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I love my wife. She’s awesome. But I don’t love here for what she has done. Don’t get me wrong, she’s done some wonderful things for me, but if I loved her only for what she’s done, where would our love be if she could no longer do those things? So sure, I’m grateful for what she’s done, but I’m most grateful for who she is.

Yet, at this time of year, when we’re especially thinking about being grateful to God, how often our focus is almost exclusively on what God has done, instead of on who He is!

Again, don’t get me wrong; what He has done for me—for all of us—is more than I can ever fathom! But didn’t He do it so that our relationship with Him could be reclaimed, restored and renewed? When we thank Him only for what He has done, don’t we buy in to a dysfunctional “God-is-my-genie-in-a-bottle-who-does-stuff-for-me” relationship?

My wife would be ultimately very unhappy if all I loved about her was what she had done for me. Indeed it would be a ruinously unhealthy relationship for us both, in the end.

Instead we, though grateful for what we do for one another, are ultimately most grateful for who we are to each other.

So, what about our God. Are we dysfunctionally only thankful for what God has done (significant as it is), or are we most grateful for who He is?


Very, very difficult to talk about someone without talking or thinking about what they have done.  What they do is what identifies who they are.  Without knowing what they have done or what they do, how well do you really know them?   The difference between worshipping Jaweh and simply being a deist, is knowing what God has done, and what He promised to do, and knowing what he wants us to do.  James says faith without works is dead.  A person (or God) without his actions ... who is he? 

EXCELLENT point, John! However, I think you're mistaken identifying Deists as being people who just worship who God is as opposed to what He has done. The true definition of a deist (as I understand it) is someone who believes that God set stuff in motion in the beginning, but now allows things to progress on their own without interfering. If I am correct in that, then there are two more problems that arise: 1) A Deist could (theoretically) worship God for "what Has done" just as easily as a person worshipping Yahweh--it just so happens that the "things" that God has done have occurred much further in the past and have ceased occurring. 2) The issue of whether it is difficult to talk about someone without thinking about what they have done is very different from whether it is right to love/worship (in the case of God) that person/being for who they are vs. what they have done. 

I guess I just feel that sometimes we exclude who God is from our consideration when we're thinking about our gratitude and/or our love for Him. God certainly does not love us for what we have done: He loved/loves us "even while we were still enemies." This is the model: God loves us "just as we are" (not "just as we have done"). In a like manner, I think we are called, ultimately, to love Him not for what He has done, but for who He is.

Again, don't get me wrong: what God has done/is doing/will do for us is beyond comprehension, and we should be infinitely thankful for it. But, as Timothy Keller points out in "The Prodigal God"--both sons don't love the father for who he is, but rather only want to get stuff (aka what the father can do for them). We, if we are to fulfill the question left hanging at the end of the parable of the Two Lost Sons, must learn to love the Father simply for who he is.

Lastly, John, some speculative questions for you. I ask myself: would God be worthy of our Love even if we didn't know Him, or what He had done for us? Of course! Silly question: it ultimately doesn't matter (theologically speaking) whether we know about what God has done, or even if we know Him at all--He's still worthy of our praise/worship/love/adoration, etc. Further, then, should those who are condemned eternally love and worship Him? Of course! Even those who are condemned will "bow the knee" and worship Him--and they should love Him too. What about if Jesus had not come to save us? Should we love God still? Of course: all the people of the Old Testament who loved Him, loved Him before they had seen Jesus face-to-face, and many of them seem to have had no idea about Jesus, and they loved Him still. You can go back and back in this question, until (I believe) you are left with the underlying truth that even if God had done nothing for you and I, He would still be worthy of our love simply because of who He is. If that is the case, then shouldn't we embrace that reality a bit more in our worship, devotion, words and deeds?

I don't think we should stop praising God for what He has done! By no means! I just think we need to be a bit more proactive in recognizing that ultimately healthy love between people and other beings is not based on what they have done, but simply on who they are.

Agree with much of what you say, Daniel.  We often love people in spite of what they have done, just as God does love us in spite of us sometimes.  But, loving God seems to me a bit different, because maybe I'm wrong, but all of God's names indicate what He has done or is doing, yes?  God has identified himself to us by what he has done.  His divinity, personality, and identity cannot be fathomed without his actions.  Even God loving us while we were still enemies in sin, is part of who God is.  Our desire to love God, is part of who we are.  

Anyway, I just wanted to point out that what we do is inseparable from who we are, as it is for the God in whose image he created us.  

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