WHEN GOD IS MOST LIKE GOD

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8, New International Version).

Did you ever wonder why God did not stop with just one human being in the Garden of Eden rather than creating two humans with the ability to increase their numbers indefinitely? Why not just Adam? It would have been so much more ecologically friendly and would have significantly reduced the tragedies of human poverty, war, and rebellion.

I am thinking that the answer is that God is One-in-Three. God, according to the Bible, is actually three persons in One: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In other words it is God’s basic nature to be inclined toward being more than a single, solo person. God is love because there is the Father-Son-Spirit perfect relationship at the core of everything. That relationship is perfectly good, perfectly desirable, and perfectly essential. There is no knowing God without loving, as 1 John 4:8 simply states. Take human relationships out of the picture, and there is no possibility of knowing what truly is real.

Without Human Being #2, Human Being #1 would never had known the Creator in a full, down- to-earth way.

The most significant creation in the universe is not the Grand Canyon or Victoria Falls. It is humanity which alone is made in the Creator’s (Father-Son-Spirit) image. Human beings are made by and from the love of God. We are made to love as God loves.

We certainly will never understand or relate to God without loving. To love God is to worship God. There is no true engaging what love is without other human beings. How would we ever understand the joy of sacrifice, sharing, and giving without other people? How would we ever be able to forget our ego-centered selves and deeply experience the life-thrilling joy of loving another person?

We are just completing Christmastide -- that 12-day celebration of God coming to us in flesh and blood. God’s love required that He be engaged in Word-become-flesh relationship. When God came as Jesus, He gathered people around him in daily relationship. Why? It’s the nature of God. He invented the church when He gathered men and women (there were women!) and shared life with them.

Jesus said that the biggest expectation that God has of us is to love Him fully -- with all of our hearts, souls, and minds (Matthew 22:37). Fast upon that expectation is to love our fellow human beings (Matthew 22:39). Jesus, in his final word to his followers, commands them to love one another.

The New Testament instructs Christ-followers to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), to admit their sins to one another (James 5:16), to teach each other (Romans 15:14), to build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11), to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21), to offer hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9), to accept one another (Romans 15:7), to be patient with one another (Ephesians 4:2), to be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10), to consider others more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3), to spur one another on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24), to bear with one another (Colossians 3:13), to be humble toward one another (1 Peter 5:5), to pray for one another (James 5:16), and to make our love increase toward each other (1 Thessalonians 3:12). In the New Testament there are 15 direct commands for Christ- followers to literally “love one another.”

In addition married couples are to base their love for one another by how Christians in local congregations love each other (Ephesians 5:32).

None of these expectations are directed toward humanity in general, but are focused on how Christ-followers should treat one another in local congregations. In local congregations is where God’s essential nature gets revealed in daily life.

Furthermore, heaven is about all of God’s people together dwelling with God (Revelation 21:3), it is pictured in terms of a big family, not as a place of solitary individuals. He wipes away our tears (21:4) and we experience His joy together. How else would people created in God’s image truly be most like God? The answer: together in love.

Clearly the New Testament vision for the church is of people who “deeply love one another” (1 Peter 3:8, 4:8).

I am thinking that to build a church that truly is resilient in a world of many diversions and worries, we need to live out that New Testament perspective. Church must be more than occasional attendance to a 60-minute worship service.

When I see us captured by a vision to “love deeply” I am awed. When I see us actually expecting us to get into each other’s lives, I see a resilient church being built.

When I see people actually connecting as family -- not just fellow attenders -- I see God at work: Father-Son-Spirit. I see the God of the Bible before my eyes. And I am seeing it more and more among children, youth, adults and senior adults. I can’t wait to invite all kinds of people to experience this!

The God who created more than one human is calling together communities characterized by deep love. I’m talking about more than Bible knowledge, programs and service attendance. I am talking real life being practiced in all its contradictions, messiness, truth, and joy. That’s why a local congregation committed to deep relationships is the hope of the world. It’s God being most Himself.