Of course the two are synonymous when it comes to God.
For the ancient Hebrew, to know something is to do it. Because God is who he is, he does what he does. When we experience something that he does, we know more about who he is. Being and doing are connected in the person of God. But I’m beginning to wonder if everyone thinks this way.
Last night I met with a few New Hopers to talk about how we can see and know God through the creational text of parenting. Great meeting. I love being part of a church where the community helps write sermons. In the course of our discussion I asked, ‘But do we love God for who he is, or for what he does?’ Up until that point in the meeting we’d been drawing all these parallels between God and parenting – unconditional love, forgiveness, sacrifice, etc… – with the anecdote attached to each parallel describing an act undertaken by the parent or by God. “When a parent acts in this way, it reminds me of God acting in this way.”
Which made me think, do we ever just love a parent for who they are… outside of what they do?
In my experience, my love for God is mostly attached to who God is. I love him for his being, perfection, wisdom, goodness, holiness, beauty, majesty, grandeur, and glory. Yes, I am very thankful for all that he does, and has given me, but those things seems secondary to these more primary loves. As a parent I’ve noticed that I feel most loved when I am loved for my being, and not for what I’ve done. In the ideal parent/child relationship unconditional love operates in both directions.
When I asked the Do you love God for who he is or what he does question, two people immediately responded with, “For what he does.” As we talked about it some more, you could sense perspectives changing; wondering if the move to loving God for who he is, is about maturing in our faith, in our love.
When I got home that night I thought about it some more, in the context of our vision here at NHC. If lots of people love God for what he does, what impact would that have on a person’s capacity to engage a moment of co-illumination (one of those ecstatic epiphany moments where God’s truth in a creational text connects/co-illumines God’s truth in a biblical text). For me, co-illumining moments are all about the presence of God; about being, perfection, wisdom, goodness, holiness, beauty, majesty, grandeur and glory. Yes, these moments come to me via acts of God through creation (and the scriptures). But in the glory of the moment, the acts fade, and his presence is all that matters.
Which makes me wonder if Christians who love and know God primarily through what he does (not making the move to presence), would have a harder time understanding why moments of co-illumination are so everything to many others of us. God isn’t doing a thing in times like these. He’s just being everything.