“Whoever does not love, does not know God, because God is love,”(I John 4:8 NIV). George Herbert used this bible verse in his poem as a basis to establish the idea that God is love. Herbert, in the poem published in 1633 “Love III,” presents the concept of God’s love for all mankind, and His grace to those who accept Him. The poem in whole represents man’s relationship with God, however George Herbert focuses on the general theme which is God being love encompassing His unsurpassing grace.
Herbert begins the poem with the concept of the corruption of man, the idea that man is unworthy of God’s favor and merit because he has no goodness in himself from birth or “my first entrance in”. But God through divine election shows how He is love with presenting the concept of grace by extending kindness and compassion to the unworthy through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus. Man presents his feelings of unworthiness before God when he speaks of his own soul as being “Guilty of dust and sin. ” Dust can also be a metaphor to describe man as a mortal; dust is what God used to form the first man, Adam.
Man not only feels ashamed but he is well aware of his unworthiness when he begs the host/God to “Let my shame go where it doth deserve”. Continually throughout the poem man questions whether he is worthy of God’s kind treatment toward him, but God/love repeatedly replies with even more kindness than before. Herbert brings forth the concept of divine appointment when “Love bade me welcome”. George Herbert successfully emphasizes man’s total sinfulness and helplessness before God that leaves mankind in a state of complete and utter dependence on God for salvation, which only comes through His grace.
The circumstance of this poem can be interpreted in two ways, an unworthy man approaching the altar to take part in the Eucharist where Love invites him in and grace draws him back, or an unworthy guest who feels shamed from the welcoming treatment from an innkeeper at an inn. In the second interpretation the innkeeper would represent God and the man would represent mankind. Herbert refers to Jesus when he talks about “who bore the blame”, and to the Eucharist or invites the man to take part in Himself/God when he writes “sit and eat”.
Love (III) to me illustrates the basic Christian worldview and relationship from man to God. It begins with the picture of divine election, as the host, Love/God, invites the unworthy guest to come in “sit and eat”. The guest hesitates and feels ashamed of his sin. But the poem concludes with the beautiful picture of how Love invites the sinner to eat the meal, which He has so graciously provided on the basis of Christ’s taking the sinner’s blame. The poem had a lot of deep meanings and metaphors but all in all I really enjoyed it.