Tuesday, October 28, 2014

God Is Love

"God is love" is clearly found in Scripture (1 John 4:7,8). But what does it mean? Love is something highly valued but variously defined. As C. S. Lewis points out in The Problem of Pain, often what we want in the love of God is a vague benevolence. A love that will simply let us do what we want and never call us to account for it. But as Lewis explains, this is actually a fairly weak form of love. The love of God is pictured as that of a father to a child (John 1:12,13; Romans 8:14-17; 1 John 3:1) or of a groom for his bride (Ephesians 5:22-33; 2 Corinthians 11:1-3; Revelation 19:7,8).

Now the love of God is unconditional; He loved us when we were His enemies (Romans 5:6-8; John 3:14-18; 1 John 4:9,10). He loves us though we are sinners whose righteousnesses are as filthy rags before Him (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:23; Jeremiah 17:9). And He offers salvation as a free gift in Jesus Christ, if we are willing to put our faith in His promises (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5, Philippians 3:9), not based on anything we do to earn it (Titus 3:5,6; Romans 3:19,20; Galatians 3:10-14). But in that love is the desire to change us into what we should be (Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13), to transform us into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:28-30; 1 John 3:2,3). Now this change is a response to God's love for us (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Romans 12:1,2). Nonetheless, it is the response God is working to produce in the lives of those who put their faith in Christ.

The father may love and even sacrifice for the child, even though that child is misbehaving. So may the husband, the wife. But love cannot simply be satisfied with this situation. It is a very nominal love that says, "Fine, live that way" and means it. Now there can be someone who, in the name of love, is so overzealous they drive people away. But I do not see indifference as being the result of a deep love. Serious love must care. That is why I do not have a great problem reconciling God's love and God's justice. I do not believe God can love people and simply stand by and allow them to be mistreated without judging. Or even allow them to go down paths that will ultimately be damaging to them. However, that same love also holds back judgment to allow space for repentance  (2 Peter 3:9; Romans 2:4; Proverbs 28:13). But God loves us too much to simply leave us alone to follow our own desires. 

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