In our feel-good Christian culture, I’ve often heard said, “God is Love!”
God IS love; however, this love is often misunderstood. And, the common misunderstanding of the love that God is and does lends itself to a dangerous and pervasive view that anyone in His excellent favor should never suffer and will have anything they want. The misunderstanding is based on 1John (1John 4:8 and 16 in particular). The first thing we must do is understand the context of John’s comments about God being love. The next thing we’ll do is explore the meaning of that ‘love,’ which we’ll find is consistent, appropriate action—not emotion.
The theme and context of 1John Chapter 4 are a fair and just God that will judge the world and save the righteous. This text serves as a reminder that our actionable love, which is obedience to Jesus’ commandments out of our faith, mirrors God’s just nature and is the basis for our coming salvation. Here’s a breakdown of the verses—you may want to read along.
Verses 1-6: Differentiating Christians from the world.
Verses 7-17: God is actionable love. He has promised a savior for humankind and kept His promise. We should be like Him and love one another with action, not just emotion, because He has done the same for us first.
Verses 18-21: A sobering reminder that actionable love born of our faith is critical to salvation – rescuing from God’s judgment to come. Being nice, feeling spiritual, believing alone, or having lots of knowledge about the Bible without action is useless to God, our Christ, and the Church.
I keep mentioning ‘actionable’ love. It’s the kind of love that equates to, “I’ll treat you right despite how I feel.” We’re to be fair, kind, patient, repentant, self-controlled, etc. Hmmm . . . sounds a lot like the actions (fruits) shown by those who belong to God and, therefore, have the Spirit as they remain in a relationship with Him:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. —Galatians 5:22-23.
So, God is love because He has treated us appropriately and kept His promise to send a savior despite the way He has ‘felt’ toward humankind at times throughout history. As so many New Testament letters show, He is just to save and forgive when we are in a relationship with Him. Act fairly, justly, kindly, and consistently as our God also has done for us . . . and live!
Next week, we’ll examine the will of God: what it is and how to discover it.
Blessings and peace,