“Love can only happen in the realm of freedom, and ever-expanding freedom at that.” (Richard Rohr, The Four Gospels)
We are so used to the expression, “God is love” (1 John 4.8) that we often do no stop to think what this means in practice. Or possibly we do think, and that is the problem.
In human relationships we do not think ourselves into love by reasoning about the suitability of a potential partner, nor do we sit down and work out the advantages and disadvantages of being in love before we fall in love. We spend time with someone, and suddenly we discover, sometimes to our complete surprise, that we are in love with them.
If God is love, how can we find him by reason? How can we fall into that love with him by accepting a set of propositions, or by acceding to a set of regulations?
True love between humans is profoundly opposed to rules and regulations - hence so many tragic stories based on love that breaks the rules, or is broken by them - and yet we bind religion (the very word implies binding) with creeds, dogmas, commandments... Poor God! How his love goes unrequited among religious folk, unreturned, unknown in so many places of worship.
It is only when we know God, in true worship, that that truth will set us free (John 8.32).
At Jacob’s well, Jesus sat talking with a Samaritan woman (John 4.1ff.) who asked him (vv. 19-20) where God should properly be worshipped - on the mountain there, or at the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus replies, “...a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
Truth is freedom, just as the Spirit is. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3.8)
True worship sets us free, as true love does its beloved. True love is a great adventure, and so is true worship - perhaps the greatest adventure, out on the endless sea of God’s own undying love...