A God Who Loves Us
by Matthew Cramer
Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? Is God real? Are we alone in the world? Is there life after death? What is truth? How can I find lasting happiness?
How we answer these questions and others like them — how we see the big picture in life — represents our “worldview”.
Ordinarily, we don’t construct our worldview in a conscious, deliberate way. Instead, we acquire it slowly . . . as we grow and mature. We sort through, often unconsciously, the many concepts and experiences encountered in our families, at school, at work, in the media, in our culture, and in our faith-life. From these encounters, we adopt certain notions as “truths” that guide major decisions in our lives. By the time we become adults, our worldview is fairly complete. Buried deep within, most of us are not even aware it exists.
If our worldview is substantially correct, the decisions we make in life will tend to support an active, healthy and holy lifestyle. Unfortunately, any dysfunctions we encounter in our formative years damage and truncate our worldview in their related areas. These dysfunctions lead us to adopt concepts we hold as truths that are actually false. Thus, we are vulnerable, and led to make some decisions over and over that are unhealthy, and even destructive, to our physical, intellectual and spiritual lives.
What we hold as truth about God is a major part of our worldview. Who is He? What is He? Where is He? How does He relate to us? The answers to these and other questions about God influence many decisions in life. A young girl who is abused by her father will have a tough time accepting the notion of God as a loving Father. A young boy who is overly disciplined and awash in rules as he grows up will have a difficult time with the concept of a forgiving God who accepts us as we are.
Here are two false notions about God we encounter frequently in our ministry. First is the “Ah-hah!” God.
You’re walking along, happy and joyful. Everything’s fine. But just as you pass a bush, God jumps out from behind it and says, “Ah-hah! You have messed up!” All of a sudden you’re thrown back; covered with guilt, shame and condemnation.
The sense is that God is a manipulator and a trickster. He waits for us to make a mistake — then He pounces, saying “Ah-hah! I’ve caught you”. It might be an issue we hadn’t heard of, or something not properly understood. There is no guidance, no forewarning, no mitigation, no help, and no forgiveness. We are each alone in our decisions, and our fate is in constant jeopardy. Many of us grow up believing that, unless we’re perfect, God will surprise and condemn us at the end of our lives with some fault or mistake that brands us a failure. So we tend to keep God far from us; we don’t pursue a relationship with Him.
The second concept is what I call “Absent God.” Imagine a very large person, old and wise, sitting in a laboratory wearing a white smock. Just to look at him, you know that he is good, smart and, by his stature, powerful — very, very powerful. He’s seated in his laboratory chair, a large console of dials and gages displayed before him. Beyond them is a huge experiment chamber. You can hear the sounds of electrical motors and electronic equipment working — humming, chirping, buzzing and all.
In front of him is a window over his control console that looks into the chamber. Off to his right is a door to the chamber so he can enter and make adjustments personally if he needs to. Protruding from the wall over his console are controls for some manipulator arms. With all the dials and gages and sounds of activity in the background, he peers through the window into the chamber to see how things are running.
Inside the chamber, all suspended in the vast expanse, little globes whirl around one another. Some of them have minuscule people, animals and plants on their surface. He checks the gages and, looking through the window, adjusts the knobs to get the whole operation moving correctly. Finally, everything moves properly, suspended in space. Arms behind his head, he leans back and smiles. He’s done it. He’s satisfied. Now, he’ll watch intently to see how things develop.
Occasionally, he engages a manipulator arm, and from a special compartment in the chamber, he removes a tiny person, smaller than a gnat. He uses the arm to put the little person down on one of those globes and says, “Hope you make it, li’l fella.” He sits back and watches as the animals and people mill around amongst the plants and topography. Every once in a while, he reaches out with the manipulator arm and picks up a tiny person, removes it from the globe, and puts it in a box by his side saying, “Hey, you made it, guy.” Sometimes, he takes another one out and puts it in an incinerator saying, “Sorry, you lose, cowboy.”
The laboratory is the space/time box of our universe and our existence. Many of us are formed in a concept that while God has created the universe, He puts us in the world saying, “Hey, I set this whole thing up. Here’s the instruction booklet and the rules.” Then he sits back, puts his hands behind his head, and says, “I hope you make it. I hope you do a good job.” And sometimes, “Oh-oh. You didn’t make it. Well, into the fire with you.”
So what do you believe about God? Way down, deep inside, what do you believe? Does He exist? Is He real? Is He a distant manipulator, a surprise judge? Or is He a loving Father? Which is it? Is He a God who puts you in the world, then deserts you? Is He a God who loves you, wants to be with you, take care of you, and encourage you?
Even after an epiphany, a metanoia (as Saint Ignatius calls it) or “born-again” experience, we may still have a faulty view of God, buried deep inside; formed as we grew up, making it difficult to have an ongoing relationship with Him.
The Source Of Existence
To sort all this out, we need to review some fundamentals about God. This review is not intended to be a theological treatise, just a review and summary of some key points.
First, by observing nature, we know God exists. Saint Paul says:
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made…” (Ro 1:19-20 RSV)
Creation works like a watch. It’s predictable and governed by laws and rules that can be known. Nature did not happen by chance. There’s intelligent design behind it, and there is purpose. There is beauty and diversity but there is order, not just random chance.
Secondly, by reason we know that God exists. Every effect we can perceive has a cause, and leads to a question: Where or who is the first cause, the prime mover? All things exist. Where did existence come from? Our definition of God includes the notion that He is the prime mover, the source of all existence. To be the source, he must possess existence in His own right.
God is existence. Because creation exists, we know: He has all knowledge, He is all-powerful, He has an intellect and a will, He’s able to act, He’s able to make decisions. He is a person.
There can be no limits to the first cause, the prime mover. If there were limits, we haven’t yet arrived at the First Cause. We’d have to go back another step to find The-Somebody-Else who first set those limits. Without limits, we say that God is infinite. He is omniscient (knows everything), omnipotent (all-powerful), and omnipresent (He is everywhere).
Applying these notions to the “big-bang” theory of creation, advocated by science, raises some legitimate questions. Who is the bang-or? Who is powerful enough to make a bang like that? Where did the stuff that got banged, come from? Even though it’s not the business of science to answer those questions, it doesn’t make the answers any less important.
Finally, through revelation, we know God exists. He has revealed Himself to us as recorded in Scripture and in Jesus.
“Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you: this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me…” (Ex 3:13-16 RSV)
“Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.” (Jn 14:9-11 RSV)
Notice first, that God’s answer to Moses, “I AM WHO AM”, seems to be, but is not, grammatically incorrect. It highlights the absence of time. Time is a measure of change. There is no time in God. All things are present to God: the past, the present and the future. We exist in time. God does not. He is loving, changeless existence.
Jesus declares himself to be a revelation of the Father. What a surprise that must have been to those who first heard it.
Thus has God revealed himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Later, He reveals himself to Moses, the Israelites, the prophets and kings, and finally to all of us in Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Church. He is not some cold, powerful magician who gets a kick out of creating things. He is a loving Father who gives life and existence to us and then reveals himself so we can have a relationship with Him.
I’ve just asserted that God is a God of Love. Let’s take a closer look. God is infinite. He contains in Himself the perfection of all that is possible. The highest perfection we know is love, of the self-sacrificing kind (agápe love). God is Love, the ultimate perfection of love. There can be nothing in Him that is anti-love. Everything God does procedes from His Love because He is infinite Love.
The Bible constantly refers to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who loves His people.
“… not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm give them victory; but thy right hand, and thy arm, and the light of thy countenance; for thou didst delight in them.” (Ps 44:3 RSV)
“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (Isa 54:10 RSV)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16 RSV)
These are just a few of the many references to God’s love in the Scriptures. Rather than trying to study and analyze them — soak in them, let them sink in so you might sense what the scriptures reveal about the enormity of God’s love for us.
Another aspect of God’s love reveals that He is a loving Father.
“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are…” (1 Jn 3:1 RSV)
“With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born. “Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands afar off; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’ For the LORD has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall languish no more.” (Jer 31:9-12 RSV)
“Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his afflicted.” (Isa 49:13 RSV)
“My beloved is like a gazelle, or a young stag. Behold, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice. My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.” (SS 2:9-11 RSV)
“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Lk 15:20 RSV)
The scriptures are saying that God is a Father, a loving, compassionate Father. He is the source from which we proceed. (For more on this see God the Father).
One God, Three Persons
Now, we need to take a look at the notion of Trinity to get a sense of the majesty of God. We know that God is Triune, three persons who fully exist in one, infinite, all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving nature. Jesus revealed this to us in many ways, including the scriptures above; and the following.
“And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.” (Jn 14:16-17 RSV)
In John’s Gospel, Jesus is called the “Logos,” the Word of God — knowledge or thought that is expressed in action. If God knows everything, what does He know? He knows Himself. He knows Himself so intimately, so completely, in so much detail, so thoroughly, so totally, so infinitely, that that knowledge itself is the second person of the Trinity, The Logos.
They both know each other. They love each other because God is Love. And that love is so complete, so total and infinite between the two of them, Father and Son, that their Love itself is the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. We say in the Creed, that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and Son”, and that’s exactly what we intend to impart.
So there are three Persons who share the infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful, omnipresent, loving, source of existence that is the nature of God. The Trinity is the pattern of community, family, and selfless love that God has revealed to creation.
Creation And Our Eternal Existence
If God has infinite knowledge, He knows He could create human beings who would be incredibly happy to live with Him in Heaven. But, unless we freely chose to be with Him, we would be puppets and unable to experience the full happiness He intends. Thus, out of His infinite love, He chooses to give us life with free will that we might choose Him and His intended destiny for us.
So, the second person of the Blessed Trinity — Jesus, the Son of God, and Word of God — obediently becomes the architect and instrument of our creation.
“IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn 1:1-5 RSV)
Jesus is the one who brings existence to us, who creates us, who is responsible for all creation. He is the Author of Life. He brings us into being that we might be loved; we might be cared for, that we might share in God’s life. We are created with a hole in us, so to speak, that can only be filled by God. True happiness, lasting happiness, ultimate joy, peace and contentment can only be found through a relationship with God — limited in this life, to be sure, but fully and forever enjoyed with Him in Heaven.
Existence Forever, Moment By Moment
Finally, a point needs to be addressed that concerns God’s love for us and His omnipresence. It has to do with the nature of things. If you take a rubber band, stretch it then let loose, it will return to its original shape. The nature of rubber is to be elastic.
If you take a block of dried wood, exert force on it and lay it down, it doesn’t stretch, and may show the marks of where you applied the force. So, it has a different kind of nature. Dried wood is inelastic and takes permanent deformation easily.
From what substance did God make us? The answer is — nothing. There was a formless void before creation began. So, if God made all creation and us out of nothing, what would happen if He removed His creative power? The answer is — we would go back to nothing as though we had never existed. In other words, our existence and our nature requires that God keep us in existence, moment by moment. Were He to remove that power, we would revert to what we were made from, which was nothing.
Don’t get too hung up on the theology or science of this, as there’s a more significant issue at hand. The fact that you exist at this moment is a sign of God’s love for you; a sign of His fatherly care for you. Because if He hadn’t created you and kept you in existence from moment to moment, you would go “Poof!” There would be no memory of you; nor evidence you ever existed.
In other words, creation and our existence is not only willed initially by God, but requires His constant attention and will to hold us in existence, because we were made out of nothing to begin with. The strongest proof that God loves you, resides in your continued existence — moment, by moment — that you might obtain life with Him in Heaven. You may struggle; you may run away and try to get distance from God. You may reject Him and sink deeply into sin.
But He’s still loving you and keeping you in existence; hoping for your return, like the father in the parable of The Prodigal Son. If you consider these concepts in prayer, they will help you maintain a sense of God’s presence and action in your life.
We’re all seriously challenged at times and tempted to revert to old ways of thinking about God. It’s important that we keep correcting and refining what we believe about God. What is buried deep inside of you? Do you really believe He loves you? Do you really grasp that He is holding you in existence moment by moment?
He has loved you enough to hold you in existence while you’ve read this posting, so you could hear — once again — that He loves you.
Are you willing to walk in trust of Him for the rest of your life, without question, without doubt? It’s hard to do! But, we must do it. For only in the Lord, will we find our true destiny.