God's Character in a Word
Lately I've been thinking a lot about the Character of God. I wouldn't necessarily categorize it as such, but that's really what it is. I've been thinking about what God is like... or, perhaps more appropriately, how we people should think about God. You see, figuring out what God is like is not about objective knowledge. It's not like a science project where we are just looking for answers. When it comes to God, answers are a joke anyway... as if any answers we find would even scratch the surface. God is not here for our examination. No. We will never figure God out.
But discerning and exploring God's character is an important endeavor, profoundly so, for a whole other reason despite its apparent futility. How we discern God will shape how we see and determine our actions and our own ethical decisions. If we see God as an authoritarian, we'll likely conduct ourselves as such. This is profoundly important for Christian ethical reflection because Christians are, by definition, people who are trying to be like God. Perhaps that is what makes Christians so dangerous, in good ways as well as bad. Our actions are in direct correlation with our understanding of God. The worst atrocities committed by Christians are the product of a warped and twisted conception of God. A.W. Tozer was quoted for saying, "what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." The good news here is that God refuses to conform to our perversions of God.
When I read the scripture, the chief concept that jumps off the page is the concept of love. One of the authors of the bible goes as far as to say, "God is love." It's consistent throughout. Jesus summed up the law by it, his "new law" was defined by it. Wherever other characteristics are disclosed, they are always subject to this primary presupposition--love. God's love is the beginning and the end. Out of love, God created us. Out of Love, God saves us, and out of love God sustains and renews us. Love, love, love. Where we see justice and judgement, it is the product of love and its goal is love. Where we see that God is patient, compassionate, immanent, righteous, authoritative, etc.--all of it is a manifestation of love motivated by love. Therefore, however we discern the character of God, love is the only healthy starting point and, as such, it is our best chance at displaying in ourselves anything close to an accurate reflection of God's image in our dealings with one another and with the world. It is a mistake to place love on one side or another of the spectrum of God's character. Love transcends everything about God. God is love.
God's character is, in a word, love.