NOTE: This post is a response to a blog a friend of mine posted titled, “God is more than just love.” You can read his post for yourself here: http://agreaterpassion.blogspot.com/2014/09/god-is-more-than-just-love.html The reason I’m posting this is for two reasons: 1. My response is too long to place on his blog or Facebook. 2. I realized through writing my response I ended up tying out the core of my beliefs. I thought many would be encouraged.
How can God be more than who He is? John, who was closer to Jesus than any of the apostles wrote, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8, emphasis added) John states that this is how God defines Himself. There is no other attribute in the Bible by which He is defined. The Son even makes this perfectly clear to us by laying down His life for us, while we were yet sinners. The attributes you named are not separate from His love, rather they are expressions of it. Just as you as a father display your love for your children in many ways, love (though ours is often imperfect) is the motive. Even God’s anger and hatred are motived by love. His anger and hatred are not directed at people but at that which hurts and destroys them. Just as you as a father would smash a black widow that built a web in your child’s room. You’d hate that black widow because of the danger she poses to your child. There is not a single ounce of hatred towards your child, only love. If you saw your child playing with the spider’s web you may yell and yank your child away, but again, your motive is love.
You stated that the problem is, “we often project our image of who God is by using a few verses and making that into a glorification of our own personal ideals, or even ourselves.” The problem is, if this is being applied to the belief that God is love there are more than a few verses that put this on display, there is Jesus Christ. Jesus said if we’ve seen Him we’ve seen the Father and then He went and died for a world full of sinners. Paul even wrote that, “one will hardly die for a righteous man…” Paul refutes the idea that believing that God is love is a reflection of our own nature and creating a God in our own image because in and of ourselves we are NOT loving. This goes against our old nature. We are an “eye for an eye” people and we naturally like a god like that. Yet Jesus asked of us to love our enemies. He asked us to be like Him, who died for His enemies, a reflection of a God who is love. He actually asked of us something that is impossible apart from Him, because it is not in our old nature to love. That’s why this belief of God being love strikes such a cord (negative and positive) in so many people. Our human minds can’t comprehend a God like that. So we like to humanize Him by separating His love from His expressions of it and make them into separate attributes. But I venture to say that those who accuse people who believe God is love is the very definition of who He is are picking and choosing verses they like and neglecting the others, are strangely doing that very thing themselves. Instead of glossing over verses that talk about the love of God, how about really taking a hard look at Jesus. Why is it the highest command Jesus gave us was to love God and love one another? He even said that that’s how they’ll know we’re His followers. Why did Jesus say that by our love for one another is how they’ll know we’re His followers? He didn’t speak of one other way the world will see God among us. Why is that? If God can be seen through all these other attributes, why is Jesus so hung up on this love thing?
You stated, “To fully know and share God with others we can’t use His love as the ultimate trump card over all the other ways He reveals Himself.” That’s odd being that that’s the way God chooses to reveal Himself and make Himself known. Once again, look at Jesus’ death burial and resurrection. The preaching of the cross is the core of the gospel because that is where we see God for who He is, “For God so loved the world…” and “While we were yet sinners.” Love is how He reveals Himself, always. He placed His love for all humanity on display in Jesus on that cross. If you’re preaching anything other than that you’re preaching a different gospel.
You wrote, “Let’s face it. God can be darn right scary. If we read in the pages of eternity we see that every human that has encountered the Lord was scared to death. Yet, that is not exactly the way we want others to see Him. It can at times be embarrassing that He strikes such fear into people.” That depends on who and which pages of history we’re talking about. The twelve disciples, Mary Magdalen, Martha, the Pharisees, and multitudes of others encountered the Lord every single day and they weren’t scared at all. In fact, the Pharisees were so unafraid they put Him on a cross. Jesus and the apostles made it clear that if we’ve seen Him we’ve seen the Father. So perhaps you’re talking about the Old Testament. Then you’re right. But you have to take into account they were buried in their sins and had never seen Jesus, who is God revealed to us. I’d also say it’s similar for those living today who haven’t met Him. In Proverbs the writer states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Yet, John writes, “There is no fear in love because perfect love casts out fear.” So if God loves us perfectly (which He does) then there is no fear in Him. So what do we do with these two contradicting verses? Well, notice the writer of Proverbs said the fear of the Lord is the BEGINNING of wisdom. Guess what? It doesn’t end there. It ends with Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, who the apostle John beheld with His own eyes before penning the words, “There is no fear in love.” When you see Jesus for who He is fear is removed because of the enormity of His love and then you find yourself crying out to God, “Daddy!” True intimacy cannot exist where there is fear. Where is their more security than in the love of a Father?
Let’s not forget the whole point of it all is Father desires a relationship with us. I don’t know of a single relationship that can truly succeed where love is secondary.