19th July 2011

God Is Love

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”
1 John 4:16 (NIV)

What’s love got to do with it? ” asks a famous female singer in one of her hit songs.

And that’s a good question to ask about God. But in God’s case the answer is everything! 

For too long western Christianity has been focused on judgement, and, in the minds of many people, has created a God who is like a remote authority figure, just waiting to pounce the moment anybody does something wrong. This God is almost impossible to please–a harsh, judgemental figure who sits on his throne with a stern, unyielding face. 

This image is reinforced by ministers who are constantly focused on sin, and its consequences. The, “repent now you sinners because you’re all going to hell,” approach sadly dominates in some churches to the exclusion of the much more important and true message that God is love. 

I don’t mean to be critical, or condemn in a wrong way, because I don’t doubt the sincerity of the people who take this approach.  Sin is bad for you, and it does untold harm to individuals and the people who love them. Let there be no doubt that God hates sin, but that begs the question, does God hate sinners? The answer is No!

The Bible tells us in Romans 5.8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

None of us can claim we lead perfect, sinless lives so how can God love us?  The answer is that God knows how weak and frail we are when it comes to sin. So knowing the penalty of sin is death, God sent his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, to pay that penalty for us. That is love! 

God’s love is not dependent on our actions, our circumstances, our racial background, our education, our age, our appearance or anything else. God loves us because he is love. Love is the very core of God and it is unconditional love! God’s love for us depends on what Christ has already done for us, paying the penalty for our sin. 

That’s the message that needs to go out about God. How much more appealing that message is, than a constant focus on sin. Love is the most powerful, motivational force in the world.  When a person comes to understand that God is love and that love is unconditional, they are changed by that knowledge. Such a person doesn’t need to be told not to sin because they don’t want to! Their motivation has changed—they  want to respond to God’s love by living a perfect, sinless life. But, because they are human, they can’t. They still face a battle with sin and they still sin from time to time. But in doing so, they realize more deeply the enormity of what God has done, through Jesus Christ, in paying the penalty of their sin. Their heart and mind have been changed so that they want to follow the example of Christ, rather than the ways of this world. 

The apostle Paul writes eloquently in Romans 7:14-25 of the human struggle with sin that we all face.  Knowing and responding to the love of God keeps us focused on being a Christian in a positive way.  Constantly being focused on sin turns us into negative Christians and sends out a negative message about Christianity. 

As the singer sang “ What’s love, what’s love got to do with it?” And the answer is:  Absolutely everything! Let’s spread the word, God is love. 

Father, help us to understand the unlimited riches of your love for us and to radiate that love in the way we relate to other people.

Study by Keith Hartrick

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