What is the nature of God?
At some point, a Christian has to ask this question, and it is impossible to answer without speaking vague impressions and metaphors. God is my father, but He is not in a technical sense. God is love, but that does nothing to describe Him in any sort of concrete way. Christians live their lives firmly believing in God without a clear definition of what God is.
For me, the opening lines in today’s Gospel are the most difficult to comprehend in the entire Bible. I am aware that many people view this gospel as the beginner’s manual for the Christian faith, a sort of grammar book for the religion. However, my mind has found the book perplexing.
This is how a typical reading of the passage goes: I can grasp that there has always been “the Word,” the greatest of all messages that God wants us to hear. It makes sense that “the Word” has always been with God, and I can even understand the notion that “the Word” was God because, well, it’s God’s message, right? Still, it is awkward to see these elements described as separate yet one in the same breath.
This is when I usually begin to over-think the text. If “the Word” is a metaphor, then the entire passage is pretty much a metaphor, and if the entire passage is a metaphor, then one has to question how real any of it is. How could anyone claim devotion to a work of fiction?
The mysteries of the Christian faith spin my mind in circles, but with the confusion comes a strange sense of peace. The sentences read like lines of poetry, and although poems are fictional works, to me they are more real than other kinds of fiction. This Gospel is real in the same way a song is real: I can remember the rhythm of the words, and they are easy to repeat. I can believe that the words have meaning–despite the fact that they border on meaninglessness.
What is the nature of God? If the opening passage of the Gospel of John is any indication, God is baffling and loving at the same time. This is a paradox, but just because my mind cannot fully comprehend the words does not mean I cannot feel what is at the heart of them. This is the only passage in the Bible that I can read aloud and genuinely feel love burn deep inside of me.
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life,* and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.