Love can pervade our character so fully as to motivate the exercise of all the virtues implied in the previous discussed segments of this philosophy. As we grow we become more like God, who enables us to participate in his goodness. This truth the Sufis celebrate: when someone loves God, “God beautifies his character traits, for He bestows upon him a robe of honor from His love and character traits from His character traits. He dresses him in a light from His light, a beauty from His beauty, a splendor from His splendor, a generosity from His generosity, a forbearance from His forbearance, a kindness from His kindness, a munificence from His munificence, and so on with the other attributes.” In such fruits of the spirit, we participate in the character of God, who makes us more and more like himself.
Love surrounds us and indwells us. This truth intuitively feels right to many persons who do not yet believe in God. We do not have to be advanced in truth, beauty, and goodness to receive the love of God. The simplicity of his love unifies all that we comprehend, feel, and do.
God is love. As we know God and receive his love for us, it becomes natural for us to love sincerely, spontaneously, and wholeheartedly in return. Thus we complete the circuit of love in the most direct way. God creates our receptivity to his love and sends his spirit gift to live in us; our act of opening ourselves that love and our act of returning that love are our gifts to him.
Loving God is an adventure because he is infinite, perfect, and spiritual. Loving one another is an adventure because we are finite, imperfect, and largely material. There is another mutually satisfying way to complete the circuit of love, which is to expand the circuit: we receive God’s gift of love and then pass it on to others. The expanded circuit is still a circuit because God dwells in the other; and “in him we live and move and have our being.” God’s will is fulfilled as we love others well.
Love is the way of simplicity. “How long do you think it takes to love God? It takes but a moment. You have only to reach out and will to love God. You can do this whenever you wish (i.e., whenever you will.) You can do this in silence or you can simply say, “God, I love you.” It takes only a brief moment.” A reassuring encouragement of how simple it is to love God cuts through swamps of doubt and forests of thinking. It invites us to discover: the secret of love is to do it.
What is your way of simplicity in love?
The Sufi quote comes from Abu’l-Hasan al-Daylalmī, (d. ca. 1000), author of the first Arabic treatise on love from a Sufi perspective. The two quotations come from William C. Chittick, “Divine and Human Love in Islam,” 163-200 in Jeff Levin and Stephen G. Post, eds., Divine Love: Perspectives from the World’s Religious Traditions (West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania: Templeton Press, 2010), 168.
“In him we live and move and have our being”: New Testament, Acts 17. 28.
The simplicity of love quote comes from William A. Meninger, The Loving Search for God (New York: Continuum, 1994), pp. 4-5.
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