Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God. He that loves not, knows not God for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8
When I was tutoring my student this afternoon, we were discussing the difference between concrete and abstract nouns. I told him we could each see, hear, smell, taste, or touch something and it would be the same. A table was a table to everyone. But if it was abstract, I claimed, we might have a different concept of it. Beauty is an example. What’s beautiful to one might not be to another. As I was driving home, I began to wonder if this was a valid definition. Rain is a concrete noun. I certainly saw it as it fell on my windshield, heard its splatter on my roof, felt it as I ran to my house. But rain to a farmer is a godsend that brings joy, while to a schoolchild who has to stay indoors when he wants to go outside to play, it’s a disaster. Even a flower, though beautiful to behold to most of us, is a headache in the making to an allergy sufferer.
So if we have such trouble defining even concrete things, is it any wonder we have problems with the “abstract” terms like justice, hope, love? The Black Lives Matter folks see the centuries of abuse heaped on them by whites, and the attitudes of those around them who have been shaped by the abuse. The All Lives Matter people see policemen shot and killed for no reason other than that they were doing their jobs, and the fear of anarchy that results when there is no authority. Like it or not, we are all the product of the accumulation of the perceptions we have had in our lives. We’ve got to find a way to get past the biases of our perceptions to the truth. Truth is a concrete noun. Jesus said, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:6) We all need justice. We all need hope. We all need love. And by love I don’t mean the casual sexual encounters that pass for love nowadays. I mean a godly love for one another that can only come from seeing others as His children. Those abstracts can only be found in Him.
Even our concept of God can be skewed though. It can be shaped by the relationship we’ve had with our earthly father. It’s hard to trust our Heavenly Father if our own father wasn’t trustworthy. I’ve had friends who’ve had this problem. I never did because my dad’s word was his bond. On the other hand, my dad could be extremely stern sometimes, so I guess I have a tendency to think of God that way too. That’s why I love all the images of Jesus with His disciples in the Bible. I can picture them laughing out loud when He told one of His parables. I can perceive the joy He gave to all those around Him. That’s the Jesus I know and love.
Question of the Day: What are some things in your life you think have influenced your perception of God?