For those of us who are able to accept that behind creation is its Creator who we recognise as a God of love, our next step is to try and understand what a God of love really means. To do this we have to put it into terms that we can understand as a part of our own experience.
We can realise for ourselves that love can be passive or active. We can know for ourselves that it is possible to sit down and simply radiate love, like a light bulb radiates light, in all directions but not directed in any particular way to any particular thing. This is passive love.
Then we can also feel that it becomes a different sort of love if we begin to direct this radiation onto an object, say a stone. There is now a relationship, and a focus of attention between the lover and the stone.
Then we can feel a difference again if we direct this loving attention onto something which can be termed to be more fully alive, such as a plant or a flower. This time we recognise a relationship which has a wider range of responses in it, and it is easier and more satisfying to love such a responsive thing.
But now, if we look at how we feel if we direct our loving attention to even more living objects such as pet animals, human beings and children we realise that our love and relationship can grow again and become even more valuable. And if these human beings are of a more deeply beautiful and gracious order, then the activity of our love leaps into higher and higher expressions which are more valuable and delightful.
Finally from the experience of our love directed actively to a most valuable human being, we can move again to a situation in which we are able to love a perfectly beautiful and gracious person, and this is our God of love, and because this God is most alive and responsive, this experience of actively directed love can be the most sublime. And although we now direct our love in all directions, because God is Divine Spirit and exists in all directions, our love is no longer passive but on the contrary, very active indeed.
In this highest form of active love we must therefore have the one who loves and the one who is loved in order to arrive at a responsive situation. So we have two individuals, our God of love and the one who loves Him, but it is very important to realise that at this precise degree of love the one who loves God enters into a Divine relationship in which both individuals are of the same order, even if God is far more mature than the individual who is loving him.
So at the moment that the individual really loves God as another individual who can be loved, then the two of them become friends in the Divine nature or specieshood to which they both belong. This means that God no longer has to be God, but can become a friend to the one who loves Him and can love his friend back again in the way that love must if it is to express the fulfilment of its nature.
The one who loves God also gradually realises that he is loving a real responsive individual with whom he is now a friend, and this experience is confirmed by all the other experiences of love to be different from worship. For worship is a sort of one-sided love which does not allow for a response and therefore cannot move into friendship, because in worship we do not relate to God as a living being but we idealise God in a fixed image that we have in our own understanding and thus we prevent Him coming alive. We do this, no doubt, out of a diminished sense of our own value and adequacy and out of a sense of modesty. But we only have to look at the nature of love for a moment to realise that the truest form of love does not have to behave in this manner to whatever it finds desirable to love.
In fact we discover that it is most unkind to worship others rather than to love them because it fixes them in a mould they do not wish to be fixed in; in fact by worshipping people we imprison them. But love does not wish to imprison the one it loves, above all, love longs to give expansion and enhanced beingness to the one it loves. Love longs to be in a creative and growing relation- ship with the one it loves. Love is the highest expression of life itself, and life is never static, but always wishes to be aspiring and developing towards new and untried possibilities ties.
So what I feel the term a loving God really means, is that this God is trying to develop us to a stage where we can become His friends in this deeply loving, active, personalised way which allows the creative fruits of a friendship to arise between them which constantly keeps pace with the liveliness and creative aspiration of the living spirit of our common Divine Specieshood.
When we enter this loving friendship with God, which enables Him to be a responsive individual as we are, then we discover that we are also able to befriend one another as well. And thus we find that God becomes our wisest and best friend among many friends. And if we look into the deep heart of love we will see that this is exactly what it has always wished for, and it is the motivation and mainspring behind the whole process that we know of as creation.
In a simple phrase we can say that the great longing in the heart of the Creator before creation began was the longing to give birth to individual children who would eventually become his friends in the everlastingness of the Divine Spirit which He himself exists in. The whole of creation is thus His method of bringing this about and it requires Him to give and us to receive the "great gift", which is the reality and conscious understanding of our own individualised Divine Being.
As friends, we know how important this individual difference we each have in ourselves is, even in the moments when we experience the greatest unity in love, or unity in the Beingness of life. And our growing wisdom helps us to understand that there is no simple or easy road to the development of this individuality in our natures. It cannot be programmed into us, or it would only be an artificial situation. It must be lived into our own nature by our own experiences and endeavours. We must learn the responsibilities that go with it and the pains and horrors that arise from the misuse and abuse of all aspects of its expression.
Thus we must see the need for the sort of freedom which allows for mistakes and abuse to occur if we are to live into the nature of our being for ourselves and not take short cuts which would only enable us to receive a part of the great gift that is being offered to us with such deep love and friendship.