In-Sight: The Grand Synthesis

God is the love (1 John 4:8).  God is creator (Genesis 1:1).  These are two fundamental affirmations of our faith.  Each is important in its own right, but when we weave them together, an even grander revelation emerges.

Clearly, the two affirmations are segments of one reality.  God’s nature and activity are congruent.  Who God is on the inside is how God acts on the outside.  When we apply this to the creation, it means that all God has made (and continues to make) is a manifestation of who God is.  The nature of the creation is love because God is love.  From the largest galaxy to the smallest particle, the cosmos is love saturated.

Teilhard de Chardin’s writings have revived this connection for me, and a book about him has helped me see the reality of cosmic love even more clearly. [1]  His ability to make connections between faith and science is insightful, and his perspective is a much needed one, as a growing number of theologians and scientists is discovering.

Last week, I used this “In-Sight” category to suggest a few ways we need to be living in a world overtaken by divisiveness.  Of course, I mentioned living in love.  But today, I feel led to stay on this theme to further reinforce it. [2]

To the extent that we keep the nature of God (love) and the activity of God (loving) in its essential singularity, we recognize that every cell, nerve, tissue, and fiber of our being is made by and infused with love.  We move with the grain of the universe when we live in love; we move against its grain when we do not.  It is that simple–and that marvelous!

We often speak about Christian maturity.  When we do, we are referring to one thing: maturity in love. I learned this long ago from E. Stanley Jones. Through his book, ‘Christian Maturity,’ I spent a year in daily devotion exploring the ways and means of maturing in love. [3] I have recently began re-reading the book, and the experience is deeply formative for me now as it was when I first read it.

Without minimizing the complexities which are creating our divisiveness today, I am willing to say that our multitude of problems stem from one source: the failure to love. To the extent we fail to love God, others, and ourselves we can then move on to justify our harmful attitudes and actions. 

We quickly become like Cain, who (for lack of love) fell prey to jealousy, and once there could allege he was not his brother’s keeper (Genesis 4:9).  The extent to which we have ceased to love is always the extent to which we claim our separation from and superiority over others.  And with that perspective in place, we become strangers to grace.  We are living in a time of vanishing grace in the society and the church, and we are paying a high price for it. [4]

God is calling for us to live in love.  Our churches must be schools of love.  Our homes must be models of love.  Our spiritual formation must be aimed toward love.  “This is my Father’s world,” and it is made to be a world of love.

[1] Louis M. Savary and Patricia H. Berne, Teilhard de Chardin On Love: Evolving Human Relationships (Paulist Press: 2017).

[2] I recommend the book, ‘Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love’ (Orbis Books, 2018), compiled by Joelle Chase and Judy Trager.

[3] E. Stanley Jones, ‘Christian Maturity’ (Abingdon Press, 1957).  This book is scheduled to be republished.  I will let you know when it is. In the meantime, you can find it through used book outlets.

[4] Philip Yancey has looked at this in detail in his book, ‘Vanishing Grace’ (Zondervan, 2014).

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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