From Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s The Seraphim:
Ador: Weep? Weep blood,
All women, all men!
He sweated it, He,
For your pale womanhood
And base manhood. Agree
That these water-tears, then,
Are vain, mocking like laughter:
This Sunday I have been meditating on a proper response to the love of God. The phrases “the love of God,” or “God’s love,” and “God is love,” are often tossed about quite glibly among Christians as well as entrepeneurs of sentimentality like Hallmark. It is taken for granted among many that God is a loving a God, a good God, one who smiles benevolently upon mankind and exists solely to answer prayers of those in need. Certainly God is loving and good, but the ease with which our Christianize dculture seems to accept this and even demand it puts us in grave danger of overlooking how extravagant, how amazing, how unexpected and irrational even (at least to a human mind) the love of God is.
In order to begin to grasp the magnitude of this love, we must recognize the greatness, the majesty, and the otherness of God. The angels in heaven can only look on in wonder as the Creator humbles Himself to become like His creation and to not only live among us, but to suffer at our hands. Perhaps they can see the incongruity of this better than we, being intimately acquainted with the glory and majesty of God. They are able to stand in the presence of the most Holy God, while men are only given a glimpse of His back in passing, or gaze upon His face through a veil of clay. Let us then say with the Psalmist, “one think I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.”
In order to see the beauty of the Lord we must have our eyes opened to see not one particular attribute, but to see the harmony of His essence, however limited our sight might be. By only focusing on the love of God, and divorcing it from the rest of His character, the love begins to look more and more like a human love, an easy love, or even a cheap love. God’s love is amazing and deep because it is amazing and deep that God should love His creatures even after they have rebelled against Him. If God was not holy and was not offended by sin, it hardly would be worth noting that He had some benevolent inclinations towards His creation. After all, it is a completely understandable thing for men to show care and concern towards their creations and works, as our car alarms, museums, and insurance polices all attest. But if would be a strange and marvelous things to see men sacrficing everything to save their creations once the creations had gone bad and became functionally or practically useless. Here, then, we can see the strange and marvelous Love that most tuly expresses itself just when men would expect it to turn cold.
Thus, our response to this love should be ever increasing devotion and love returned in kind–to the highest extent possible. This is the response that Paul brings up time and time again when exorting believers to meditate on the attributes of God and respond with humility, service towards others, and moral excellence. Further, we can rejoice that God has chosen to show such love to us, the most undeserving and often the most ungrateful; but nevertheless, the only recipients of all His creatures of such a magnanimous and costly a gift.
Ador: Do we love not?
But not as man shall! not with life for death,
New-throbbing through the startled being; not
With strange astonished smiles, that ever may
Gush passionate like tears and fill their place:
Nor yet with speechless memories of what
Earth’s winters were, enverduring the green
Of every heavenly palm
Whose windless, shadeless calm
Moves only at the breath of the Unseen.
Oh, not with this blood on us–and this face,–
Still, haply, pale with sorrow that it bore
In our behalf, and tender evermore
With nature all our own, upon us gazing–
Nor yet with these forgiving hands upraising
Their unreproachful wounds, alone to bless!
Alas, Creator! shall we love thee less
Than mortals shall?