Articles From the April 1995 Unification News
It Takes Three to Tango: Loving the God of Love
Two's company; three's a crowd, the saying goes. So, why is God a being of the number three? Why can't it just be me and my God? Why does it have to be me and the three-in-one God? Isn't "three in one" a bit over-populated?
Well, might a baby ask why does it have to be me and my mom and my dad? Why can't it just be me and mom? Why does he have to be around? Maybe it's because God is that way. God likes company. This is implied by the revelation that God is love.
"Whenever two or more of you are gathered in my name, I am with you". Jesus did not say, whenever one person is living in my name, I am with him. He said, two or more. Jesus did not say the Kingdom is inside of you; he said it is "in the midst of you", and there must be more than one person there in order to create a "midst".
Love defines purpose and love is the purpose. The purpose of entities is to enter into relationships of love. Thus the purpose of love is to create relationship. Any kind of relationships? No; relationships according to nature, that is, the nature of true love, which is life for the benefit of others in the context of the whole.
By nature a cat does not love a hot tin roof. A cat loves her kittens; a cat loves cream; a cat loves mice, as in chasing them. We're talking natural theology here. Like natural foods, natural high, natural skin cream-what's good for you. Unadulterated, in other words. No adultery involved at all. Doing what your original nature tells you, your conscience.
Thus it is of vital importance to understand the nature of things and how they naturally fit together. Now, the so-called natural order of cats, mice, cream and hot roofs have their definition controlled by God, but human beings are of a different category; we participate in our self-definition within the context of God's definition.
That is, God defines us in such a way that we can put the finishing touches on our own definition. We speak words in the context of the Word. We name ourselves and the things around us. We invent languages for the purpose of communication, which is essential to relationship, and we articulate our own rules and stories. Does this mean there are no absolutes? Not at all. True love is the absolute, centering on God.
There are archetypal stories and rules, plots which are common to all cultures and societies. Social scientists can ascertain that by observation. Whence the archetypes; whence the fundamental patterns? No particular people or culture or civilization could have devised or manipulated archetypal stories and rules into existence. Yet there they are, lying across cultures like a big wet blanket.
For instance, the taboos against parricide, against incest, against thievery and adultery. The strictures and structures of religious faith, of belief, of ideals of good and bad, beauty and deformity. The story of the origin of things, of the fall, of restitution, of progression to the end of things, toward paradise, toward the alleviation of troubles and woes, toward the experience of never- ending bliss.
Going beyond that, every culture entertains hope, and sees itself at the center of the world and cosmos. Whence the hope? Whence the gravity? As does everything else, it must come from a relationship. In this case, it must be a relationship which all people and peoples have with some one thing. That some one thing has to do with love; and God is love.
The realization that God is love tells us that God comes into being in relationship itself. Yet is not God an entity, a person? Well, yes: God is a person of such perfect love that God comes into being, which is the same thing as to say God comes into relationship, within and through perfect relationships--i.e., perfect love. That is, whenever two are in perfect oneness, a third party is there: God, the personification, the origination, the perfection of love itself. God is the perfect fit. That God is love means that God is the One who is loving perfectly. There can be no other origin of things or persons.
The assertion that "God is love" means that love is the basis of everything, and that everthing exists in relationship with everything else. As Albert Einstein discovered, everything is relative, which is to say, in relationship to everything else. This idea leads to the dreaded relativism only because science and scientists confine their hypotheses to the material order. Newton's billiard balls bouncing off each other in mathematically predictable chains of events became "dancing Wu-li masters" dancing off each other in way scientists soon found equally predictable.
But I digress: the point is that relativity is a problem only when relationships are bereft of the absolute value--that of true love. The nature of things, then, is to be relative, to relate with, to participate with, other things in many patterns.
Let us enumerate a few characteristics (or, for the philosophically- minded, "postulates") of relationship: 1. A common base. In order for two things to relate, they must share something in common: common elements, interests, desires, language. 2. Difference. In order for two things to relate, there must be some difference between them; something to exchange. 3. Complimentarity. The nature of the relationship will be determined by the contrast, indeed, between that which is shared and that which is different. That constrast is what we might call their complimentarity, the way in which they compliment each other.
The Christianity of Jesus
Is Jesus a Christian? If a Christian is one who is saved by the blood of Jesus, then Jesus is not a Christian. But there is one perspective from which Jesus is definitely a Christian: he had trouble with the political order, with worldly powers. Christians have shared this trouble ever since.
Jesus' kingdom is "not of this world". Thus he defined an order of reality separate from this world's, an order centered upon God and the completion of goodness, truth and beauty, in which evil and Satan are not to be found. This, the kingdom of God, has lain in uneasy tension and some would say warfare with the kingdom of this world, the lord of which is Satan.
To translate this into humanistic terms, we would characterize the kingdom of God as the world of true love, and the kingdom of this world as the world of false love, or selfishness. And the divergence and conflict between these two worlds signifies that true love and false love are entirely different principles; they stand in contradiction to each other.
And what more is to be added is that love is the power out of which the world is constructed. False love goes in one direction; true love in another. They construct different worlds.
But after some thought we realize it is more complex than that. The "world" is not a place of continual blatant evil. False love is not rampant violence; false love is imitation true love. In some ways, false love tries very hard to be true, with one constraint: "me first." That one always does it in.
False love is subtle unless or until really pushed: "Don't make any noise and no one gets hurt". In the beginning stages, it is difficult to discern the difference between false love and true love. Thus there are elements of qualified good in the realm of evil, out of which God must construct His kingdom. There is honor among thieves, as they say, and there is some good on Capitol Hill. God always called His champions out of the fallen world, both the den of thieves and the halls of Congress. One and all, they suffered for it.
Jesus, who is the standard of true love, was judged crazy by his mother and brothers. They thought his true love was false love; they thought his good was evil. (Do you deprive them of the right to think for themselves? No one, not even God, would do that, even if they were damning themselves in the process.)
Jesus was judged a blasphemer by the good leaders of Israel who were acting on the basis of the law of God as revealed to them, which was as advanced as it got at the time. There were many Jews, Romans, Egyptians, Greeks, and so forth, who by social standards--our social standards--were superior to Jesus as sons and brothers and citizens and priests. They were helpful people, devout, polite, upstanding. And the Messiah, the son of God, representing God, was indeed crucified on their behalf.
When Good becomes Evil
Of course this calls all our institutions--the state, the church, marriage, family--into serious question. More than that: it judges them as bad to the bone, evil at the root: radically evil. The "good" of this world crucified the Messiah, the "good" rejected God. Thus even "good" became evil, and the only true good was that which died to save others. Thus absolute goodness, absolute love, was revealed, and it has remained suspended in the sky, like a serpent raised upon a staff.
Christians have known this for two millenia now, and thus they are, or at least try to be, "in the world but not of it". But this is nothing new. The people of Israel at the time of Jesus were also "in the world but not of it"; they were a people set apart, with a distinction just as radical as that between devout Christians and secular society. It was to them that Jesus was sent, and it was God-given social code which Jesus offended. Not just their social code; Jesus was a blasphemer, a threat to their God--a threat to the God of the scriptures, a threat to the way of salvation!
What they did not recognize was, as Bob Dylan sang, "the times, they are a changin". God moved forward in Jesus. He "broke into history", as theologians put it. Not to worry; mankind sealed up the rent in the wall of history, for the most part. They sealed it up with habits of thought and association, blind faith left, right and center, and religious correctness. They sealed it up by excusing themselves until the second coming, and acting as if that settles everything. (It could be that it does, except for one thing: the question "what is the second coming?" You would think that would be burning in Christians' minds, but that is rarely the case. This prevents almost everyone from opening themselves to God's plan for Jesus.)
Looking from hindsight we can place ourselves in a complacent position of moral superiority to those who rejected the growth of the revelation of true love from the true God in Jesus. But what will happen when this revelation comes again, in another stage of growth, calling even the institutes and institutions of Christianity into serious question? when he comes, sans fanfare and four horsemen and purple-robed harlots on the waters? when he comes, rejected by the powers-that-save-us? the powers-that-save-us, who had their chance to accept him and didn't? he who was rejected, but kept going anyway? and when he comes not even considerate enough to dress up as a first century hippy? and when he comes not even considerate enough to be repeating glosses on St. Paul? and not even young anymore? and not even single anymore? in fact, with a lot of kids! and claiming to constitute the fulfillment of our tradition! without even asking our permission? Who does he think he is, GOD?
People judge others according to their standard. Thoughtful Christians live in the paradoxical state of knowing that their standards are not God's standards, and hence that they cannot truly render judgment. All they can do is love, and leave the judgment to God. The other will be judged, and so will they in the process, and by the same standard: love. Is that frightening?
No, say the devout of our age: we are saved by faith; as long as we maintain our faith in the Lord, and, for the high church, our communion with the See of Rome, we will surely remain the chosen of God.
The Jews of Jesus' time thought they would be saved by the practice of the law, but it was the absolutization of that very law which paid the silver. Law stood in the way of love. In the final wash, true law is consistent with true love. But the Jewish law was not the full expression of God's law. In the same way, Christian faith can obstruct the life of love. In the final wash, true faith is consistent with true love. But Christian faith is not the full expression of spiritual life. We've known this since Paul's first letter to the Corinthians.
Thus to be saved by faith is no more our ultimate goal than to be saved by the law. To think that we will be saved by faith, or, what is worse, to use a sloganistic faith in Jesus as the litmus test for whatever appears on the spiritual horizon, only confines love within the community of relationships with those who agree with oneself, a tragic limitation only Jesus transcended, and that's why he's God's son, and we are still working at it.
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