By Valson Thampu
The ‘Bible’ defines God as love. That is to say, God is nothing, if not love. Where there is no love, there is no God. Or, lovelessness is practical atheism.
How did God express himself as love? By renouncing himself, by ceasing to be God, and becoming human. That is the power of love. It transforms. To say that one loves, and still not show any change in one’s nature, is to be a pretender of love. Love is divine alchemy. It necessarily transforms.
The ultimate measure of the power of love is that it changed even God. Love made God human. So, the opposite also should hold. Through love, the human becomes divine; provided love is truly what it ought to be.
Consider patriotism, for example. Patriotism is, literally, love of the Father Land. In the Indian context, it becomes love of the Mother Land. The intriguing thing is that this love does not change anyone in any real sense. For example, for all the patriotism that we profess, we do not become less selfish, corrupt or more public spirited on account of it. Love is nothing, if it does not change the one who loves. Because it has the power to change the lover, it has also the power to transform the object of love. The hallmark of genuine patriotism is that it changes patriots into better human beings and selfless citizens.
To change is to be willing to be other than what one is. It is natural for God to be God. It is contrary to the nature of God to be human. But such is the power of love that it changes the fundamental character of God. If God were to become another God – if such a thing can be imagined, it would not be expressive of love. It would be a tactical move, an instance of divine opportunism.
God becoming human out of love for humankind is not a whimsical exercise. It is purposive. The purpose is to imbue humanity with love. From this view, the purpose of religion is to make human beings not only capable of love but love itself. In other words, love becomes, if one is indeed godly, the essence of one’s being. Or, humans become love. But that is possible only if human beings sacrifice, as God did, their nature or essence. To so sacrifice in this way is to take on the nature of God, which is love.
It is not only God who loves human beings. The devil too loves. So, there’s diabolic love. Christopher Marlowe’s play, ‘Dr Faustus’, deals with one aspect of it; namely, man’s physical love for the devil. Marlowe implies that this is egotistical self-love. Love that does not radically change the person who loves, and makes him want to fit everything to his will or prejudice is not love, but egotism. It is satanic.
Loving is the quintessential divine experience for humankind. It bridges the gulf between the human and the divine, between heaven and earth. But a bridge is nothing, unless the willingness to cross over to the other side pre-exists it. It’s poor engineering to mistake a bridge for a draw-bridge.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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