by Abigaïl Bassac
translation Louise Thunin
The God of Jesus Christ is often considered a ˝father.˝ As for me, I consider him a lover. Of course, to speak of God as a father is meaningful; it corresponds to a certain image the Bible gives of him. When Jesus himself speaks to him, he calls him ˝father.˝ Entire chapters of Christian theology focus on this way of considering God and of speaking about him. I don’t mean to refute the legitimacy of the concept of God as a father or a mother (seeing God as a mother, rather than as a father, is the battle cry of certain women theologians). But God is beyond everything we can say about him, and the way we represent him reflects our subjectivity. Each of us has a relationship with the Divine, and, based on this relationship, we try to put words to our faith. So, there can be a thousand manners of speaking, and God can be considered in many ways. The most appropriate, to my mind, is to see God as a lover.
God in love with man
Jesus, as presented in the Gospel of John, declares, ˝No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up the last day.˝(John 6:44) There is indeed an attraction between God and man. A magnetic attraction, difficult even to describe, if one has not experienced it. The Divine seeks man the way a lover seeks his or her beloved, unceasingly, desiring to reunite with him/her. The theologian, France Quéré (1936-1995), chose the following words to speak of this : God ˝hangs onto me.˝ It’s not a question of postulating God as a being who has amorous feelings for man but rather to describe how the Divine, Life abundant, never ceases to offer tself to human beings. The Divine is not a trembling lover but a demonstrative one ! All the beauty offered to man in the course of life proves it. There is excess, folly, a passion that electrifies the world; these are so many manifestations of the love of God for human beings. God the Father is, as I understand it, wise, benevolent and constant in his deep love; he guides man towards his freedom. The God in love that I know is mad with love ; what he offers is a relationship full of ardour; he awakens desire in man. In Greek, several terms allow us to speak of love. There is disinterested love, love that expects nothing in return, and which is called agapao. It is supposed to be the love of parents towards their child. There is reciprocal love, between two friends, for example, called phileo. And then there is amorous love, love that desires, love that makes one quiver with joy (we find this expression in Sophocles), called eros. God loves man with a passionate, desire-filled love.
I also claim that God is a lover, because, often, it is in a relationship between two lovers that at last they feel they exist. It is in the exchange of glances, when the eyes of the one are fixated on the eyes of the other, that man’s identity arises. In the gaze of the Other, in the words he says to me, I become ˝ I.˝ We wouldn’t be much of anything without the Divine, but what would the Divine be without us ? Moreover, the philosopher, Martin Buber (1878-1965), writes: ˝Your need for God above all else is one thing; your heart has always known it. But did you know that God needs you, you, in the fullness of his eternity ?˝ Without man, God would not be God, for he is the God of man, and it is in this relationship that he is known as God. The opposite, to my way of thinking, is equally correct. Without God, man would not be what he is.
Being in love with God
Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) speaks of faith as a ˝feeling of absolute dependency˝ (or, if we wish to remain closer to the German, as ˝a pure and simple feeling of dependency ˝). How can we express more clearly than that what faith is ? A human is a being whose beauty comes from the fact that he is lacking. And this lack is the lack of God. In his Monologues, Schleiermacher writes, ˝He who once has tasted life in God desires constantly to enjoy it; yet, if man accompanies each of his actions with an eye to the secrets of spirit, he can, at any time, live beyond time in a loftier world.˝ Man can be overwhelmed by a passion for God without being a fanatic. In fact, faith, as I understand it, is a fervour, a tension, an obsession with God. Everything that is carried out, said, or experienced is done so as we turn towards God. I laugh when I hear liberals called faithless, half-baked Christians! When we seek God in all that we experience, when we make of him our ultimate preoccupation (to use an expression of Paul Tillich’s: 1886-1965), when we unceasingly choose the life he offers us, we have faith, even if we do not observe this or that traditional wording.
People in love with God wear different accessories. Basically, what characterizes a person who loves God passionately is the taste she has for the life God gives her. Consider the enraged commitment that certain people invest in their struggle against torture, the death penalty or famine, the flame that burns in the hearts of those who work towards restorative justice, those who climb onto boats to save others who might drown in the Mediterranean, the indefatigable patience of those who care for the dependent, the ill, or those burdened by hardship. All this comes from the unshakeable conviction that human life has immense value. This heroic defense of human life is what best manifests the amorous state of mankind, since a passion for human beings is born of a passion for God.
The lover of God lacks God; he wants to experience constantly the intensity of Life abundant. He or she is prepared to confront obstacles for this, to take risks. The greatest act of faith that a lover of God can commit is, to my mind, to love him enough to be crazy enough to want to give birth to a child. Life is filled with ugliness, nastiness; in most countries, life is exposed to great dangers. Why bring a new human being into this world ? Because one loves God, one has faith in him, one hopes that the being who could be born of our love for God will come to know, as we do, and in spite of the trials, the madness of God’s love for her.
It’s all about passion
When we speak about ˝passion˝ in Christianity, it immediately makes us think of what Jesus experienced in Jerusalem before Easter. But this term shouldn’t refer to that episode alone. Passion, in Christianity, can also refer to the relationship between human beings and the Divine. A lover does not seek to possess the other person; he seeks to be one with him, even if he knows it is an illusion. In the same way, a person in love with God does not seek to make him her thing, and she knows that she will never possess the Divine. She marvels. God in love does not make man his object. The Divine gives of itself, and in this relationship, man is not enclosed; he is urged to fulfill his greatest potential, transcending his fears, his wounds. He is urged to go beyond the familiar, the usual. He is urged to dare.
So, certainly, to speak of God as a father is not without meaning. But to speak of God as a lover is an attempt at describing his passion for the world and our passion for God.