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Sunday, February 18, 2018

God Is Love

John writes, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God." (1 John 4:7) He goes on to say, "God is love." (1 John 4:8)

It's an interesting claim. We believe that we love because, well, we love. John claims that we love "because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19) We love because God gives it. The love that we give is a gift from God, "for love is from God." So just what does it mean when he says, "God is love"?

I remember a church (not Christian) that called itself something like "the Church of Love and Light". (Note: This was a long time ago, it doesn't exist anymore, and any connection to any other church by that name is coincidental.) The (female) pastor surmised that if God is love, then love is God and when we had sex we had God. (You can see that isn't outlandish thinking given our society's tendency to make an irrevocable connection between "love" and "sex".) Clearly, "God is love" does not mean that God is defined as love. I mean, clearly He is so, so very much more than that. So what does it mean?

Well, if love is from God, then God defines love. So at the outset we can say that "God is the definition of love." If you examine the 1 Corinthians 13 text (1 Cor 13:4-8), you'll find attributes of love that are associated with God. We read that "God demonstrated His love for us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8) We read that God loves the world in a particular way; He sent His Son so that those who believe will have eternal life. (John 3:16) And, of course, we've already seen that we love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) Love, then, is an attribute of God that is defined by God and given to us by God. God is the definition and source of all genuine love.

As such, perhaps we can obtain a more well-rounded understanding of the concept than our current "make love not war" society can offer. God loves positively, providing His Son as a substitute for our sin to save us, to apply to us His righteousness. He supplies our needs, wicked and not alike (Matt 5:45). "A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice." (Isa 42:3) He loves negatively, disciplining and chastening those He loves. (Heb 12:5-11) What we might call "tough love" is a biblical fact.

If we love because He first loved us and if we love because love is from God -- if God defines and bestows love -- then perhaps we should adjust our thinking about love as much, much more than "warm affection" and seek instead to emulate His version as we relate to one another. Perhaps we should learn to celebrate His love more than we do. I suppose we'd have to recognize it first, though, wouldn't we?

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