What Does it Mean that God is Love?

Scripture tells us He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. But what does that mean? How can we understand God as love itself?

A listener recently called in to The Patrick Madrid Show to get some clarity on this topic. He said:

I understand the type of love I have for my wife. I understand the type of love I have for my children. I even understand the type of love I have for an ice cold beer on a hot summer day. But, when we say God is love, I’m not understanding that. I don’t understand how God is love.

Patrick responded:

“The reason it’s difficult for us is that we don’t experience anything like that in our day-to-day activities. Let’s look at it this way. God is the sum of all perfections. So whether it’s existence, knowledge, love, being – God doesn’t have those in the sense that you and I have those things.

When we say that somebody has existence, or has love, that implies that we’ve received it from somebody or something else. But not so in God’s case. So this is really a metaphysical point. It’s not the way we typically think in our day-to-day activities, but it’s real nonetheless. Patrick Madrid

God doesn’t possess these things, as if He had received them from somebody else, He has them in His own essence. Which means, because He doesn’t receive them from anything or anyone, He is those things. If He possessed them, the way we do, then He wouldn’t be God. Because He would have received them from somebody else.

So we must say, therefore, that God in His nature as God (God qua God, as the philosophers would say) is love, is being, is beauty, is truth, is unity. All these transcendental categories of perfection – He is all those things by nature. We have them, but He is them. I know it’s metaphysical, but it’s true. And the more you gaze at it the clearer it will become.

I would recommend a couple books to you. The first is from Frank Sheed. He has a wonderful book called Theology and Sanity, and he does a beautiful job of explaining this topic over the course of many pages.

The second book I would refer you to is called The One and the Many. Now, The One and the Many is kind of an overview of metaphysics, but you’re dealing with metaphysics right now. This is metaphysics pure and simple, and Fr. Norris Clark does a masterful job of breaking down these concepts. What is being? What exactly is that and how can we understand it from it’s different perspectives? He gets into many of the different aspects of metaphysics that touch upon this.

Those two books will be able to take you deeper into this question about God being love.”

Listen to the full conversation below:

The Patrick Madrid Show airs weekdays from 9:00 – noon Eastern/6:00 – 9:00 a.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio®.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.