Of God, Power, and Love, and The Relationship Between The Three
By Ken K. Gourdin
Note: While it doesn’t reference Christmas specifically, perhaps this is an appropriate reflection for this time of year. To all the Christians out there, Merry Christmas! And to all those who follow other religious traditions (as well as to the irreligious), Happy Holidays!
Unlike so many powerful mortals (who may or may not have time for “the little people”—the un-rich, the un-powerful, the un-famous, the untalented, or the unintelligent) God does not love His children despite the power that He possesses; He possesses His power, and uses it to bless His children, because He loves us! (And God doesn’t play favorites by ranking His children according to any of those qualities, as we mortals so often are prone to do).
Peter teaches us that love is not simply something God has: anything that is simply possessed can also be lost, and God (no matter how He may feel about what we do) will never lose His love for us; love is not simply something God does: if that were so, if loving us were simply a choice God makes, He could [however inconceivably) choose to do otherwise; rather, love is the very essence of His Being—it is who He is!
The band Huey Lewis & The News are more right than they know when they sing of The Power of Love. But of course, Christians in general, Mormons in particular, and, indeed, anyone who has been blessed with (and who has not wilfully extinguished) the light of Christ, knows the power of love. And there’s more to that power than the ability to set one’s heart aflutter at the thought that the object of his affections might reciprocate.
One who hates may derive short-term highly-perishable power from the hate as it motivates and fuels his actions against the object of his enmity, while one who loves—and who returns love even for hate—not only derives his power from an inexhaustible source, he gains a permanent victory over anyone who hates him.
Yes, God’s other attributes are pretty cool; for instance, yes, it would be cool to be omniscient; and yes, it would be cool to be omnipotent. But even as an omnipotent, omniscient being, God derives all of His other godly powers from His limitless capacity to love. If God were omnipotent and yet not all-loving, or if He were omniscient and yet not all-loving, it would be possible for Him to exercise those powers arbitrarily or in a way that otherwise harms others. (We humans certainly would be all too prone to acting arbitrarily or harmfully that if we possessed the latter two qualities without possessing the former! Indeed, one need not look far for all-too-common examples of powerful humans who, while they possess far less power, are far too prone to wield that power in anything but a loving way.)
Hence, love is the difference (the sin qua non—Latin for, “Without which, not”) between God and other (albeit hypothetical) omnipotent beings: if God were all-powerful or all-knowing and yet not all-loving, there wouldn’t be much difference (if any) between Him and the fictional omnipotent (but petulant and whimsical) “Q,” of Star Trek: The Next Generation infamy. True, many things that happen may cause us to shrug our shoulders and to say, along with Nephi, “I know that [God] loveth His children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:17) and, “[God’s] thoughts are not [my] thoughts, neither are [His] ways [my] ways” (Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV). It is because of his limitless ability to love (in contrast to our own limited ability in that regard) that we lack cause to question His motives or His methods.
Is it any wonder, then, that God puts the First Commandments first? Yes, loving God and loving our neighbor are the right things to do; yes, we’ll feel good as we do good; but more than that, love is the source of God’s power. God wants us to love others because He wants to share His power with us.