Christianity, Consciousness, God(s), Idealism, Ideologies, Love, Mysticism, Religion, Self

Is it Possible to Love God?

” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. ” (Mathew 22: 37-39)

Some long time ago, a friend pointed out to me what she thought was a difference between us.  “You love people both for who they are and what they can become, but I only love them for what they can become”, she said. That statement rather interested me because it seemed to explain so much about her.

My friend was someone who typically possessed a sure-footed insight into herself, but much less insight into others. In her case, “loving people for what they can become” did not mean loving anyone’s individual potential. To love someone’s individual potential, you must have insight into them, which she frequently lacked.

Instead, she believed people could realize her ideals for them, and it was that, and only that, she loved about them.  In practice, it meant she loved her ideals more than she loved people. And when people didn’t live up to her ideals for them, she didn’t love them at all — but sometimes even hated them.

She was studying for an advanced degree in theology and might have found herself in conflict with her religion had she been a Christian.  As the Book of John rather harshly puts it, “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen”. (1 John 4:20)

But she was not a Christian and the notion you cannot love your god unless you love your brother was irrelevant to her: She was quite comfortable loving her ideals more than she loved people.

Now, I happen to think the author of John was more or less onto something.  If a person has no experience of deity — as John assumes to be the case — and yet loves god, then that person must necessarily love an idea of god, rather than god.

Perhaps it is better for them, then, to love their brother, whom they have seen, than to love an idea of god.  For any idea of god, no matter how profound, no matter how subtle, is petty when compared to flesh and blood.

I wonder, though, if anyone ever loves god?  Is it even possible to love god?  Obviously, the answer for some people is “no”.  Without an experience of god, you can at most love only your idea of god. I can say I love France or Germany, but having never been to either country, I am really only loving my ideas of them.

As you might know, I live in Colorado Springs, which is home to a large population of fundamentalist Christians.  Many people here claim to have experienced their god.  As near as I’ve been able to figure out, most of them mean they have at one time or another had some sort of unusually intense emotional experience.

I’m not too familiar with the details of such experiences, but they typically attribute them to some kind of contact with or experience of  their god.  It seems reasonable to assume someone could love such an experience of their god, and thus for such people it must be possible to love their god, rather than merely an idea of their god.

I am far less familiar with what the fundamentalist Christians here in town mean by “God”, however, than I am with what certain mystics mean by “god”.  It seems that some mystics use the word “god” to refer to the sort of experiencing that occurs when subject/object perception abruptly ends while experiencing remains.  (Most fundamentalists are not talking about that sort of mystical experience when they talk about experiencing god, and I only know of one who I am certain is.)  Put differently, the god of those mystics is not a being but a kind of experiencing.  As an experience, it can be loved, so I think we’re safe in saying those mystics can love their god, rather than merely an idea of their god.

Now, there is an extraordinary difference between loving an experience — as you are experiencing it — and loving an idea or memory of that experience.  The difference between those two things is just as great as the difference between loving a map and loving the terrain the map symbolizes.  So, when we speak of someone loving god, we need to remember that they can love their god only while experiencing it.  Otherwise, they are merely loving the map, rather than the terrain; the memory of their deity, rather than their deity.  And that is true for both fundamentalists and mystics.

Assuming all that’s been said is true, I think we can say it is possible to love a god in so far as we are experiencing that god, but that we are deluding ourselves if we believe we love a god we are not experiencing. For, if someone “loves god”, but is not experiencing god, then what do they actually love? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say such a person loves an idea of god?

I sometimes think of my friend the theologian as a rather tragic person, for she loves her ideals of people more than she loves people.  Yet, her ideals exist more or less exclusively in her mind, and so she really loves little more than the firing of her own neurons.  What interests me about that is she would prefer her ideals to real people.  Even the author of John seems to have seen the tragedy in that.

9 thoughts on “Is it Possible to Love God?”

  1. GOOD POST! >>>>> Without an experience of god, you can at most love only your idea of god.

    To speak of and to understand ‘loving’ God, it is first,,necessary to define love in a true sense. There is a HIGHER love than the emotion we experience in the natural realm. Our ‘love’ will often hurt, offend, disappoint, and even abandon those we supposedly ‘love.’ When the apostles speak of ‘love,’ they speak of that HIGHER love which they experienced from God by way of the Son and the Holy Spirit. To encounter any person of the Trinity is to encounter all three. When one encounters the Father and grows in that wonderful fellowship with Him, the supernatural LOVE out of the Father’s heart flows outward into our hearts. That HIGHER love is not kept to itself but MUST be given away to anyone who will receive. That HIGHER love will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, hurt, offend, disappoint, or abandon those who receive and return that all encompassing love. Again, what we refer to as ‘love’ is not real love. Mortal ‘love’ is inferior, selfish, manipulative, and has motives and strings attached. LOVE from the heart of God ALWAYS loves the unlovable, does good and hopes for nothing in return,forgives, consideres the wants and needs of others before self,desires the praise of God rather than the praise of men, is kind, is affectionate, honors others, does not avenge itself, turns the other cheek, hs no ill will towards others, has true faith, speaks hope, is generous both in service and gifts, is peaceful, is gentle, is longsuffering, is truthful, is meek, shows mercy, loves God with the whole being, and generally LOVES OTHERS AS THEMSELVES.

    Your post is so thought provoking since it begs for a clarification of real LOVE. The following verses describes real Love which is born in our hearts only as we encounter God. GOD IS LOVE!!!

    1pe 1:22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

    1pe 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

    Joh 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

    Mt 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

    Mt 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.

    Mt 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself

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  2. Thought-provoking… One of the things that had always puzzled me about Christianity (even when I was still a nominal Christian) was the insistence on “loving God.” It made no sense at all to me, as I could find nothing but ideas and ideals in the biblical teachings. I had not thought to apply that language to my subsequent mystical experiences until reading your post. And, yes, it is meaningful to say that I love those experiences. Perhaps during those experiences it is possible to love the Divine (whatsoever it may be), and later it is possible to love the experiences which led one there, but I have to agree that it is not meaningful to proclaim love of the Divine except during the experience itself.

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  3. You draw analogies between the experience of God and the memory of experiencing God, with maps and terrain, as if these analogies are valid. I suggest to you we are capable of experiencing God in more than the immediate event in which we directly ‘experience’ God.
    In the New Testament, Jesus, who fulfilled the prophecy of Christ, revealed a new commandment. It can be surmised that he left this new commandment because the other commandments s were not yet sufficient for humanity. This new commandment was to “Love one another, as I have loved you.”

    Now, since all we present day people have is ‘memories’ of his love in action, these memories must be ore than just a ‘map’ for us. These memories are a valuable means to help us determine how we should live our lives.

    I admit freely that many people have NOT lived out this commandment and have committed grievous sins ‘in his name’. But it is also true that far more people through history have tried to follow this commandment. Those people just did not make as much ‘history’. And in this case, the history is a collection of memories… further proof that memories, and not just direct experience, are indeed valuable.

    Peace to you and yours…

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  4. “LOVE from the heart of God ALWAYS loves the unlovable, does good and hopes for nothing in return,”

    Except the love, worship, and obedience of… us. I’d not describe that as unconditional.

    “I admit freely that many people have NOT lived out this commandment and have committed grievous sins ‘in his name’.”

    Depends on how you define “sins.” I think the civilians – and animals! – of Jericho, for example, would propose that there have been times that people have committed, if not “sins,” then certainly atrocities, not only in his name but _by his command_.

    So much for a god of “love.”

    – M. \”/

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  5. I’ll leave it to someone else to define ‘sins’. it is not my palce to judge others.
    The God mentioned in the Jericho text was defined by his actions in the eyes of humans. I choose to believe that the god that became flesh in Jesus the Christ is the one true God. I am not Jewish so my beliefs are not limited to the text of the old Testament. I do not believe that every word in the Bible is infallible.

    The God in whom I believe was made manifest in Jesus and we ought to learn of love through his life and teachings.

    Peace to you and yours,
    Mike

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  6. @ Qalmlea: Good points! Allow me to further suggest it might be a little dangerous to confuse the love we feel during an experience with the love we feel afterwards for the experience. Although when we are clear on the difference between those two, the danger passes.

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  7. A good post! Raises some good questions. In loving God, is one loving an idea (or concept)? Or is one loving a certain experience (i.e., love whose object is undefined)? Or…and here is where it gets really interesting…is one having faith that love itself has a metaphysical quality–being of the nature of reality? How can that which “is” be love itself? Isn’t love inherently relational? If reality or “that which is” is unitary, how can a relation be innate in it? I am resisting the anthropomorphism “God loves the world” here, treating this as an easy out.

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  8. I like these thoughts of yours! Okay now first to understand what I’m saying here you need take something from the bible: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4: 8. So assuming this then if you love someone you’re experiencing God. If this is the case then can you say to love God is to love love? to say this you would have to prove it’s interchangeable (Love is God). Now another part of the bible God says “I am.” implying God is existence. This being true then you could say love being part of existence makes love part of God so no it’s not interchangeable. Then going on is existence God? or is God even existence? God breaks logic because he is greater than logic. But assuming God is love and he is existence then yes loving someone makes you feel part of God meaning it is possible to love part of God unless you feel all of him then you can love all of him. Which there is a verse in the bible that says something about how it is impossible to completely love God. I was actually searching for it when I found this. oh ADD. Did I answer your question or just arose new ones?

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