Why is it the one central doctrine of Christianity that I struggle with the most? For the life of me, I can’t grasp what “God is love” means or how that’s even a meaningful statement. I read Light for Life this week as I completed my Hebrew final (more on my semester grades later). Light for Life is the catechetical instruction book series for the Greek Catholic Church, and while I learned some stuff in it, I felt like most of it is confusing and I feel like every time I ask questions and receive “answers”, I become more confusing. I read the brochures “Our Path”, “Our Worship”, and “Our Faith” but they only added to the confusion. In all of it, I never found out what “love” means! Did I find useful stuff in it? Maybe it would be more useful for a teacher but the only section I understood in the 300 or so pages was a brief introduction to repentance and how it’s about acknowledging yourself as a dependent…the rest was just gibberish to me.
Yet nevertheless, it doesn’t really matter whether you are an Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, or even a Jehovah’s Witness–all Christian denominations declare unanimously that “God is love”. And for me, these are just three words. I wonder to myself why all the time. Some people tell me that it’s because I’m not “born again”. But these two words mean differently for multiple different people that I’m not even certain what they mean. For some Christians, it refers to their personal belief. But personal beliefs differ and how can I be certain they aren’t just a talking head? For some Christians, it refers to baptism. But how can I be certain that baptism even accomplishes this task when, for some, a renunciation of Satan comes first indicating they understand this evil already? For some Christians, it happens after baptism. But now this is just like the baptised talking heads.
So clearly, being “born again” is not my problem. I should be able to understand this complex doctrine at least enough to believe in it without needing to be “born again”, right? But why does it confuse me so much? Maybe apart of this is the fact that all I really ever see from Christians is simple adolescence (as described in book three of Light for Life) where people are simply just analysing what “love” is and nothing other than this analysing is occurring. Yet I find it difficult to comprehend that the one stuck at a rough patch is somehow more spiritually mature than the rest of those who seem to have it all figured out…that just can’t be! (I also note that “belonging to Christ” is one of the divisions Paul mentions in his refutation of denominationalism.)
I see this adolescence from all sorts of people–even those who I would’ve thought were surprisingly, spiritually mature. I see this adolescence from Fr. Kimel as he debates atheists with all different metaphysical jargon. I see the same from jrj1701 even though supposedly, the Orthodox aren’t supposed to be an “intellectual” tradition. I see this from Met. Kallistos Ware in his book The Orthodox Church every time he attempts to distinguish Orthodox doctrine from Catholic doctrine leading me to believe that this assessment of theology not being entirely academic but an experience is more theological, argumentative jargon. I see Auntie reverting to adolescence competing against the Traditionalist Catholic on her blog posing herself as “more orthodox”. I see my parish priest ranting against all the various Protestant traditions and my parishioners misinterpreting my own Protestant experience as every other Protestant’s experience! (Just because I believed the Pope was the antichrist doesn’t mean every other Protestant in my circle agreed and many had a high respect for the Pope.) I see Brian Niemeier engaging with metaphysics and rationalisations though he seems a bit more mature than most. I see my former Evangelical Covenant Church pastor also memorising different debates over social issues within the church.
I see this adolescence in so many Christians that I wonder, where the hell are all the supposedly spiritually mature people I’m supposed to have to look up to as I weave through these questions? Questions such as whether I’m accepted by God as a wanderer. Questions as to how I know the love of God. Questions as to how I experience the love of God. So many questions I feel rushing through my head. Prayer helps, this is certain, but I don’t feel it helps enough–I feel it only gives me a glimpse of God but I want to experience the entirety of him. I just don’t know enough about who he is because God is love and I don’t know what “love” is. If I knew that, then maybe, possibly, I could know who God is and experience God to fruition. But all I see is a human distortion being applied to God to explain what love means and I grow sick of it and wonder to myself, “where the hell is God?” I’ve never experienced love in my entire life! To me, love is but a word. A comforting word but a word all the same.