On the Love of God

For humans, love is an emotion. But for God, love is an integral part of Him: “God is love” (1Jn 4.8,16). We tend to confuse what is our emotional love with Divine Love. To be emotionally close, soft, gentle, kind, and nurturing, all these things modernly emphasized by a kind of “spirituality” today, and emphasized in so many churches and religious writings, are aspects of a merely human love. Divine Love, as part of God Himself, is not such a thing based on comfort, but on perfection: “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5.48). The emotions are things that can too easily lead us astray from perfection.

“Mastering the passions” is part of the ideal of the desert fathers and mothers — bringing the emotions into submission to the ongoing transformation of the Christian life, being transformed by theosis into something purer, more selfless. We cannot allow ourselves to be led into a path where appeasing our emotions is more important than living a life of transformation — the truly Christian life where we are transformed not separate from the world, but transformed with the world. We are the agents of that transformation, akin to the sculptor with his chisel. The sculptor hugging the rock is not working as he should — he must strike, releasing the image within, transforming a mere rock into something new and more valuable.

I rather see the Divine Love as something sharp, pure, as sharp-slicing as a razor, but as infinite as the universe: as clear and striking as a cold, moonless and cloudless winter’s night full of stars. It’s not focused on a warm bed and a nice shawl, or on “me” (as a congerie of personality traits, quirks, and preferences that “I” would want respected, validated, and loved), but on the incredibly vast change in mind and spirit that would make us all Sons of God through adoption and transformation within the Body of Christ, focused on what we could be. It’s a frightening kind of love, this Divine Love, this love that dismisses what we are for what we could be, and that therefore relates to us on that basis. Such optimism! Such a love! It’s a Personal Love that even so dismisses what we think of as personality these days: preferred clothing, hairstyles, choice of reading/listening material, educational level, etc, all these material aspects of “me-ness” (who are we these days once these are stripped away? would even our families know us?).

That Love seen in the chill winter’s midnight of glinting distant star-lights, in that cold yet burning gaze of Holiness and Eternal Intent, is a Love that we’d do better to remember more often.