It's a tough question to answer, because as any sincere spiritual seeker can tell you, the more you try to 'know' God, the more you come to understand that God is unknowable.
When you're happy to trot out pat definitions of God, that's usually because you have absolutely no idea about what you're really talking about.
Yes, 'God is love' - on a very deep level - but try telling that to someone who's experiencing terrible suffering or bereavement. 'God is great' also works, partially, but again, it's like trying to describe an elephant by telling someone it's big. Clearly, there's a lot of the picture missing.
Judaism recognises that God can't really be defined in human terms, which is why it doesn't try to describe God at all; it just describes some of the ways that God manifests Himself in the world.
The Hebrew word Elokim, for example, is describing God when He's acting with strength and judgement. The name YKVK describes God's attribute of unconditional loving kindness and mercy, and so on and so forth. Judaism has loads of different names for God, but even those are only used on the firm understanding that humans can't really grasp, define or understand the Creator of the world.
So where does all this leave me, and my working definition? after some pondering, I decided that the best way that I could even approach a definition of God would be by defining what He is NOT. So here goes:
- God is not elitist - He wants a relationship with every single human on the planet, regardless of their religious affinity, nationality or existing beliefs.
- God is not remote or random - He's personally supervising every detail of creation, which means that everything that happens in your life is tailor made to send you a message, and is purposeful.
- God is not cruel - even the very hard things that can occasionally happen to you are part of a much bigger picture, and designed to achieve some eternal good or spiritual aim.
- God is not conditional - He loves you unconditionally. He loved Jack-the-Ripper unconditionally; He loved Genghis Khan unconditionally. Sure, He'd much prefer you to build the world and do good things instead of becoming a mass-murderer, but God doesn't stop loving people just because they do something wrong.
- God doesn't give up on people - Ever. There is always a second chance. There is always hope. There is always an opportunity to fix what you broke. Even if you don't manage it in this lifetime, He'll send you back down again to get it right the next time.
- God is not vengeful - God never 'punishes' you, even though sometimes it can really feel like it. God is just correcting your soul, the way you sometimes need to break a badly-set bone in order for to reset it in a healthy, strong way.
- God is not divisible - There is only one God, and He's running the whole show.
There's always more to say, because God is infinite and unknowable, but without writing a whole book on the subject, that will probably do for now. What do you think? What's your working definition of God?