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God is Love? - John Charmley - 26-03-2007 08:58 PM

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I remember reading in Sunday School that 'God is love', but I don't think I really understood what it meant; I wonder if I do now?

I read in 1 Corinthians 13:1
Quote:Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
and in 1 Corinthians 13:12-13
Quote:12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
I am struck, in this context by these words from St. Isaac the Syrian:
Quote:For God, who is good and compassionate, is not in the habit of judging the infirmities of human nature or actions brought about by necessity, even though they may be reprehensible ... God's use of justice cannot counterbalance His mercy. Like a handful of sand thrown into the great sea, so are the sins of the flesh in comparison with the mind of God.
.......
Among all His actions there is none which is not entirely a matter of mercy, love, and compassion: this constitutes the the beginning and the end of His dealings with us.
The same Saint also wrote:
Quote:"When we have reached Love, we have reached God and our journey is complete."
That God should have so loved us that He gave His only-begotten Son to redeem us is, indeed, an act of love beyond anything we can comprehend. And, just as hate begets hate, so does such love beget love for Him.

How does it seem to others?

In Christ,

John


god is love - kirk yacoub - 28-03-2007 09:00 AM

Yes, John, God is love.
In The Air-Conditioned Nightmare , one of the most unusual travel books
about the USA ever written, Henry Miller describes an extraordinary sight that he came across in the deep south. On the side of a delapidated wooden mission hall in a poor Afro-American district, written in white paint
in large letters were the words:
"You've had enough of the bad news, now here's the good news:
GOD IS LOVE!"
There in the midst of a severe poverty made all the more grotesque by its being in the midst of the richest country on the planet, in the midst of a people which had been in slavery only eight decades previously, a people which still suffered immense indignities, segregation, prejudice and
(un)officially sanctioned lynchings and burnings, was the joyfully defiant
proclamation:
God is love!
There is bad news everywhere, so much of it, in fact, that this had led many people to either doubt the very existence of God, or at least to withhold from Him the epithet of Loving. Yet this proclamation in white paint which contrasts the good news of God's love with the bad news that surrounds us, is the implicit statement that, while love comes from God, the bad news comes from people. To the standard question put by doubters, How can a loving God allow suffering?, there is here implied the
standard challenging Christian response: God does not allow suffering, we
human beings allow it.
God is love. He gave Adam and Eve free will, the freedom to choose, only forbidding them from eating the fruit of one particular tree. Adam and Eve
not only freely chose to break this commandment, they also freely chose
to refuse to acknowledge their guilt and tried to pass the blame onto each other and the serpent.
Our forebears' negative use of free will resulted directly in expulsion from Paradise and the temporal, sorrowful life here on earth that ends with the despair of the grave. Our forebears, heeding the words of the serpent that
they might become like God, fell prey to pride and, like the serpent, the emissary of that fallen angel, Lucifer, instead of acknowledging God's rightness and superiority, decided that human beings know better. The catastrophic result of this arrogance is the deluge of bad news that threatens to engulf us.
God is Almighty, therefore, if He so wills, He can put an end to bad news with a snap of His fingers. But that would deprive us of our free will. Because God loves us He refuses to take away our freedom to choose and act. The deprivation of free will would mean that, yes, we would obey God's will but, without thought and contemplation, without the possibility of choice, without an inner desire to do so, our obedience would be that of automatons. This would be coercion of the most primitive kind, and where there is coercion, there is no love.
If we continue to fight wars, continue to commit genocide, murder, rape, continue to hate, rob, imprison and enslave, if we continue to worship power and wealth, then it is because we human beings have chosen to do so. And, of course, when humankind is accused of doing wrong, then
humankind wipes its mouth and says, "I have done no wrong."
Contrast this pig-headed self-righteousness with God's response: love.
He who could obliterate everything with the blink of an eye offers us recalcitrant, spiteful, hate-filled human beings the gift of love.
Christianity is not conservative, because that implies support for the abominable status quo. No, Christianity is a revolution in human behaviour
wherein all that the world teaches is turned upside down. Are you waelthy? - then sell everything you have and give it to the poor. Do you have enemies? - then love them. Are you being persecuted? - then pray for those who persecute you. Out of the window goes all thought of revenge. Hatred and violence is to be overcome by love and humility.
As so often, Isaac of Nineveh sums everything up:
"In His great love God was unwilling to restrict our freedom,
even though He had the power to do so. He has left us to
come to Him by the love of our heart alone."
The love of the heart alone. God speaks to our heart with love. He who is the Almighty humbled Himself, becoming Incarnate, dwelling amongst us
not with the pomp and majesty of an earthly king, but with the humility and self-sacrifice that is the very incarnation of love.
A Syriac prayer explains that, enormous though the collective sins of humanity is, those sins are but a drop of mud in the vast ocean of God's mercy.
Let us respond to God's love by opening up our hearts to it in joy and blessed relief. we have endured enough of bad news, now is the time to celebrate the news that is good.

Kirk Yacoub


God is love - John Charmley - 28-03-2007 05:00 PM

Dear Kirk,

Many thanks for this; you make many excellent points. Thank you for sharing both the American story and the quotation from St. Isaac; both are beautiful and edifying.

St. Isaac wrote:
Quote:When we have found love, we eat the Heavenly Bread, and receive nourishment without labour of weariness. The heavenly Bread is He who came down from Heaven and gives life to the world (cf. John 6:33). This is the food of angels (Psalm 78:25). He who has found love consumes Christ at all times, and becomes immortal from then on.
he highlights what an important part love plays in our theosis.

You are right, it is the greatest and most wonderful of mysteries that He loves us as He does. One reason I have always had trouble with those, often of a Calvinist persuasion, who would argue that we are inherently evil, is that we are made in God's image, and so cannot be so.

We inherit the effects of the fall on human nature and on the world, and our own weakened nature will incline towards self-indulgence rather than towards the freedom that is God's will; but we have His Church, His words, and His Sacraments, to help us. We are not alone, nor are we lost.

We may be spiritually sick, but the good news is that the Orthodox Church is the right hospital for our illness, and in it we shall be healed.

As you say, what better news could there possibly be?

In Christ,

John


Love and Damnation - John Charmley - 07-04-2007 11:30 AM

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On this Holy Saturday my reading has taken me to this from St. Isaac:
Quote:That we should say or think that the matter of Gehenna is not in reality full of love and mingled with compassion would be an opinion full of blasphemy and an insult to Our Lord God. By saying that He will even hand us over to burning for the sake of sufferings, torment and all sorts of ills, we are attributing to Divine Nature an enmity towards the very rational beings which He created through grace, the same is true if we say He acts or thinks with spite and with a vengeful purpose, as though He was avenging Himself. Among all His actions there is none that is not entirely a matter of mercy, love and compassion: this constitutes the beginning and end of His dealings with us.

How different is this from the conceptions with which I grew up, where God was seen as a vengeful God who would punish us in hell-fire if we did not repent. Here, Orthodoxy seems to me to be offering us a wider, deeper and broader understanding of the God who suffered impassibly on Good Friday.

To reject His love is to impose suffering upon oneself; but He always offers us forgiveness if we will repent and follow Him.

In Christ,

John