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A random favourite quote:

Viimeksi muokattu: 28.2.2012
Last updated: February 28th 2012
- Viaton uhri


God is love?

"Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. Yea, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him, and make his footsteps a way." Psalm 85:10-13 (RSV)

How many times have we heard that “God is love”? Too many times to count. “God is love” is, of course, a verse from the Bible (1 Jn 4:8). It is a phrase that is spoken all over, by people of whatever religious (or philosophical) persuasion. This is no surprise, as all people can be united by their desire for love, for acceptance. It is supremely gratifying to state that the highest power in the un
iverse is love. Like so many other Biblical utterances, “God is love” has been used so much that it has lost any special significance it might have had. It’s just stating an obviously wonderful thing. It has become a profound platitude.

Now this passage from the Psalms might just explain what the non-obvious meaning of “God is love” might be, if there is any. It speaks about “steadfast love” and other such pleasant and pompous states that have something to do with the LORD. A capital personage, this LORD. The psalm joins “steadfast love” (or “mercy”, according to other translations) together with “faithfulness”, and “righteousness” together with “peace”. The point seems to be that God’s love is not merely steadfast and merciful but also faithful. Sure. But it’s not immediately faithful; there’s a point where love and faithfulness shall meet. So God does not just love us like that, being Love and all. And “righteousness”, which means being kind and just and so on, does not immediately bring about “peace”; they must first kiss each other. Kissing was like hand-shaking in olden days. So being good, thinking good thoughts, loving other people, does not mean that everything’s fine and we’re all good.

God’s love is not a clear-cut thing. It’s not a state; God is not love, at least not in the way we think. God is doing love. There’s nothing obvious about it. We don’t deserve it because of our human nature. And it doesn’t matter whether our human nature is good or bad or both. Love just can’t be put in a box and admired. Anyway, what’s the point where God, if I may say, becomes love? It’s when “faithfulness springs up from the ground”.  This is the point where God starts to be permanent, “faithful”, in his steadfast love. The point is Christmas. God, love, faithfulness, sprang up from the ground, a mortal sustained by the earth. That’s also the point when “righteousness” looked “down from the sky”. If righteousness means being good, this means that at that point God started being really good to us.

Do you find this interpretation too allegorical? In my view, the passage demands this kind of a reading. It points to something that’s true in a concrete way: “our land will yield its increase”. Yet it does this in a personified way and a prophetic context: “
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.” (Ps. 85: 10) One can’t separate the concrete, like harvest, from the prophetic and the symbolic in the Old Testament. And isn’t this as it should be? Why do we insist on making generalizations and drawing conclusions from that which is merely general and abstract to that which is particular? Shouldn’t we see the trees first, and then the forest? Otherwise the forest will become a blury mess.

So the love of God is not a general thing. It is a particular thing that presents itself in particular things. We see how God is love in the things that he does, not in the way that he is. He gives the land its increase; he gives us good gifts in our lives, things that sustain us and make us joyful. The greatest particular thing that God has ever done is becoming a mortal man for us, dying and rising up again like the earth itself from winter to spring. He’s forgiven our sins, all of them. Our sin is that we’ve taken God’s love for granted. We’ve thought that it’s our good deeds and good nature which make us good – when what makes us good is God’s goodness. He’s made us righteous, good, in creation, but we lost this because of our presumption. So he declares us righteous even when we’re not. That’s how good he is.

Righteousness goes before God and prepares him a way. God’s righteousness is not something that sits idle and expects us to be good. It goes forth and makes a way; it’s an active power. Righteousness does not demand. It gives, and gives abundantly. God is truly just; he is truly good, whether we are or not. That’s what being faithful means: it means being merciful. God truly works in mysterious ways. This is how he is Love.

Have I forgotten something? Yes, I must say one thing. Just as you are, you are just for Jesus’ sake.

Petri Tikka
December 13th, 2009