How Should One Best Understand Divine Love?

Topics: Love, Jesus, Agape Pages: 7 (3020 words) Published: February 1, 2011
The conditions were perfect; sun setting, waves lazily lapping against the shoreline, her head gently resting on his shoulder. He looked down and softly whispered those three little words, “I love you.” The next day Josh was at a basketball game. His reply to a friend’s offer of cheesy nachos was, “yeah man, I love nachos!” Later that evening he was pulled over for speeding on the way home. After getting off with a warning he remarked, “God must love me.” How can Josh qualify three such different concepts with the same word? Surely Josh doesn’t feel the same way about his girlfriend as he does cheesy nachos, nor would he qualify God’s love as the same when he gets out of a ticket as when he comes to the realization of the cross. No wonder love can be such a confusing topic! There are several ways to understand love, and several ways to understand Diving love particularly. There are three basic ways to understand divine love 1.) God’s love is so beyond us that we cannot understand it, 2.) God’s love is able to be understood but never imitated, or 3.) God’s love can be understood and incorporated in the lives of his creatures. The concept that God’s love is too far beyond us in an understandable, yet unstable premise. There are many parts of God’s love that are difficult to understand. How can a loving God send people to hell? Simple explanation: we don’t understand God’s love. A verse from the Bible often referenced in this situation is Isaiah 55:8 "‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD” (Bible). This little verse is used many times in situations that we don’t understand. Yet the verse before it speaks of God giving grace to the wicked if they come to him. In context God is explaining that it is difficult to understand His benevolent grace, not why he would send someone to hell. Supposing God’s love can be understood, now what? This leads to a second premise; God’s love can be understood but not imitated. Humans do possess the ability to understand and be in awe of God’s love but as for practical application we cannot love like God can. This viewpoint argues that Peter was affirming this belief when Jesus asked him if he loved him. Our language is limited to one word for love, whether referring to God, romance, or just cheesy nachos. But in Greek there were many words: phileo (brotherly love), eros (romantic/sexual love), and agape (the limitless love often associated with God) and others. In English the passage in John 21 seems a bit confusing because it seems like Jesus just keeps asking Peter the same question “do you love me?” and Peter continues to respond “Lord you know I love you” (Bible, John 21:15-17). However, if you look at the Greek Jesus asks “Peter do you agape me” the first two times but Peter responds “Lord you know I phileo you.” Finally Jesus asks do you phileo me to which Peter affirms. This passage seems to confirm the idea that we cannot love in the same way that God loves. After all Peter knew Jesus, and if he knew he did not possess the same love that Jesus did, how can Christians of today ever anticipate to? A flaw in this argument is the biblical stance that we should be imitators of Christ. Is God simply setting Christians up for failure, or is it actually possible to love like God loves (Winkleman 2). The final option is that God’s love is something attainable—something Christian’s can understand and imitate in their personal lives. According to Oord and Stone in Thy Nature and Thy Name Is Love, “Wesley emphasized that the God in whose image we are created is love” (71). What then does it mean to be created in the image of God? Does this mean we are the image of the God, or just something similar to Him? Wynkoop claims that a study of Hebrew will dispel any beliefs that references to man being made in the image of God means man is essentially very similar to God. She explains in her book, The Theology of Love that...
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