Thursday, January 14, 2016

Asking Myself: What is the nature of God?

Welcome to week two of my year of asking "Ultimate Questions" a term and a reflective prayer exercise I've borrowed from Teresa Blythe's 50 Ways to Pray. Find the start of the series here. This week, I'm pondering another theological question. I'm enjoying the process of putting my thoughts on pixels, but I'd be honored if some readers added their own comments below or through PM.

Q: What is the true nature of God?

When I think about this question, I reframe it as what is God's strongest character trait? What motivates His actions? What drives His thoughts?

Immediately, Bible verses chime in to answer. God is love. God is light, in Him is no darkness. God is good (all the time!) God is great (and greatly to be praised!) God is holy (Holy! Holy! Holy).

So, in my impulsive thoughts, God's nature is a lot of things. This is perhaps shaped by my early reading and re-reading of The All-Inclusive Christ by Witness Lee. But the "God is everything" answer doesn't satisfy me right now. I aspire to hold and then stow away in my heart's inner pocket a simpler, more elegant thought about God's nature. Something a little less like the warm fuzzy vagueness of a CCM worship song chorus and more like a new discovery, a pearl of great worth, a treasure, the magic decoder ring to life and everything. Just kidding. Not like that last one. I'm not advocating secret-password Christianity.

Let me get back on track. I like this question about God's true nature because it allows me to consider who God is-- how I know Him in experience and in theory. I don't like the question because it seems impossible to answer well-- or at least, impossible to answer in full. But maybe I don't need to. That's why He's got so many sons and daughters-- so each can reflect back that special little glint of His divine nature they were designed to capture... and reproduce in their own flawed but beautiful way. Divine nature expressed in human virtues... yet another throw back from my upbringing in Witness Lee's local church movement. It's a phrase that was used often in messages and in the types of testimonies the congregation was encouraged to give. Though I no longer consider myself a part of that movement, I've always liked idea of God's divine nature being best seen through humanity's virtues. In fact, I think I gave a mini-message about it at my best friend Priscilla's wedding-- because I thought her many virtues exemplified this concept so well. And still do.

The thought train is leaving the tracks again. Back to the question. I want my simple answer to be that God's nature is love. I choose it not because of the warm fuzzies it conjures, but because in the Bible, as in life, Love is inextricably linked to those other attributes: beauty, power, light, majesty, truth, justice. The oft quoted 2 Cor 13 argues that love's absence undoes all the human virtues which spring from God's attributes.

Love is the answer that most moves me, most inspires me, most excites me. That's the personality I can most easily ascribe to Jesus in the Gospels and the Holy Spirit in the rest of the New Testament. That's the virtue to which I'm most inclined to ascribe highest worth.

Like I envisioned in last week's question, love makes God do crazy things. Love motivates His most lavish gifts. Love is what makes Him so selfless. Love makes Him creative. Love is probably why the universe is expanding. Love is also the key word in both the Greatest Commandment to love Him with all our heart and in its corollary, to love our neighbors as ourselves. There's a whole lot of loving going on in that Secret-Decoder Ring of a two-sentence sermon Jesus gave to those slippery Pharisees. It makes sense that God's nature would be seen in his goal in creating people in His image. And His ultimate goal that we'd like Him to the core of our nature, is that we'd also be love.

What are your thoughts? How would you sum up God's true nature? What aspects of this nature did I miss?

Next Week: In what ways does God intervene in the world?

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