One of the objections I periodically get from people who question biblical faith is that it appears to them that the God of the Bible is a narcissist. The Bible is filled with exhortations that we are to love God, honor God, obey God, worship God, and on and on. Indeed, it seems that He desires to have all the glory and says so.
It is not until we get to the pages of the New Covenant Scriptures that we find a very different picture. I first understood this solution from lectures given by the great Francis Schaffer at Wheaton College in 1967. The solution is in understanding more deeply the nature of God. Yes, the solution is in his Triune nature. Our one God is a God of three persons, in such deep unity that we can say that we have one God, but in sufficient distinction that a relationship of love is the eternal basis of all. That eternal love is the love of constant giving and receiving. The images in the New Covenant Scriptures and especially the Gospel of John give us this new foundation. We can now understand the meaning of “God is Love.” How can God be love before He created? Was he just loving himself as a narcissist? But before the world was created, this love existed in God. Yeshua says in John 17:5, “Father, glorify Me together with yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world came to be.”
John 16:17, “The Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me.’
John 15:9, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I also have loved you. Abide in my love.”
Yeshua tells us the nature of this love; it is self-giving to the other, not selfish. In John 15:13 we read, “No one has greater love than this; that he lay down his life for his friends.” The Father in himself will greatly suffer in the sacrifice of his Son since he so deeply loves him.
In John 16:6, we read that it is to the advantage of the disciples that Yeshua go away because He will then give the Spirit. He will convict the world. He is part of that relationship of love. Abiding in the Spirit is abiding in Yeshua.
Eternal self-giving love is the foundation of all reality. The commandment to love God is a call to participate in the self -giving love. We love him because He first loved us, but we cannot enjoy the mutual blessing of this love unless we return it and love God. If we do not enter into receiving God’s love and loving Him in return, then we will eventually be given to more self-centeredness. The narcissism that is in all people, will then dominate those who will forever be lost. So, the objection of narcissism is actually the opposite of what is claimed, and loving God is what delivers human beings from it. Those who glorify God will themselves be glorified!
Sadly, when we share this understanding with Jewish people and ask how it is that their God is not alone and loving Himself and how that is not narcissism, they have no answer. They appeal to mystery, but do not want to see the richness of the answer of the New Covenant Scriptures and the Triune nature of God. So, yes, a person can claim God is love but have no way to convincingly present the idea of God to show this. However, Messianic Jews and Christians do have the answer to the dilemma.