Tuesday, September 16, 2008

God Is Love

The Bible does not just command us to love others. We are also given reasons why our love for one another should not be a burden but a delight. For example, 1 John 4:7-8 say this:

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

The first reason why Christians should love one another is because “love is from God.” In other words, love has a divine source. Whenever we see love, we can know that God is behind it. Now that means that much of what we call “love” is really no love at all. It means that when the world uses the word “love,” they are defining love in ways different than how God defines it.

This becomes even more explicit at the end of verse 8. There the Apostle John says flatly, “God is love.” What does this mean? First, we must not make it mean more than it does. It cannot be a convertible proposition. That is, it does not mean that “love is God,” that love and God are one in the same. But we also must not make it mean less than it does. It does not, for example, mean that God has the ability to love.Y ou and I have the ability to love, but I cannot say, “Ben Janssen is love.”

Instead, it must mean that God has the quality or attribute of love. When we speak of something as being an attribute of God, we mean that it is a characteristic of God that is true all the time. So we can say that God is patient and just and true and holy. All of these are characteristics of God that are always true of him. That means that when God demonstrates his holiness and his justice and his wrath, he is just as loving as when he demonstrates his patience and mercy and goodness. God does not put his attribute of love on hold when he demonstrates his wrath. God is not somehow unloving because he condemns some people to hell. This is a simple truth, but it is so often misunderstood by people, both Christian and non-Christian alike.

Already, then, if we will accept this truth, we can begin to see that the kind of love with which God loves and expects of his followers is not the same kind of love we usually see in this world. This also means that we must not define love by our own experiences and then force that definition upon God and thereby not present his other attributes properly. Already in 1 John we have been told that God is light (1 Jn 1:5), an analogy that refers to God’s perfection and holiness. So God is love at all times but in such a way that his holiness is never compromised. If we are going to think of God properly we must think of him wholly with all his attributes and not elevate one of them so that the rest are diminished.

Trying to think about God in this way will challenge your thinking. I hope that it does. I hope the result of our meditating on the attributes of God (God is ...) will lead to both greater understanding and greater amazement. For God is never boring. He will continue to amaze us for all eternity!

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