What Does It Mean to Say God is Love?

By Jim Rigby

Many of us use the word “God” as a sacred poem. It expresses our reverence. We do not use that word to replace evolution as an explanation of human origins. We do not use that word to refer to an invisible person who stands as a surrogate to loving actual human beings. It does not make our decisions, it expresses our awe.

“God” is a symbol of whatever it is that patterns our world, understood emotionally. “God” is a symbol of whatever source we emerge out of. That is why we speak of it as our parent. We do not think our parent looks like us, for it is also the parent of every animal, plant and star. Our symbol has a human face only to remind us that we are the offspring of that fountainhead and so we belong here in the universe.

“Love is a word almost as inscrutable as the word “God.”  The word “love” is a symbol of when we are functioning at our highest and can therefore feel our connection to particular beings. We usually use the word “love” as a verb, and so when we say that God is a verb, we are delivered from our childish images of a large invisible human parent. When we say “God is love” we are no longer talking about a person, but instead about the personal nature of our relationships to all that is.

The word “love” is like the small lens in a telescope, the word “God” like the large.  Holding them together takes our personal affections and expands them to a sense of interconnectedness with all that is. Again, the words “God” and “love” are poems. And like all poems, they belong in the heart and not in the head.

Jim Rigby is a Presbyterian Minister at St. Andrews Church in Austin, Texas. In 2007, Jim was named “Texas Public Citizen of the Year” by National Association of Social Workers for his work on gender, economic, and racial issues. Jim has written for Huffington Post, Common Dreams, and many other sites, and his focus is on creating a deeper discussion of the relationship between religion and politics. Is it possible to affirm our different religious (and nonreligious) worldviews in ways that do not lead to intolerance and oppression, or does religion lead inevitably to superstition and sectarian violence? Can we affirm the core values of our own group, and yet, still be good citizens of the world? It is an open question. Jim argues that it is possible, if all religions are willing to go through radical reformations to align themselves to the best science available, to learn to honor artistic expression however different, and to serve universal human rights. Read more from Jim at his blog.


  1. Good evening Pastor Rigby,

    Since I have made the statement, “God is Love,” publicly I read your article with great interest! I am impressed with the way you lay out your thoughts on this. I, myself, say God is Love with a deeper connection in mind, mostly spiritually. I also read your comment, “Can we affirm the core values of our own group, and yet, still be good citizens of the world?” and the case in Mississippi came to mind where a Baptist church wouldn’t allow a black couple to be married in their church, and when I read about that I thought that the congregation couldn’t possibly be “good citizens,” since they made the statement that God wouldn’t accept them. I was appalled at hearing this, mostly based on the “judgemental” nature of the Baptists there. But, also, on the basis that any good citizen would at least have respect for his fellow citizens. I agree wholeheartedly with your last statement. And, yes, poetry is in the heart, but without the mind to be the medium that brings those poems from our hearts to the paper to be read, where would be be?

  2. i believe you’re correct.

    what i personally mean when i say “God” is the level of being in which all that is exists in a state of pure awareness of the true essence of all that is: and that Being is The One, or what the Gnostic Scriptures refer to as “The Fullness,” or what Hinduism refers to as “Brahma,” or what Lao Tzu refers to as “The Tao,” or . . . you get the picture.

    what i personally mean when i say “Love” is similar to what you say, a relationship that i would only go further to define specifically as a dynamic of unconditional giving and compassion.

    what i personally mean when i say “God is Love” is that the most important defining quality of The One is the unconditional giving and compassion made possible by awareness of the true essence of all that is, which is both Truth and detachment from illusion.

    and that’s what i personally believe it means for us “Many” to “Live as One.”