Summary: To say that God is love does not mean that love is God.
God is Love
1 John 4:8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
God is not sometimes loving and sometimes unloving, today loving some people and hating others, and tomorrow hate those who were previously loved. In everything God does, always, in dealing with all people, God is a loving God.
To say that God is love does not mean that love is God. We do not discover what God is like by analyzing and then deifying our ideas and experiences of love. Such a God would be an idol. It is not our understanding of love that defines God but God’s action toward us that defines what real love is. We have only to look at God’s self-revelation in biblical history and especially in Christ to see how radically different and how much better God’s love is than what often passes for love among us who call ourselves Christians. As I list the following Characteristics of the love of God, ask yourself these two questions: What would the chruch look like if its members loved each other as God loves us? How would such a church and its individual members speak and act in relation to people who follow other religious traditions or who do not believe in God at all?
God’s love is universal. It seeks the welfare not just of a chosen few but of all people. It is not given to some and withheld form others; it is for everyone, for the whole world. There is no discrimination, limitation, or exclusiveness in God’s love.(John 3:16-17; I John 4:14; I Tim. 2:3-4)
God’s love is unconditional. God does not say, "I will love you if you prove that you deserve my love and are worthy of it." Christ died for the ungodly, the zealots, the tax collector, the immoral, the social outcast and for you and I. There is no strings attached, to God’s love.
God’s love is initiating love. It does not wait for people to come asking for love and acceptance. God makes the first move, loving before people ask for love or even acknowledge their need for it. Long before we seek and turn to God, God seeks us out and turns to us.(Luke 19:10)
God’s love is faithful. God never takes back His promise to love us. Even when we are faithless, God remains faithful and true. We may turn away from God, but God never turns away from us. Even when God judges us for our sinfulness, God still loves us, for God’s love is "everlasting" (Jer. 31:3).
God’s love is reconciling love. Jesus commanded us to love our enemies not just our friends. God loves those those who have made themselves enemies of Him by their sinful rebellion and their enmity toward their fellow human beings. Even when God confronts and judges our sinfulness, it is to heal rather than to hurt, restore rather than to defeat and destroy, reclaim rather than to get even and pay back.
(II Cor. 5:19; Eph. 2:14)
God’s love is renewing love. It forgives and accepts us as we are, no matter what we may have done or not done. But it also does not leave us as we are. God’s love is not a sentimental love that allows us passively to settle down in our sinfulness with the complacent attitude that God will forgive; that’s what he’s there for. It is love that sets us on our feet and sets us on the way toward becoming strong, active, responsible people growing up into the mature humanity we see in Jesus Christ.(Eph. 4:13)
Before we turn to what the Bible teaches us about the justice of God, think again of what it teaches us about God’s love. In light of our discussion of it, could it be that instead of asking as we sometimes do whether God is really a loving God, we ought rather to ask first whether we Christians are really loving people?
God is calling each of us to love as He is loving us. The one living God is always truly loving and just for all. You can receive this love today.