Jesus is love; Jesus is God
I met Alice, the year I turned 14, at the community ice skating rink. After that night, I would beg my mom to take me to the rink every week. I didn’t do much skating that winter though. I spent most of the time in the warming hut, talking with Alice. I remember trying to sound adult and sophisticated. I wanted to say a lot of things, but I couldn’t quite say them the right way. I remember wanting Alice to get me. And somehow, she did.
And I wanted to kiss her. I’d never kissed a girl before, but I knew this was the girl I wanted to kiss. When we were together, I’d talk and talk and talk—somehow hoping to talk myself into a kiss. But I was way too nervous and just couldn’t work up the courage.
The winter wore on and my fervor for Alice grew. Every time I saw her, I felt like my heart was on fire. I’d begin to sweat even though it was freezing cold at the ice rink. And soon, the skating season was drawing to a close. I resolved that I was going to show my love for Alice. I was going to kiss her.
That next Friday night, my mom dropped me off at the rink. I walked in and saw Alice gliding across the ice. It seemed like she was an angel, floating over the ice. Then she saw me. She smiled, and skated over. We found a spot in the corner of the warming hut, and she began to tell me about her week. I didn’t hear a word she said. It was like there was rushing sound in my head that drowned out everything else. Finally she realized I wasn’t talking. She stopped and looked at me. My heart was pounding so hard. And then I leaned forward and kissed her on the lips. It wasn’t one of those awkward teenage kisses you see in sitcoms or the movies. And it wasn’t a passionate PG or R rated kiss that you also see in the movies. It probably looked like I was kissing my sister. But it sure didn’t feel that way. It was electric. It was as though my whole being ignited and went up in flames. I still remember exactly what her lips felt like.
After that kiss, I knew I was in love. All I could think about was Alice. If you’ve ever wondered what “love sick” looks like, it would have looked like me that winter.
The mystery of love
I tell you this story because it will help us understand who God is. God is a mystery, of course, and we can never really describe who God is—just like we can never fully describe the mystery of love. When I was a child, I had an image of God the Father, old man, white beard, flowing robes, sitting on a cloud in heaven. The Holy Spirit was flying around there in the form of a dove. And I’m not really sure where Jesus was. But the three of them were “up there” somewhere.
If you have any kind of image like that, let me suggest you try to let go of it and begin from scratch. That might not be easy to do, but give it a try.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
—1 John 4:7-12 (NRSV)
We need to let go of that kind of image because God is not a man or a father or old or bearded or clothed in any of the ways we think of in human categories. We would be closer to the truth to imagine God as a love-sick teenager. How do I know this?
I know because of who Jesus is. The whole point of Jesus’ life on earth was essentially to say to us, “If you want to know who God is, pay attention to what I do. If you know who I am, you know who God is.” Jesus was telling us that the clearest look we were ever going to get into the mystery of God was what God chose to reveal through Jesus.
Because Jesus was totally loving, we know God is totally loving. In fact, we can say that God is love. We know God is love because Jesus is love.
Jesus, one with God
We also know that Jesus so perfectly reflected or revealed who God is, that Jesus was completely one with God. So much so that we know that Jesus is God. Thinking of God this way helps us know what God is like, even though it doesn’t completely tell us who God is.
Think about who God is for you, and we’ll discuss it more in a future post. In the meantime, here are some questions I’d like to get your feedback on.
- Do you ever pray to God? If so, what names or images do you use in your prayer?
- Do you ever “see” God in the actions of others? Describe a time when that happened.
- If you were going to try to explain who God is to a friend, how would you start?
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