God is Love. God is Not Love.

God is love. God is not love.

On the surface, a statement such as this seems impossible and irreconcilable.
How can God be both love and not love at the same time?

The word “love” is limited by our physicality, which not only significantly constrains our experience of love, but also severely inhibits our vocabulary and verbal expression of love, how we talk about love, if you will. 

In short, we have a “skin issue” that limits our love-experience of God, which then restricts how we speak of this experience. 

Both the experience of God’s love, and then the language we use to describe God’s love, are profoundly insufficient.

So while God’s essence is certainly love, we do not have the physical, experiential, or verbal capacity to even come close to describing God as love-essence. Even though God is unconstrained love-essence, we are constrained in our experience of God’s love-essence and then by the words we use to describe that experience.

Maybe an easier way of saying this is- How do you even begin to experience the inexperienceable, or describe the indescribable?

We can’t.

In a very real sense, God is love, but God is not love.

God is love-essence, but our word love will never come close to capturing or describing God’s love-essence.

One may wonder why it is so important to make such a nuanced argument.  Is it not sufficient to simply say, “God is love, and then be content with that?”

At some level, yes.  

It is completely possible to say ‘God is love’ and only understand God’s love through our limited love-experience, but it will always be constrained by our senses and our physicality, our “skin issue.”  

But, and this is why this particular discussion is so important, it is possible to go beyond our limited love-experience of God and enter into the vast and all-consuming love-essence of God. 

And it is in that place where everything changes.

While even our significantly limited love-experience of God can change our hearts and transform our minds, entering into the vast and all-consuming love-essence of God alters our very ground of being.

So if God is both love and not love from our finite, limited human perspective… then what can we learn from this seeming contradiction and what can we do to come close to knowing God’s love-essence, despite our significant limitations and constraints?

The first answer is that a person can only live in the limited and finite love they already know. So while God’s love-essence is always available, and as we will find… always accessible, we are all born into a situation in which we can only know a limited love-experience.  

And unfortunately, this is a wide and varied spectrum based on myriad factors- where one is raised, how one is raised, the parents one has, what relationships one had or currently has, what views one has developed of him or herself, etc. This is probably where most people stay their entire lives, only knowing the limited and finite love they have learned or experienced from those around them.

Even more tragically, there are those in this category who may have learned a very distorted and warped “love” that manifests in unhealthy ways. And it is at this point where there is some significant overlap with religion.

There are elements in religion that distort and warp “love” in unhealthy ways. Many times this “love” is expressed in terms of guilting, shaming, and damning. 

For instance, one may say that the guilt he imposes on another is done because of his love for another, or one may say that the shame she imposes on another is done because of her love for another. 

This negative outward expression or manifestation is not love, for love-essence never expresses to elicit guilt or shame.  

However, there are those who grow up with a distorted understanding of “love,” based upon a distorted experience of “love.”

One could say that this is an extreme end of the spectrum that is incapable of “loving like God,” because the God-love they know is only expressed or received in guilt, shame, and damnation. 

There are some in the religious realm who understand the “love of God” more broadly because they have had a more immersive experience with God’s love, but still constrained by the skin condition. While there are certainly varying degrees of this immersive love from person to person, it is actually closer to God’s love-essence. 

The question then becomes, “How, despite our skin condition, despite any distorted or warped love-experience we have encountered, can we fully experience the immersive love of God?” 

The answer is that, in this lifetime, I do not believe we can. But I do believe that there are avenues by which our experience of God’s love-essence can evolve and grow. 

So how is this possible? 

I believe the beginning point is communion with God’s love-essence through God’s Spirit. I believe this is where heart and life transformation begin. This where we learn the limitation of our experience and vocabulary, and also the depths and breadths of God’s love-essence we could not experience in our tangible, touchable world. 

I also believe contemplation and contemplative prayer are essential.

Contemplation helps one go beyond words on a page, what we’ve been taught, and what we have experienced toward an introspective, self-reflective meditation that desires to feed and commune on a greater love-essence. I believe it is only in an ask, seek, knock posture where we begin to experience the depths that are un-utterable, un-speakable.

One can only fully live in the love they have experienced and that can be painfully limited and even distorted, many times in religion. To go beyond these limitations and constraints, it takes God’s own Spirit to pour out greater breadths and depths of God’s love-essence and then our own contemplation done in a seeking posture for us to even begin getting close to God’s love essence in this lifetime.

Words and experience can only take us so far and that destination is painfully and woefully short of God’s love-essence.

In a seeking posture…

Brandon

3 thoughts on “God is Love. God is Not Love.

  1. it is an impossibility for our minds to wrap itself around God’s love. I think our pursuit or aim would be to emulate this love as much as possible. I believe it was Plato that expressed that there is no human love that does not have some form of selfishness attached to it. God’s love is selfless in the purest form. Great article, has my theological headset on overdrive!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This really resonates with me, Brandon. It is well said. As someone who is clawing her way from a 0 self-worth, I understand the importance of some kind of grasp that we need on God’s love…His TRUE LOVE , not how we see it. I like how you explain it here. Thanks again!!

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  3. Brandon, your polemic sounds Kierkegaardian. Kierkegaard taught theologically that God is too timeless and spaceless to find any receptacle to fit Himself inside a finite man. Many theologians queued favourably behind his philosophical theology.

    The litmus test to prove that man could walk hand in hand with God was carried on Mount Moriah, when Abraham gave up his only son, whom he loved to adumbrate the gift of the Only Begotten Son of the Divinity. Abraham understood God’s love.

    Nicodemus understood, “For God so loved the world….” At the Transfiguration episode, Jesus told them not to reveal His deity; why? It’s simply because they had understandably seen, with their eyes, the Emmanuel! The woman at the well believed the Messiah and dutifully evangelized Christ. Mary Magdalene loved much having received much.

    John 3:16 is enough to bring us into the perceptive reality of His love for us. It did prompt in the kerygma of: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;” (1John 1:1). Jesus told us, “If ye love me ye will keep my commandment;” to teach the attainability of the apprehension of His love.

    If we can be carriers of the Holy Spirit at the regeneration of our souls, it’s a fortiori that we can, by the assistance of Him, understand His love. This love is, in the Greek, agapeĢ„ which someone defined as: “A love called out of the heart of a lover on account of the value the lover has placed upon the object of his love.” This love is not a feeling; it’s a commitment. Every Christian is commissioned with this commitment. Amen. Thanks, Brandon, for following my blog. Stay blessed!

    Liked by 1 person

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