Take your practiced powers and stretch them out until they span the chasm between two contradictions…For the god wants to know himself in you.
–Rainer Maria Rilke
When we say that God loves all of his children I don’t think we entirely unpack what this could mean. I recently overheard someone in my ward opine that when we say that God must love all of his children, this means that he loves them individually, not en masse. It’s easy to agree with this, but consider what this potentially means. I think of my own children. In a sense I love all of them equally. I cannot consider each of them in turn and affirm that I love him or her less than the others. Nevertheless, my relationship with each of them is unique, based on real experiences and real relational exchanges. What I specifically love in one of my sons I do not love equally in one of my daughters, and vice versa. Similarly, my children do not love me for the same reasons. One loves me for this, another for that. Dissonances and disharmonies in our relationships also arise in the same manner. Being the biological paternal organism called “Dad” is not sufficient for enduring, transformative love, nor for abiding loathing and spite. Authentic love is based on temporal, responsive interchanges, the real stuff of relationships–conversations, time spent together, developing trust and affection, etc. More generally, we are called (in some way) by those whom we encounter and we respond (in some way). We also call to those we encounter and they respond. It’s a nice thought that we could love (or hate) all of humanity abstractly, as one total mass of faceless human beings. But I don’t think this is love. If we love at all, we love the people we see.
Of course, we can’t require God to love in an analogous way, but I think see such an example of God’s responsive, interactive love in his relationship with Joseph Smith in the the Doctrine and Covenants, where he progressively calls Joseph servant, then friend, and, finally, son. What we do as human beings, the ways in we comport ourselves in our individual worlds, actually matter. This statement is not as obvious as it sounds. It is not that when we behave in ways complying with or ignoring certain laws and principles God is pleased or displeased, and we are judged accordingly. It means that what we do and say actually affects God, adds to God’s experience of relating to each of us. And we are in turn affected by God’s responses and ways of interacting with us, which were not pre-calculated and foreseen but come in the form of genuine responses elicited only by our individual ways of being and speaking. Just as each one of my children are unsubstitutable, so am I unsubstitutable in God’s experience. I cannot be replaced as a being that adds to God’s experience, that contributes to his life in particular, concrete ways. Consider this from Process theologian Roland Faber on the development of revelation and identity in God’s nature:
When God really unites the diversity of God’s self-revelations and, as part of their recognition, receives a multiplicity of human self-rationalizations as moments of God’s nature, then precisely their plurality must constitute an inherent moment of God’s identity. Because the religious experiences of God are God’s self-revelations, and because their human rationalizations must become Divine experiences again, God, then, is in the making. God becomes God by God’s revelations and God’s experiences of their rationalizations.