Who God Is at Heart–1 John 4:8

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. –1 John 4:8

A student of mine wrote a web-site review several years back. I’ve used that assignment for ages, reading reviews of crocheting websites, eBay, the Hard Rock Cafe site, and so forth. This writer chose one of my favorite sites: Amazon. I read his exercise in mediocrity–really, I don’t dislike all of my students’ work; that’s just the more memorable stuff–and fell quickly out of love with it.

After wading through several hundred words replete with usage errors and inexplicable commas, I came to a stunning realization. No where in this guy’s review of Amazon did he mention the word “book.” What is Amazon, after all, but the world’s most amazing bookstore? Take a look at the Amazon entry on Brandtags.net (be warned that this site is wide-open and incurs some really stupid profanity), and you’ll see that both the terms “book” and “books” are enormous, indicating that they are enormously popular.

Somehow, my student missed the fact that Amazon’s top category is books. He missed the fact that they sell more books than anybody on the planet. He missed all of that. Of course, he did discover that you can buy all sorts of electronics and digital media from Amazon, but that’s not who Amazon is at their heart. How did he miss it?

The explanation for this is fairly simple. Amazon uses cookies and personal information to show us interesting (to us) materials to buy. When I log on today, it offers me Wendell Berry’s Mad Farmer poems. My guess is that, since you probably haven’t bought several of Berry’s other books, they won’t offer those to you. For ages, they showed me Sherlock Holmes videos after I bought several of those–three years ago.

Because my student did not use Amazon for what it is at heart, he didn’t see Amazon for what it is at heart. Perhaps that’s how people get mistaken notions of God. Perhaps that is why some see God as the heavenly killjoy, a vengeful rulemaker. When we identify God as love, we are seeing him for what he is at heart. Yes, God can look like many other things when you don’t know him intimately.