At the end of the last post I wrote:
It makes me feel deeply safe to know that God does not force his love upon me, to know he does not force himself upon me. This is the deepest of all our theologies, to me, this one that says, quite simply, God is love. Love is a respecter of persons.
Love is a respecter of persons? What does that mean?
If God is love, then what does love teach us about him?
Love. Here’s the unflappable standard, from 1 Corinthians 13:
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast,
it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts,
always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. (NIV)
Love is patient and kind;
love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,
but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. (ESV)
A Description of God
I understand this passage from Corinthians to be a description not only of the nature of love, but a description of the nature of God.
God is patient and kind. God doesn’t envy or boast. God doesn’t dishonor others, or insist upon his own way. God is not self-seeking, or irritable, or resentful. God is not keeping a record of wrongs, or delighting to see us fail. God is actively rejoicing with the truth, bearing us, protecting us, trusting us, holding out hope for us, enduring with us and for us All The Things.
God will always do this and be thus, because he is unchanging. And just like in other aspects of his strange kingdom (think of how we are “both already saved and still being saved” and how we are “both holy and becoming holy”), there is a both-and happening here with love, because love, while fully giving, is also very self-constraining. It constrains self. Love offers other people great room, great space.
When I think about the ways God has shown himself in my own life, and the ways he reveals himself in Scripture, I come to the very quieting conclusion that God also is self-restraining. Even though this is a God who sent his son in an active pursuit of our souls, he is also a God who did so with self-constraint. He acted, but allowed us the freedom to respond. He effectively did what he came to do like a jailer opening the prison door. We can choose – or not choose – to walk through. He treats us with trust and honor, and does not not insist upon His own way. All of his love-actions are things he does himself, things that are his own personal responsibility, not things he does to make us respond in a specified manner.
God doesn’t make us trust: he simply trusts. We accept the gift of trust and become trustworthy.
God doesn’t insist upon his way. He offers it. We choose his way, and it becomes ours.
God honors us, we become honorable.
God is patient with us, we become patient.
God keeps no record of our wrongs and, astounded by grace, we learn to do the same.
In all things God IS and DOES and we respond. We respond because we have the freedom of choice, and he honors this freedom – it is integral to who he is and who we are as his Imago Dei.
- Spiritual Boundaries: Part #1, Part #2, Part #3
- I’m “Writing Small” in October – this is post #14. See all of October’s posts here.