God Is Love – Count on it

Saint John tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8). While he tells us this so that we are enabled to discern who belongs to God, we can also learn something of the nature of God. I’m going to do something that is often frowned upon in scripture interpretation; I’m going to apply a modern sensibility to John’s words. I’m going to look at John’s phrase, “God is love” the way I would evaluate a statement as a programmer and then I’m going to consider the fruitfulness of the result.

God is love can be expressed as God = Love. Is that what John meant; that there is an equality between God and love? Let’s take a look at a simple math problem and see if there is anything that fits with what John is saying. Let’s look at N=1. We do not know if the statement is true but let us, for the sake of this argument, say that it is true. What then, do we know about N=1? To answer that we need to define what 1 is; what we know about the number one. Well, one is an integer – meaning that it can be written without a decimal or fractional, which means that one is a whole or untouched number. One is also a natural number; that is, it is used for counting. In fact, one is the natural beginning of natural counting. One is the building block of all positive integers and as such, merits its own existence axiom in Peano’s axioms. One is the only multiplicative identity for all numbers; that is, one times any number is that number. One is the only perfect nth power for all positive integers. One is the only positive integer with exactly one positive divisor; itself. Simply summarized, one is a very unique number.

By the way, if any of these descriptions sound familiar, it may be because they also describe some of what we know about God. God is one God, not divisible even though there are three persons of the Holy Trinity. God, and in particular Jesus, is the one by whom all things are measured (Colossians 1:18-19). God is the one from whom all things came. He dwells in all of us (1 Corinthians 3:6-17). God is sufficient for His own being[1]. God is the Holiest of holies, unique in uniqueness, singularly singular (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

The Number One God the Father
a whole or untouched number, not divisible by anything but itself God is one God, not divisible even though there are three persons of the Holy Trinity
natural beginning of natural counting the one by whom all things are measured
the building block of all positive integers the one from whom all things came
merits its own existence axiom sufficient for His own being
the only multiplicative identity for all numbers dwells in all of us
one is a very unique number God is the Holiest of holies, unique in uniqueness, singularly singular

Now back to the number one – that’s a lot we can say about the number one. All these things we know about the number one, if the equation is true, we also know about the variable N, because N=1. Now, by the communicative property of mathematics, not only is N equal to one, but one is also equal to N, even though N and one may not be exactly the same. For instance, consider these expressions: 1=1, (1/1)=1, (1×1)=1, 11=1 (144,000/144,000)=1. … etc.

I can substitute 1 for anything on the left hand side of these equations and the equation will still be true. ‘N’ may be any of these expressions, which only differs in the way it is written; that is to say N is reducible to 1, such that the equation could read 1=1. Does that matter to a programmer? Yes, marginally – at least to me. There is always the elegance of the expression and the leanness of code to consider. Now, how to apply this sensibility to the expression God=Love.

Well, what do we know about love? More specifically, what does the New Testament tell us about love? From 1 Corinthians 13:4-13 we can write these equations (!= means not equal).

Love = Patience
Love = Kindness
Love != Jealous
Love != Pompous
Love != Inflated
Love != Rude
Love != Self seeking
Love != Quick tempered
Love != Brood over injury
Love != Rejoice over wrong doing
Love = Rejoicing with truth
Love = bears all things
Love = Believes all things
Love = Hopes all things
Love = Endures all things
Love != Failing
Love > Hope
Love > Faith

John 3:16 gives us the equation Love=Sacrifice.

I can substitute God for anything on the left hand side of these equations and the equations will still be true. It even works for the set of faith, hope and love if you compare the Holy Spirit with Faith ( 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, ), and Jesus with Hope (Matthew 12:21, Luke 24:21, Ephesians 1:12), and the father with Love (1 John 3:1, John 3:16, Regarding love greater than faith – John 14:28). In fact, these three virtues are called the Theological Virtues and are often referred to as a trinity. I have seen the Holy Trinity expressed like a Venn diagram with circles intertwining, overlapping and sometimes artistically designed with intricate weaving, or simplistically as one unbroken line or Mobius strip ( a single-sided object). Yet, I think the most accurate way to diagram the trinity of virtues or the Holy Trinity is to include their proper names in a single circle. If we want to be artistic, we can add some symbols to express each of the three persons.

Just as in describing the number one we came to understand N, so too in describing love we come to understand God. Do we understand everything about God? Nowhere near, and I imagine that we don’t understand everything about love either. But I tell you what; if you want to understand God better, endeavor to understand love better. And if you want to understand love, then love. God is the one who is (Exodus 3:14). And so love is in loving.

1 John 4:8
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
8He that loveth not, knoweth not God: for God is charity.
Colossians 1:18-19
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
18And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he may hold the primacy:
19Because in him, it hath well pleased the Father, that all fullness should dwell;
1 Corinthians 3:6-17
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
6I have planted, Apollo watered, but God gave the increase.
7Therefore, neither he that planteth is any thing, nor he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
8Now he that planteth, and he that watereth, ate one. And every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour.
9For we are God's coadjutors: you are God's husbandry; you are God's building.
10According to the grace of God that is given to me, as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation; and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
11For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus.
12Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble:
13Every man's work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is.
14If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.
16Know you not, that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
17But if any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy. For the temple of God is holy, which you are.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
4Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.
5Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength.
1 Corinthians 13:4-13
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
4Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up;
5Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil;
6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth;
7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8Charity never falleth away: whether prophecies shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed.
9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.
11When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child.
12We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face. Now I know I part; but then I shall know even as I am known.
13And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.
John 3:16
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
16For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.
1 Corinthians 12:7-11
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
7And the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man unto profit.
8To one indeed, by the Spirit, is given the word of wisdom: and to another, the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit;
9To another, faith in the same spirit; to another, the grace of healing in one Spirit;
10To another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, the discerning of spirits; to another, diverse kinds of tongues; to another, interpretation of speeches.
11But all these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will.
Matthew 12:21
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
21And in his name the Gentiles shall hope.
Luke 24:21
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
21But we hoped, that it was he that should have redeemed Israel: and now besides all this, today is the third day since these things were done.
Ephesians 1:12
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
12That we may be unto the praise of his glory, we who before hoped Christ:
1 John 3:1
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
1Behold what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called, and should be the sons of God. Therefore the world knoweth not us, because it knew not him.
John 3:16
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
16For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.
John 14:28
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
28You have heard that I said to you: I go away, and I come unto you. If you loved me, you would indeed be glad, because I go to the Father: for the Father is greater than I.
Exodus 3:14
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
14God said to Moses: I AM WHO AM. He said: Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: HE WHO IS, hath sent me to you.
  1. Aquinas’ proof of God’s existence from sufficient or efficient cause []

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