
If God is love, if love is God, the two would have to be interchangeable. You would have to be able to take 1 Corinthians 13, and write it something like this:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not God, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not God, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not God, I gain nothing.
God is patient.
God is kind.
God does not envy
God does not boast.
God is not proud.
God is not rude.
God is not self-seeking.
God is not easily angered.
God keeps no record of wrongs
God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
God never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and God. But the greatest of these is God.
And, you know, I don’t know that I’m uncomfortable with that. I read that, and I read truth.
If God is love, then love is God. And God is infinite and unknowable. And if love is God, love is infinite and unknowable.
I could spend the rest of my life seeking to know God and know Him no more than I did when I began, because any percentage of the infinite is no greater or less than any other percentage. And if love is God, then the same is true of love. I can no more about love no matter how much I learn about love.
And so I’ve given up trying to understand.
I will continue to learn, and continue to love, but knowing that the best I can hope for is that tomorrow I do so better than today and less well than the day after.
I can do no other.