The dictionary defines ingratiation as the act of gaining favor by deliberate action. Though such action is very common, it is often viewed rather dimly, being described by a number of very unflattering terms. The apparent implication is that such action is too self-serving and dismissive of others. Most of us have probably condemned someone, at least mentally, for being too apt to promote themselves by being a flatterer.
This generally negative picture of people who seek to ingratiate themselves with authority figures is in marked contrast with the manner in which traditional religion pictures our relationship with the Creator. The very idea of worship carries the connotation that we gain and maintain God’s favor by being spiritual sycophants. If one performs the correct acts of obeisance and maintains a ritual piety, then God’s favor is assured. If one is unwilling or unable to do so, God’s displeasure is guaranteed.
If such behavior is not viewed favorably in human relationships, what makes us think that a relationship established on this basis between God and man is worthy? Why would God demand of us a relationship which is so generally distasteful in the human realm? Yes, God is magnificent and majestic, and worthy of our praise, but that does not make His supposed demand that we love and honor Him appear noble.
The Bible says that “God is Love”. Some seem to conclude that this means God demands our love. I Corinthians 13 describes biblical (God’s) love, and nowhere in that text do I see room for a demanding, grasping kind of love. I conclude that “God is Love” means that God is first and foremost a Lover; and, as such, He must project Love. That is a much more fitting picture of the exalted, transcendent One.