This series of articles, started with a question from a friend. “What does it mean to say that ‘God is love’?” We answered that question by translating Theos agape. After all, these were the words that John wrote in his first letter (1st John 4:16b), and the question did specifically refer to this verse. But to simply move on to another topic from there, didn’t seem quite right. There are two reasons for having continued this discussion, and not having taken the easy way out. By easy way out, I mean simply translating the words and putting the definitions to them, and claiming that this was the answer. The first reason is that there is more to God than love, though love is equally as important as the other force that makes up God; this is a good opportunity to look at God, and try to determine who or what He is. The second reason is that we are a part of God, and because we are a part of God, we will find that if we can determine who or what God is, than we can better understand who or what we are, since we are a part of God.
As would be expected of seeking out the difficult answer to the question our path has meandered a bit, because we need more information to arrive at the difficult answer. In the first article, we looked at the four different Greek words for love, and determined that the English word love is a term which describes a range of degrees and types of feelings and methods which we use to relate to each other as human beings. The feelings and methods increase in difficulty to have for others as we move higher up the range, but the accompanying rewards are greater as well.
In the second article we looked at the Greek word en and saw that this little word plays a big role. John and Paul both use this word to help us understand that we truly are a part of God; the concept that Yeshua reinforces in his teaching about the branch and the vine. As John points out, we are in God, and God is in us. In the third article, we seemed to change direction entirely, seeing that John described God not only as love, but also as light. We looked at the fact that the word light is a metaphor for truth and knowledge.
So the original question was “what does it mean to say that ‘God is love’? ” The answer then is that it describes one of the two facets of God (the other being ‘light’). That the force we know as love is a range of the emotion connected with learning to put the needs of others ahead of our own needs. As we learn to do this, we move higher into the spiritual man, and as we realize this move into the higher self with love, we realize our connection with God even more fully. This seems like a strange comment to make. Not only have we have used the word realize twice, but we put it in a bold font, as well.
There is a good reason for the bold font. I want the word realize to stand out so that it is clear that the word realize is intended to convey two meanings. The first meaning is this: to become aware. It is only when we become aware of something, that we can begin to change our way of thinking about it, or do something about it. For instance: a man looked out his window at breakfast, and saw that the sky was clear. He then spent the next few hours in the basement unable to see outside. He was not aware that the sky had clouded over and that it was gently raining. At lunchtime, when he comes up from the basement and looks out the window, he says “I didn’t realize that it was raining. ” Because he wasn’t aware of the rain, the window was left open and now water has rained in through the open window. Now that he is aware of the rain, he can do something about the situation. He can close the window, and clean up the water which had come in through the window. In this example, we use the word realize to indicate that the man was unaware of the rain, until he looked out the window again at noon.
The other meaning of realize is: to make real. When I say “the boy realized his dream of becoming a baseball player”, I mean this: that the boy made his dream real. For many years the boy imagined himself being a professional baseball player, so he worked out and practiced baseball every day for a long time. Now, he has finally made his dream real by making it into the big leagues. These are the two meanings for the word realize: to become aware, and to make real. Both apply to the earlier statement.
The statement we made earlier is this: As we learn to do this, (put the needs of others ahead of our own needs,) we move higher into the spiritual man, and as we realize this move into the higher self with love, we realize our connection with God even more fully. In other words, as we become aware of the opportunity to learn to put the needs of others ahead of our own needs, we can begin to make real (through our actions every day) the love which is demonstrated by putting the needs of others first. As we become aware of the fact that widening the circle of people around us, whose needs we put above our own, (or moving up the range of love) we can make real in our lives thoughts and actions which move us closer to the level of spiritual man. And as we become aware of the fact that moving higher into spiritual man is possible, and that doing so causes our connection with God to resonate even more fully and with greater clarity (like eliminating the static from a telephone call or TV picture,) we can continue to work to strengthen the connection by continuing to widen the circle of those whose needs we put ahead of our own needs.
What does it mean to say that ‘God is love’? It means that we, ourselves – humans living on the earth, who appear to be made out of atoms and cells and flesh – are really made out of love. The more that we learn to live out this love in our daily lives, the closer we come to understanding that we really are a part of God!
Grace and peace to you all,