The Divine Romance and the Limits of Knowledge
This chapter talks, among other things, about the inner workings of the divine Trinity, our incorporation into the Triune God, the indwelling Spirit, the economical visitation of the Triune God to make an abode with us, and our eternal destiny. These are profound, mind-shattering truths that warrant much study.
But embedded within these verses is an elegantly simple application that may be easily overlooked because of familiarity- loving God.
Has loving God become banal?
Ba•nal (bə-năl′) adj. “Drearily commonplace and often predictable; trite.”
I admit that “personal relationship” has become a little trite and doesn’t quite convey all that is intended. Even devotionals seem more like a mastered art these days, more in the line of “we know what works.” But is a mastered technique for feeling close to God what it is all about? If that is our impression, then loving God has depreciated.
On the one hand, love can undergo reduction- God’s care for me or acceptance of me. We feel loved i.e. understood, accepted as is, taken care of, not abandoned or alone. On the other hand, love can undergo inflation- Christian zeal, intensity, labor, endurance. Both are necessary, but they are superstructures, add-ons, not the thing itself.
The Greek word for ‘love’ in John 14 is agape, which refers to the nature of God’s essence. God is agape (1 John 4:8). This Greek word appears 10 times in John chapter 14– v. 15, 21, 23, 24, 28, 31.
If we can unlock this word we will have access to everything in this chapter, everything in the Bible, and everything in God’s being.
Love Takes the Shortest Route
Love has a unique function in God’s purpose.
What e’er thou lovest, man,
That too become thou must;
God if thou lovest God,
Dust, if thou lovest dust…
To bring thee to thy God,
Love takes the shortest route;
The way which knowledge leads,
Is but a roundabout.
–3rd century hymn
Loving God is the catalyst in God’s purpose. Love operates in a realm inaccessible to knowledge. It activates, accelerates, and accomplishes God’s eternal purpose in our lives. It moves God out of the strictly objective and theological into the experiential and intimate.
“The love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” –Rom. 5:5
Love is not just our subjective response of affection. It is the transcendent God becoming subjective to us and penetrating our emotive core. If we keep in mind that “God IS love” then Romans 5:5 indicates that God has poured Himself into our heart. What could be more subjective than this?
As our love grows, it becomes an encompassing experience that pervades all other realms– heart, soul, mind, strength (Mark 12:30).
We imagine that love has as its object a person whom we can see lying down before our eyes, enclosed in a human body. Alas, it is the extension of that person to all the points in space and time which the person has occupied and will occupy. If we do not possess its contact with this or that place, this or that hour, we do not possess it.
For God to fully possess us and for us to fully possess God, this mutual romantic involvement (His love for us and our love for Him) must extend to all spatial-temporal points in our day. Thus, “nothing can separate us from the love of God” becomes “nothing can separate us from loving God.”
Loving God is the banner under which everything else in the Christian life occurs (S.S. 2:4). Everything else should become secondary, a by-product.
Work? Yes, but “there I will give you my love (S.S. 7:11-12).”
Labor? Yes, but “labor of love (1 Thes. 1:3).”
Keeping commandments? Yes, the first of which is “you shall love the Lord your God (Matt. 22:37-38).”
In these contexts, love is not mere sentimentality, but an access point into a holistic experience of the divine life.
However, I’ve observed a proclivity in college Christians in America for knowing and doing, but not loving (in the way I’ve described above of experiencing the divine life).
This is an old trick played on a new generation. The first temptation of man was to know something- Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:5). The second temptation was to do something- Cain (Gen. 4:3). With Adam and Eve, their lust for knowledge overthrew the sole divine mandate in the Garden of Eden. With Cain, his lust to do something for God was not restrained by the present divine revelation.
Ellen T. Charry calls this proclivity “a cognitive concupiscence in human nature.”
We obsess over knowing fully. If we can’t understand something we rationalize our way around it. “I think therefore I am” has become “I understand therefore it is.”
Again, I am all for learning, studying, processing, understanding. BUT there is a category of knowledge inaccessible to the intellect. Much in this category is a mystery to the natural mind preoccupied with knowing and suspicious towards experiencing.
“To know the knowledge-surpassing love of Christ.” –Eph. 3:19
“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard and which have not come up in man’s heart; things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” –1 Cor. 2:9
“Everyone who loves has been begotten of God and knows God.” –1 John 4:7
Aristotelian logic has its limits in the divine romance.
And if we put all our eggs in the knowledge basket, what will we do when knowledge is rendered useless (1 Cor. 13:8)? If we have not been advancing in the divine romance, we will amount to nothing.
For your Maker is your Husband. –Isa 54:5
After all, God is interested in a romance, not an eternal Bible study or charity project.
Posted on June 18, 2012, in Bible and tagged abiding in Christ, Christian life, Christianity, divine romance, experience of Christ, Gospel of John, Loving God, Marcel Proust, tree of knowledge. Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.