In our feel-good experiential Christian culture, I’ve often heard said, “God is Love!”
Actually, God IS love; however, this ‘love’ is grossly 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 good favor should never suffer and will have anything they want . . . Please see my earlier blogs titled “God has a plan for me!”, “I can do all things Through Christ”, “No Weapon Formed Against me will Prosper” and “In Jesus’ Name” in Apocalyptic Misquotes Parts I, IV, and VI for more information related to this prosperity Gospel and spiritual rock star mentality so prevalent in churches today.
This 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 you’ll learn is consistent, appropriate action – not emotion.
The theme and context of 1John Chapter 4 boils down to 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.
Verses 1-6: Differentiating ourselves from the world.
Verses 7-17: God is actionable love. He has promised a savior for mankind and kept His promise. We should be like Him and actionably love one another because He has done the same for us as we abide in Him and He in us through the Spirit.
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, belief alone, or having lots of knowledge about the Bible kept private are of no use to God, our Christ, or the Church.
I keep mentioning ‘actionable’ love, which is based on the Greek agape and agapao (is love and action born of love). Nowhere does Scripture or the New Testament Gospel or letters suggest God is ‘nice’ or that we should be that way. With the exception of a few uses of a Greek-based phil love (i.e. Philadelphia – brotherly love), the only ‘love’ you’ll see related to God and our Christ is actionable, non-emotion-based, agape/agapao love. This is one that equates to, “I’ll treat you appropriately despite how I feel.” Instead, 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 abide in God and He in them . . .
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 mankind at times throughout history. He is just to save and to forgive when we are in covenant with Him as so many of the New Testament letters show. Please see my earlier blog titled, “True Love” for more background on the kind of love God had and has for us, and we should have for each other.
Act fairly, justly, kindly, and consistently as our God also has done for us . . . and live!
Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!
And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!