A revised entry, first posted in August, 2008
What makes God attractive?
Is it his creativity that formed grand galaxies with striking shapes and colors? Or his intimate gift of spider-spun webs that catch morning dew and sparkle against the backdrop of leaves and roses?
Yes, his handiwork is certainly captivating when we ponder his aesthetic offerings. Yet that’s just a hint of all he offers us. Even greater beauty is to be found.
Is God winsome because he sets out intriguing puzzles? As we discover the complex fabric of life and being? Of light as both particles and waves? Of subdivided atoms? Of unseen dark matter? Of quantum mysteries? Of unending Bible insights?
Or in his morality? In the way Joseph’s brothers intended evil against him while God meant the same events for good? In his promise that all things are at work for good in those who love him and are called to him? In the way he confronts the Lie with the Truth? In how Christ’s death on the cross is both terrible and wonderful to the eye of faith?
Again, yes. But his attractions extend even beyond these.
Is God attractive in his unending creative care? In his shaping and ruling a universe so vast that we fail either to see or conceive its boundaries? In his power to form new life in a womb and then to unfold that life as a human bloom of unique views, gifts, and aspirations? In his capacity to know every thought of every person in every place in every stage of life? In the relational tapestries that embrace us?
The answer is still, yes! He is wonderfully attractive when we even begin to glimpse the spectrum of his sustaining power at work in the universe.
Yet there is more to his beauty.
But we may miss this beauty by enjoying what is good in place of the best. Real joy in God comes from engaging him for who he is and not for what he does. If we reverse this order we slide into a utilitarian—consuming—relationship.
And this is a false faith—a faith in our own doing—as God is made to be the object of a treasure hunt with the treasures meant for selfish ends. Instead his heart is for us to know and embrace him in himself.
False faith is also a spiral of works: the captivity of joy-seeking. The focus is on us as we use religion to collect benefits in a Santa Claus-like “naughty or nice” repackaging of God. Our devotion is to doing right things: to be disciplined to read our Bibles; to journal our religious qualms and insights; to give at least a tithe; and to scold others who don’t buy a responsibility-based faith. Some of these may be fine—as an outflow of our joy—but never as a duty.
What, then, is the way forward?
The answer comes in Psalm 34:8 and in similar invitations: “Taste and see, the LORD is good!” His goodness is available to anyone who tastes and sees him. And anything that distracts us from God’s beauty is flawed, as when Adam and Eve became self-focused—naked and ashamed—rather than God-focused.
Now let’s answer our question about the deepest locale of God’s attractiveness: it’s his love.
He captures us as a lover who invites us into an eternal, holy love. This love is relational—the love of God the Father for his Son; and of God the Son for his Father. All this is by the ministry of the Spirit who is one with both the Father and the Son and who then spreads this love as a cascading gift from the Godhead.
Augustine of Hippo said it this way: God is the lover; the Son is the beloved, and the Spirit is the love they share. Each—Father, Son, and Spirit—is fully personal, distinct in role, and freely active; yet also “mutually within” the others. Collectively the bond of this eternal relationship is called “love”—so “God is love” as in 1John 4:8 & 16.
The basis for distinguishing our first set of statements of God’s winsomeness from this final statement is this: the gifts we enjoy from God are shared with us out of his love. To love the gifts without loving the giver is to worship the creation rather than the Creator.
If this leaves any reader wondering: “So why don’t I—if I’m really honest—find God attractive?”
I answer from my own conversion as I realized, “He cares for me! And all I have to ‘do’ is enjoy his love!”
For others maybe it’s a matter of telling the Spirit—who shares God’s love—that you long for a taste of that love. Be humble: don’t add conditions. Just come to him to enjoy him as he is in himself. Start by telling the Father you want to know and enjoy his Son.
I’m sure he’ll answer by inviting you into some bold and heartfelt Bible reading. And with that you’ll always want more.