The Essay is preceded by the following poem.
Prophets are poets
Communicators of Spirit
an emotion impossible without grace
A power built upon a promise
Romance requires promises
They shall be my people and I will be their God,
and give all of me
God The Lover
Romancing humanity with an incomparable story
Lost in love’s deep sorrow
God loses God’s self to humanity’s end
Only to affirm love’s eternal life
Our Romantic God
In the course of presenting the following ideas it might be thought that I’m a romantic whose aesthetic sense of reality lacks the intellectual rigor to think of love in psychological, biological, and cultural concepts. I must immediately deny such thoughts, for although I was captured by love long ago and reacted in unimaginable ways that affirmed love’s power to preserve and bless the mutual lives of two human beings, my reflective powers on this subject is not mere romanticism. Yet, I understand romantic love to be like a force so powerful that it is overwhelming; it is like rolling thunder bellowing from heaven, it is like hearing God speak or perhaps it is God speaking.
I will begin my reflection with the scriptural statement ‘God is love’. God gives definition to love. Of course, a person would have to grasp fully the revelation of God’s love. They would have to escape the present reductionist religious thought on the meaning of the cross existent in most of America. God is ‘just’ but is not referenced in scripture with ‘God is justice’. Justice is subject to the power of love that brings grace and mercy. Justice without love is not expressive of God; it is only penal vengeance or heavy-handed oppression on the powerless.
Love then is first a spiritual reality that flows from the creator of life. Love is a power, and it has been said that through nonviolent resistance ‘love is a weapon’ . As a weapon love overcomes the world, how much more should you or I if we really love. I will suggest that love can exist in a human being in two distinct ways that are both dependent upon God.
First, to align with God in faith and seek God in the present is to connect with love. A person in relationship with God through faith can experience an intensified love for others, even a romantic partner, because knowing God, maturing in spirituality and wisdom, enhances the love released from God when we live out the likeness and image we bear. This is the second distinct way love manifests in us. I will explain.
I think God gives us through likeness and from the image of God we bear, the ability to receive love’s power (and God is love). I mean that when love is functioning in relation to likeness and image then God releases the living reality of love from God’s self. Love like this is not subject to religious creeds. It is God in the world without religious restriction. Faith is not at work, but love is present.
Perhaps you’ve felt the power and presence of love generated by being in a large group with two people whose blossoming love is easily recognizable? I have. Perhaps you have been one of those persons?
Although I’ve attempted to provide an understandable difference in these two manifestations of love, they are not so distinct as to always be entirely separate. One is a faith relationship that produces love; the other is associated with likeness and image bearing.
Since God is love, then love is godlike; love is spiritual whether from faith, or living out likeness and image. Of course, love from God is never immoral, rather, it is more moral than the world in which we live. Love is giving of self, even as God gives of God’s self that we might love.
Love from likeness and image that is enhanced by faith’s relationship with God through discerning the will of God in the forming of a romantic relationship is as real as the night sky. It has the power to create life in the world and produce dreamy (mistaken) concepts like ‘soul mate’. Yes, God works to aid us in our need to love and be loved by the gendered difference of the other. We need one another. When a man loves a woman he can feel it and so can she and everybody else. Xavier Zubiri might refer to this as part of our sentient intelligence. Our awareness of reality runs deeper than the things seen.
Two human beings living out their love and faith in a chaotic world is the goodness of God that inspires hope. It is the call to live in a way that displays the love of God for humanity. Their love is their legacy; it out lives them as an indomitable memory in the mind of God. The greatest love stories do not follow social mores’, they are unconventional but find love in the midst of the mess.
Romantic Love and Sexuality
It is often assumed that romantic love is to be equated with erotic love, that is, sexuality. Sexuality is foreign to God as Spirit and was not a part of the life of Jesus. Sexuality is an instinctual impulse, a drive that belongs to the physical and is not part of the likeness and image of God in which humanity is created. Romantic love enhances sexuality but is not dependent upon the sexual impulse for its origins. As I have argued, the origin of romantic love is in God.
To connect love with sexuality and not affirm the distinct separation, to fail to recognize romantic love apart from eroticism is to subject God to sexuality. As I have stated in other places the Song of Solomon placed in the canon sanctions sexuality between a man and a woman as sacred; it is a sacredness shared between two persons. God is not involved; this is why God is not mentioned in the Song of Solomon. That marriage, sexuality, and procreation are not a part of the resurrection attests to the separation of God and humanity. When humanity’s metaphorical marriage to God occurs gender difference remains but sexuality is lost.
I think it is an error to take the wonderful metaphors of scripture that portray God as a lover of humanity and then push ‘the deity’ aside to become an un-empathic static power. God is love. It is likeness and image in relation to God that gives humanity ontological awareness and insight. Romantic love is an overwhelming power that is part of our sentience as persons. It is greater than we are when governed by goodness; the wicked mar love. If people understood that sexuality is not the driving power of romantic love then we would witness healthier relationships in our society, even our world.
In summary, I've concluded that real love comes from God. This is so because "God is love". Love must be moral and consistent with 'likeness' and display 'image of God'. Although God is love, love is not God. God has in my thought released the power of his self or love into our reality. Love can be abused when not governed by faith, likeness and image. Love received through faith's relationship is a bonus and enhances the power of love released into creation through likeness and image.
Romantic love is God's gift to male-female relationships. It is more than biology; it is God calling for two people to leave a legacy of love that communicates God's love for humanity. God is a romantic who loves us with the beauty of creation and the wonders of his desire for us. God’s desire for humanity is so emotively intense that the cross is an act of love (not penal substitution which is a wretched slander against God).
So, your spouse is more important than your parents or any children born because of said relationship e.g. leave mother father etc. So, love is always from God, always God working in the world. Love that mars likeness and image, or is void of faith, has crucified God just like they did Jesus. Love’s legacy is not dependent upon children, but children need a legacy of love. Only then can they overcome the world.
Love like life, is messy, it is wild and precious, be free in Christ, romance your spouse without shame. Happiness is lived on the edge of messy, next door to untamable, friends with the unpredictable, and mixed with tears of sorrow and joy.
To love another is to hear the dance of life as love seeks to speak. God is an ever-hopeful romantic, ever desiring for humanity to hear his voice that sings of life, love and peace amidst the suffering of existence. Love is like the magic of touching the transcendent God and such is often shared in the imaginative allure of a fairy tale.