Expressions of God's Parental Love
We don't get to define God's love. He already did. We either accept those expressions of love, or we reject them - we can't redefine them to suit our tastes.
It is very distressing to go to church and to hear chastisement from fellow believers for not loving one's children enough. This is usually in relation to children who have chosen to reject family beliefs and turn away from standards of conduct. If one doesn't show the same pride and joy in deviant behavior as one shows to adherents, those are bad parents and, supposedly, they are in danger of God's wrath. Basically, you must treat your children very well, whether they are on a good path or a destructive one.
This came up in recent discussions of "God's love." I am going to admit here that I likely have a very different definition of this than the definition adored by others.
Defining God's Love
In my study of God and his love, I find it defined thusly:
- God provides a plan for each of his children (you and me) to succeed in life and to attain God's station (exaltation) in the eternities.
- God provided a Savior (Jesus Christ) who blazed the guiding path (faith - repentance - baptism - commandments) for God's children to follow. Jesus has thus attained God's station using the plan.
- God provides the Holy Ghost to confirm the plan to each of us, to testify of Christ and his doings, and to encourage God's children along the path.
- Jesus provided immortality to all through his resurrection, a required part of the plan.
- Jesus gave each child of God the opportunity to repent of mistakes and sins through his atonement. Those who repent will gain the promised exaltation as Christ did.
That's it - that is God's love as I see it. His love is no more and no less than these. He has provided all of us a sure way to gain all that there is - Godhood itself.
Implications of This
Does anyone deny that the actions of God and his Christ, as listed above, are manifestations of love? Is there anything God can give that is greater than what he is?
Many people use "God's love" as a rationalization for excusing aberrant behavior, as in the statement that "God is love". I have found that many people actually rewrite this in their thoughts and actions as "Love is God" or supreme. Read this way, a child and their behavior, which must be loved (accepted) by parents completely, must therefore also be embraced by God himself, which transforms that child's actions into something both acceptable and right. In essence, a parent's love for their child demands that their child's attitudes and behaviors must be loved as well - a strange hostage-taking! Is God to be held hostage as well, all his commandments thrown aside in subservience to some overriding and twisted definition of love? Must God give all he has to a rebellious and hateful child because "love" demands this?
It may be far more accurate to say that God has already expressed his love and has also expressed his loving desire for our future exaltation through standards and commandments. If we deviate from his standards and curse his commandments, we reject God's love and that love will have no affect in our lives until we reconcile ourselves once again to his directives. It would be as if police came to rightly incarcerate someone for murder but they were prevented from doing so because such an accusation and punishment are not considered properly "loving". Justice would die under such circumstances and God would cease to be God (a welcome concept for many).
Don't Cast Your Pearls (Love) Before Swine
What greater thing do you possess than your love? Would you say it is like a pearl? Christ was clear in saying what swine will do with the things you treasure - trample them then rend you! Is this not what a rebellious child does and is that not exactly how their rebellious acts feel in your heart?
I find it bizarre that validating disobedience via love and acceptance (misapplied) is considered a higher virtue than inculcating the elements of God's plan and Christ's path to one's children. Why bother teaching a child good behavior when you will love them regardless of their behavior? A child will learn that they can do as they please and, if anyone tries to correct them, such correction can be branded as hateful and wrong. How convenient for the unrepentant - they are not doing wrong, you are! Any parent will naturally seek to rectify this, so they apologize to their child for trying to correct them and confirm that the parent somehow erred and the child is blameless. This is so natural a reaction in people that we don't even see it for what it is - right being wrong and wrong being right - the great calumny of our time!
When your child rejects your parenting and teaching through their deviating actions, they reject your love and they reject you. God is quite clear: if you reject God, he will not help you until you make your way back to him. The only answer God gives to the rebellious is to come back via repentance - nothing else is offered. Does a parent think that they can behave better than God by treating a rebellious child as if they had never rebelled? A godly parent should withhold the pearl of their love until such a time as their child ceases to behave like a swine. The important thing to remember is that the parent decides when that "swine-ly" behavior has ceased, not the child.
God is our example for good parenting. Christ is our example of a good child. I hope none of us think for a minute that we can somehow be more loving or more obedient to righteousness than they have been and continue to be. God abhors sin and punishes those who commit such - do thou likewise. When the rebellious choose to turn back through repentance (and only then), follow the path dictated by God's love - forgive them their trespasses and take them back into your heart.