God is Love, but What Kind of Love?

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God is love, but what kind of Love?

Few would disagree. Apart from the staunch atheist, most Americans, regardless of their spiritual commitment and diverse religious beliefs, would affirm the common tenant that “God is love.” Deep down I believe most want to believe there is a God and that He is a good God. Hey, great news, the Bible clearly affirms this of the true God – “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Few disagreements or objections – that was the easy part!

Now we need to probe a little deeper and ask the question, “What is love?” Here is where we run into trouble. Ask people that question and you’ll get a multitude of explanations. Love means different things to different people. So if we as humans can’t agree on a common definition of love, how can we expect to understand the kind of love that characterizes the Almighty?

Deep breath.

Perhaps the problem is imposing our changing and finite definitions on the Creator, rather than allowing the Creator to describe for the created who He is and how He defines love. After all, if we do believe the Bible that God is love, can’t we believe God’s Word would also explain God’s definition of love?

Thankfully it does!

Far from a grandfatherly type of emotional sentimentalism or a cultural relativity that “evolves” with current thought or a flimsy affection that is guided by majority consensus, the Bible teaches that God’s love is a holy love. God’s love is grounded in and flows from His dominant attribute: holiness.

The love of God is poured out, according to Romans 5:5, through the Holy Spirit. In 2 Corinthians 6:6 the “Holy Spirit” is paired with “genuine love.” God saves people in love in order that we might become holy like Him (Eph. 1:4). In the chapter that defines love better than anywhere in the Bible we read, “[Love] does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). And that truth is the holy nature of God as He has revealed Himself in the Holy Bible!

At our core I believe we too can agree that true love is a righteous love. Is it more loving to warn your children about the dangers of drugs or simply let them abuse substances without your oversight? Is it more loving to maintain fidelity to your spouse or chase after your passions outside of marriage? Is it more loving to discipline a child for cheating on a test or allow him to go through life without learning for himself?

Love establishes rules for the sake of the beloved and then love enforces them!

Likewise, God has established wise rules based upon His perfect character, and because of His love has passed these expectations down to His creation. As a matter of fact, God loves us so much, He has given us these guidelines not as suggestions, but as commands. I personally can’t think of any command from God outlined in the New Testament that will not further bless my life. It is not our job to change God’s righteous commands (or challenge them as if we knew better), but rather to receive them, cherish them and follow them.

Contrary to God’s holy love, disobedience to God (sin) destroys both our vertical relationship with God and our horizontal relationships with others. Sin also eats away like a hidden cancer at the very inner core of who we are. That’s why God hates sin and why we are commanded to hate (not the sinner, but) sin as well (Rom. 12:9). As Jesus wept for rebellious Jerusalem (Lk. 19:41), King David said, “My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep Your law” (Psm. 119:136).

So in love God has revealed Himself to us. We demonstrate our respect for His character and love for Him when we do as He has commanded. Remember Jesus? “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn. 14:15). And therefore love for others is proclaiming His truth as we “[speak] the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) to not reinvent, but present a God of love who loves in righteousness.

To be continued (maybe)…

12 thoughts on “God is Love, but What Kind of Love?

  1. Nice piece all and all. As kind of a friendly critique, sin isn’t just rule breaking or ethical, it’s relational in nature too. I think for the church and culture that aspect gets overlooked for the “be good people” motif; if you could live without sin I don’t think God would be impressed. His main concern is to know us and have us know him.
    We’ve lost the idea of holiness as being set apart and traded to much on the notion of holiness as a character trait.

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    • Thanks, brother, appreciate the feedback! Totally agree – never like writing anything without stressing the relational/covenantal aspect of the heart fellowship that honors our Lord. Actually started this piece and once I realized the post (actually just the introduction) was getting too long I cut it off with a “to be continued.” Hope to follow-up next week where my intent/direction should become clearer and your thoughts represented.

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  2. Excellent post – looking forward to the next one!
    So sad that, in the world’s eyes, love is perceived as encouraging someone to “follow their heart”, or “do what feels right”. And, confronting someone in sin, or who’s contemplating pursuing something sinful, is usually perceived as UN-loving, or even hateful.

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    • In theory I believe we know it’s true – at least most of us who are parents – the need to confront those engaged in harmful behavior. I believe the problem (with the world) lies in defining what is “bad.”

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  3. Right you are Tom W. Another worldly misconception is, “In order to love someone you must first love yourself”. So put yourself first and others last, if there’s time.

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  4. It’s right there in Matthew 22:39, for instance.
    “You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself”.
    I mean, isn’t Jesus saying that we can’t TRULY love our neighbor until we first have learned to love ourselves?
    That could end up being a full time job! Who’s got time for neighbors!

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