I was talking to a Christian pastor a few months ago and he was asking about my theology. Which, just a side note, anytime someone asks about your “theology” usually means they think you’re wrong and want to show you how they’re right. Doesn’t that sound like a fun conversation to be a part of? Anywho, I began with sharing that I think God is love, at which point he quickly interrupted me by saying, “But God is also just, and holy, and…” Well you get the picture. Sigh.
I’ve noticed for some reason, many religious people are nervous with the idea that God is love. It’s like they assume you’re not saying something else or they want to add on a bunch of other amendments of their own or something. However, here it is in black and white in the Bible.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. -1 John 4:8
Notice it doesn’t say “God is loving”. That would mean it’s a part of who he is and he can be loving just as easily as he can be hungry. God is more. He is the entire definition of love. His whole being and character demonstrate the completeness of love. If he were to not love, he would not be God.
This is important because it helps me trust him. Honestly, I wouldn’t trust any other kind of God. I can’t trust the God that’s out to get me, or the God that’s just putting up with me, or the religious one with all the amendments. If we’re really talking about meaning, faith, and eternity here, then I’m sorry, God has to be love.
That’s why he makes us nervous.
A few years back, Laura and I were in counseling. The church I was pastoring was circling the drain and her career was taking off. She is ferociously independent and ambitious and I was feeling insecure and like a failure. You could see why we needed some help. One particular counseling session we started arguing about dishes and the kids and finances. It was starting to get heated and the counselor looked at me and gently asked, “What’s the real question Kyle?”
I quickly fired back, “Well, she’s not being supportive.” Then I launched back into the dishes / kids / finances argument. We went on for a few more minutes until our wise counselor asked again quietly. “Kyle, what’s the real question you have for Laura?”
It was then I blurted out, “I’m scared you’re going to leave me! Okay! Because you’re better than me!” I then turned to her with tears in my eyes and asked, “Are you going to leave me?!”
The room fell silent as we all sat staring at the bomb I dropped in the middle of the room. I remember feeling naked and horribly vulnerable. I had handed Laura the power to destroy me.
You know that’s why God being love makes us nervous right? If he were anything else, we could remain in control. If he were out to get us we could hate him. If he were just putting up with us we could resent him. If he were the religious one with all the amendments we could work the system. It’s terrifying really, if you think about it, God being love. It moves us closer and closer to the real questions of life that we work so hard to avoid. It’s a nightmare to lose control. No wonder some people prop themselves up on being right. That’s far less risky than the alternative. No wonder religious people stick to denominational distinctives and culture wars. After all, if we put ourselves out there and ask the real question, God could, well, leave the room.
I wanted to start here because while there are some that get nervous and cling to control at hearing God is love, there are also some with a different reaction. Just like there are some that get invited to a party but never come, there are others that don’t deserve to be there in the first place.(1) See, there are some, at hearing God is love, stop what they’re doing and look you dead in the eye. Emotion floods their eyes, and hope rattles their voice as they ask, “Really?! I had always hoped that he was! Are you serious? He really is love? Please, please, can you tell me more?”
This is written to those kind of people. I hope you don’t deserve to be at the party either.
Now we’re getting to some real questions.
1. Luke 14:15-24