A Post for Christmas Eve: What Does it Really Mean to Say “God is Love”?

Oh boy, a thinky post! I’ve been deep binging cult documentaries because I find them soothing. You’ve got soothing word salad from the original recordings, crossed with that sense of “wow, my life is hard some times, but at least I’m not cleaning toilets for a madman 20 hours a day because I bought into some word salad!” And naturally, this all made me think about Jesus.

Let’s talk Jesus! He said “God is Love”. And he said a whole bunch of other awesome things. But he also started a cult, didn’t he? I mean, he convinced the apostles to give up their lives. It was one organization with a powerful charismatic central leader who was followed blindly. This wasn’t a church with committees and a treasurer and obligatory meetings that are kind of boring, this was a cult that was all exciting and life changing and stuff.

Perfect Love 5x7 Print - Deseret Book
Another sign of a cult: Inspires Bad Art.

But I think what is different about Jesus as presented in the bible is that he didn’t say “I am God, God is Love, you should only love me”. Don’t know what he may have said/done in real life of course, the bible is a highly edited historical document. But the people who wrote the bible purposefully picked and chose certain things and what they ended up with was a story that avoids the worst parts of the cults.

The worst thing about cults is that they cut out your ability to love anyone outside of the cult. And that is also their downfall, because humans will love other humans, and that is a power that can move mountains. That’s what I see in all these cults, they fear love. They fear the power of love because it is the one thing that can cut across and destroy them, if love starts going back and forth in horizontal lines instead of always upwards to the leader. So they try to cut the ties of love where ever they can. The nice thing is, love always finds a way.

Over and over again, no matter what cult it is, you see the same story. I was in the cult, I loved the cult, and then I had a child. Or I saw my child being hurt. Or I fell in love with a man/woman and saw that man/woman being hurt. Or my parents were in trouble and I suddenly had to go to them. And suddenly, that cord snapped, and I woke up.

Stuff in the Basement: Italy xxi--Michelangelo's Piata
Sign of not a cult, Good Art! Good art, about the love of a mother for a child because that is as sacred as any other love.

One thing that really sticks with me with these cults is how often it is the father-child relationship that breaks things. The mother-child relationship, everyone expects that, the cult is prepared for it. But turns out, the father-child relationship can be just as strong. Very common story is all these kids who are brought into the cult with their mothers, because society puts kids with mothers. And for decades, their fathers search for them, wait for them. Years later, the adult children get out with nothing and somehow find a phone number for their father, who says “I love you, I have been waiting for you, I will send you money to get to me, just come home.” The cult didn’t know to protect against this love, it doesn’t occur to them that it exists, because it isn’t a love you read about in books, it is one you only know about if you are capable of feeling love yourself.

Father’s love is what I saw most often in these documentaries, but there were all kinds of love. Everyone preaches “God is Love”, but so few people live it, so few people truly honor all kinds of love where ever it appears instead of greedily trying to capture all of it for themselves.

And now I think about Jesus again. Jesus stayed connected to his own family through out and respected the family connections of others (bringing Lazarus back to life in order to please his sisters, attending a wedding). He didn’t even mind division, he knew Peter would betray him and Peter did betray him, and that was okay too. There was no “prove your devotion by dying with me” or anything like that. Just, you do you, and that is okay, I forgive you. Again, as presented by the bible writers who wanted to emphasize the idea of love and forgiveness above power and control.

I guess love is what it all gets down to. Jesus loved his followers (according to the bible version). He wanted his apostles to live, not die with him. He loved his mother, he loved his friends, he did for other people and died for other people. If you love people you aren’t necessarily very organized or with a grand vision, you just want to love them. And I guess the biggest thing is, you don’t fear love. Love is good, where ever it is. Love each other, care for each other, and know that God loves you.

Faith Art Print featuring the drawing Do Unto Others by Norman Rockwell

And if you are in an organization that says “your love is deformed, wrong, bad, you need to fight against it and set it aside”, then it is that organization that is wrong and bad and deformed, not you.

I’m not saying everyone who calls themselves “Christian” lives like this. Or that people who don’t call themselves “Christian” do not live by love. But it’s Christmas, so I want to take a moment to honor the message Jesus brought and how it lives today.

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11 thoughts on “A Post for Christmas Eve: What Does it Really Mean to Say “God is Love”?

  1. This post moved me. I have 3 friends I can look at and see ‘this is probably what Jesus was going for.’ It’s nice to see and hear that reflected. God is love…love is love…and anyone who tells you otherwise is a poopoo head.

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    • Exactly. When I get stopped on the street occasionally by enthusiastic people who ask if I am Christian, or Know Jesus, I always say “yes”. Because Jesus is my guy, and I know that all he wanted was for everyone to love everyone and be kind and forgiving and not hoard wealth. So I am a Christian, and a whole heck of a lot of people who have never read the Bible are too. And a whole bunch of people who call themselves Christian very loudly are NOT.

      On Fri, Dec 25, 2020 at 5:01 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I really like the idea of God as Love.Jesus creates a sense of awe and child eyed wonder,and reinstates a possibility of love in the barren world of hate.Or even Krishna in the bhakti tradition,who is literally God as a romantic companion to the soul,love turned up to eleven.The idea that God inspires others to love and be loved is lovely in and of itself.

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  3. Letting the apostles live to spread the word and get themselves killed for their faith later definitely must have helped the success of the cult of Jesus.

    Sorry, don’t mind me. This has got me into something of a cynical mindset. I would love to believe in your idea of Jesus. But the very organization that introduced me to Mr. God is Love later turned out to be wary of certain kinds of love, wich leaves me very conflicted about the Catholic Church and by extension everything they try to sell.

    I can believe in Christmas, though, so just carry on.

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    • Yeah, I think of Jesus as a really awesome dude, and “Christian” churches as totally unrelated to him. Well, not all of them (see the signs at the end of this post), but a lot of them. I can have a relationship with Jesus without needing any church or organization to get in between us.

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      • I may get there eventually. But then I have to believe a book on its own. I could just as well believe in The Lord of Rings, no? The Catholic Church at least pretends they have personal continuity from the guys who first wrote that book.

        On a more constructive note, though: I think what makes Jesus special is that he doesn’t just say love your neighbor. Even a cult needs a certain cohesion among its members. I think it’s the love your enemies part that is necessary to elevate Christendom beyond any generic faith that might spring up.

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        • Totally believe in Lord of the Rings the same as the Bible. Tolkien was working through PTSD by imagining a world in which darkness is defeated and rejected, those who defeated darkness pay the price by being forever scarred by it and set aside by the world, but are rewarded by that very difference, knowing that they have created a world where people can’t understand that difference.

          On Fri, Dec 25, 2020 at 9:22 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Ok, that I can do. I can believe in Jesus as a character from a story that doesn’t need to have *really* happened to be *truly* valuable for dealing with certain aspects of life. Like what I said about the Christkind. Or Pratchett’s Death.

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          • Exactly. Jesus, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, lots of other folks. They lived, they said cool things, I can look to their lives and sayings when I want guidance for my life.

            On Sat, Dec 26, 2020 at 4:23 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. Do you want to know what was the title on my tesis? Greatest Commandment (Commandment of love) in selected religion textbooks (Classes I-VI Elementary School). (I’m not sure how to translate it well).
    Basically I think that Love and the Commandment of love are the best and the most important things in Jesus’s teachings, and my work was to check if this message is present in selected textbooks kids use during their religion classes.

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    • Oh I totally understand what you are describing! I did similar work in my thesis looking at cultural understanding of India and stuff among non-Indian movie fans, and their websites. And I had a friend who did a thesis on awareness of gender identity in children’s literature.

      Anyway, I am so glad that you were out there saying “this is an important thing, let’s make sure children are learning it”.

      On Fri, Dec 25, 2020 at 3:21 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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