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How Deep is God's Love?

When I was probably 9 or 10, my friend and I had crushes on two boys. This was back in the day when Mayfair Mall had an ice skating rink inside of it and we agreed to meet them at the rink for open skating.  I remember being dressed in my little red skating outfit, and climbing up the stairs to the DJ's room where he overlooked the rink and (thoroughly embarrassed and giggling) asking if he would play “How Deep is Your Love” for the couple's skating time.

How deep is your love? How deep is your love?
I really need to learn,
Cause we’re living in a world of fools, breaking us down
When they all should let us be
We belong to you and me….

I am sharing this story because this is NOT the kind of love we’re talking about when we’re talking about Divine Love.

(For the full video version, click here.)

Sometimes it is easier to describe what something is not than what it is. So, what else is NOT Divine love?

  • I love ice cream
  • I love what you did with your hair
  • “Love you, man.”
  • Jealous love
  • Sexual love
  • Anything with conditions attached to it

I've even come to the point what I don't even think that our love for our partners or our kids can be considered Divine Love because we're simply too inconsistent as human beings. Certainly, in our best moments, loving another might be an expression of the highest love, or a means to touching Divine Love, but typically we can’t even grasp the concept of Divine love, much less live it. We’re too hung up on our egos and human love and since we can't fathom the depth of Divine love, we've simply created God in our image and warped the understanding of God's love.Love

In Ephesians 3:14-20, Paul writes, “May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, so that you, being rooted and grounded in love, will be able to grasp fully the breadth, length, height and depth of Christ’s love and, with all God’s holy ones, experience this love that surpasses all understanding, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

I often don’t get along with Paul much, but I do truly love this passage. He wants us to GET THIS… to KNOW to the core of our being… to be “ROOTED AND GROUNDED” in the immensity of Christ’s/God's love, because experiencing first-hand what that love feels like will change us, will resonate throughout every fiber and molecule of our being.

As Paul says, Divine Love is beyond comprehension and beyond our limited language to fully describe. But if we try we might say that God's love is immeasurable, constant, unconditional, inclusive. We don't deserve it, nor can we earn it. I believe it is alive as an energy, or vibration, or song. It is what nudges us to do good even in the face of insurmountable odds, devastating hopelessness, or overwhelming evil. It is the one thing that will fill us with the "fullness of God" and make us one with everything.

1 Corinthians 13 comes to mind. It's known mostly as the wedding passage, but it was meant to describe God's love to which we are to strive. "Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, and it is not snobbish; it is never rude or self-seeking; it is not prone to anger, nor does it brood over injuries. Love doesn't rejoice in what is wrong, but rejoices in the truth. There is no limit to love's forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure. Love never fails."

Maybe we can intellectualize this amazing Divine Love, but how do we grasp it? Especially when the traditional church hasn’t really taught or shared it? Instead, the traditional church has promoted a God of conditional love and given us a theology that causes us to fear God.

Think about the theologies and doctrine that have taught us to fear God or introduced us to a conditional God:

  • Heaven and hell
  • The Bible is full of examples of an angry, jealous, judgmental, punishing, vengeful God
  • The second coming and final judgment
  • Requiring a constant confession of sins
  • Jesus died for our sins – human sacrifice as a punishment
  • Repetition of how sinful people are
  • Confession and penance necessary to eat at the Lord's Table
  • Original sin
  • List of “dos” and “don’ts” to get to heaven or to be blessed
  • Hierarchy - men and heterosexuals are clearly better than women or homosexuals

I believe the church throughout the ages intentionally wanted us to feel unworthy, then we'd keep coming back to be saved. But when we feel unworthy, there is no way to grasp, or receive for ourselves, the magnitude of Divine Love.

Quaker pastor and author, Philip Gulley, tells a story in his book If God Is Love about learning to abandon the use of fear as a ministry tool. He said it all really hit home for him when he was at a youth rally with a popular evangelist. There was rock music, video screens, beach balls being hit around… it was all very different from the rallies he’d been to as a youth, but the message was the same.

“The speaker stood and told the same frightening story of sin and death. He announced the same good news of Jesus and his love. He ended with the same threats. He said, “Tonight, if you have any doubts about your salvation, if you aren’t completely certain of where you’ll spend eternity, and if you think there is even the slightest chance you might be headed for hell, then you need to come to this altar.” Not surprisingly, hundreds rushed to the altar in response.

I noticed a disturbing pattern. The young people in our group who went forward were from negligent and abusive families. Those who remained seated came from healthy, loving families. That night I realized how fear manipulates. I recognized how Christianity has preyed on the insecure and anxious. Later I read a report of the rally that claimed four hundred young people had “given their lives to Christ.” I wondered if what really happened was that 400 emotionally vulnerable and broken young people were taught to fear God.”

I think to truly grasp this ultimate Divine Love, we have to experience it, even a tiny taste of it. But how do we experience it if we don’t feel worthy enough. Yes, we want to love like Jesus did. We don't want to judge other people, we want to feel compassion and love, but it is really hard. Sometimes I think that only special people like Jesus, Mother Theresa, and the Dalai Lama can achieve this higher level of Divine Love… but that doesn’t mean we stop trying.

I believe we all have moments when we experience Divine Love. And I believe that if we can become conscious of them, we'll find that there are more moments than we realize. And eventually, as we experience God's deep love more and more, I believe we'll start channeling more and more of that love into the world.

Here’s an example: we get a glimpse of Divine Love when we find ourselves caring deeply about people we don’t know. How many of us were deeply moved by the 11 boys and their soccer coach who were trapped in a cave in Thailand for over two weeks? We thought about what it would be like to be their parents. We thought about how scary it would be to be the boys. We thought about all the people desperately trying to find them and then keep them well and get them out (one even died in the process). Why would we care like that if we weren't touching a deeper, unconditional Love?

We can also get a glimpse of God's immense love when we are out in nature.  I’m sure you’ve been somewhere and been in awe. Struck speechless. Wanted to simply stay and absorb the beauty and immensity of the landscape. Maybe you felt the serenity and sacredness of a place. Maybe you felt for a moment an overwhelming love and connectedness to that place. This, too, is a moment of touching the energy of a greater Love that weaves throughout all of creation.

These two simple examples show us how we can experience and grasp – if only for a moment – a greater love than our own limited human love. And perhaps we if can identify those moments and seek to be conscious of them, then perhaps we’ll live out that love in our lives more and more.

Love & Light!