1 John 4:16
God is love. (NIV)
When the Bible says that God is Love it doesn’t mean romantic or emotional love. It is a love that is much deeper than that. It is a love that defines his person. Imagine if you will, that the people that knew you best said that you were the embodiment of love. What a wonderful thing to have said about you. What a wonderful thing if it were true. It is completely obvious that God is powerful, and he is, without possibility of doubt, super-duper smart. But to say that he is Love; I don’t know many people that would have said that about him.
Let us look at what the Bible says this divine love is.
1 Corinthians 13:1–3
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (NIV)
Paul is talking about spiritual prosperity here and not worldly prosperity. In worldly terms if you could fathom all mysteries and had all knowledge you would have very much indeed, but Paul here says that without love he would have nothing at all.
Without the love of God abiding in you, a person can have nothing to say, nothing to do, and can be nothing. I am speaking of spiritual things here. Also Paul says that you can be the most zealous religious person in the world, but unless you have the God kind of love abiding within you, you have nothing of God in you, and your place will be outside of the kingdom of heaven.
1 Corinthians 13:4–8
… Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. … (NIV)
If you want to know what God is really and truly like then look at the above paragraph. We have already seen that God is love, so all we need do is look at the above paragraph and swap the word God for the word love. Let’s do just that.
Qualities of God’s Person
- God is patient
- God is kind
- God does not envy
- God does not boast
- God is not proud
- God is not rude
- God is not self-seeking
- God is not easily angered
- God keeps no record of wrongs
- God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth
- God always protects
- God always trusts
- God always hopes
- God always perseveres.
- God never fails
Well, my friend, I bet you haven’t in the past thought of God as having these qualities or being defined by these qualities. I imagine that in the past you have defined God in more scary and judgmental terms.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (NIV)
Jesus told us that a person is known by what he or she does and not by what they say about themselves. We see God smiting people left and right. We see him washing away a whole world of people and yet the Bible says that God is love; what is up with that? The Bible says that God keeps no record of wrongs and yet people are judged and thrown into Hell. I can’t tell you how many times people have voiced such attacks against God to me. Are these criticisms right? No, they are not right. The Bible is never ever wrong about anything. The answers are there, but you must open your heart and ask God to explain rather than shake your fist at him.
Have you ever tried to talk to someone that will not listen? It is a complete waste of time. If someone doesn’t want to hear something then they won’t. They are full of themselves and such people cannot hear or see anything spiritual. A person must open their heart to God. They must really and truly want to know the truth.
The answers to non-obvious questions are usually pretty subtle. They require that you stop talking and start listening. They require that you ponder and think and allow the Bible thoughts and views to coagulate; one little piece at a time, until they all fit together.
I have looked out into the world that God has created for examples of God’s love and the best example that I can find is that of a mother’s love for her small children. A mother’s love for her children encompasses almost every attribute of divine love. She loves her child when her child is well, when her child keeps her up at night and when he or she is ill or cranky. She is delighted with every accomplishment and perseveres with developmental setbacks. She does not envy her child’s beauty and infant care is not beneath her. Anyway, I am sure that you get the picture here, but consider what she does if a venomous serpent were to slither up toward her child; would she not snatch her child away, or perhaps smash the serpent’s head with a convenient chair or pan. If she must choose between the life of her child and the life of the serpent, I don’t think that there is any question as to which she will choose.
So, on the one hand she is a loving and tender mother, and on the other she is a formidable warrior. Which defines her character? Love defines her character. Because of love she watches over her child, and because of love she defends her child.
So it is with God. God watches over and loves his children, but the serpents will be squashed like a bug if they threaten the safety of his children. Heaven is God’s home and he will not let any serpents live there, any more than any reasonable mother will allow a cobra to live loose in the nursery. I am not saying here that God’s children are not exposed to danger and even death. Things are more complicated and subtle than I have let on, but God will not allow Satan to move against his children beyond certain points. God allows what he allows for the ultimate good that will result, but that is a whole different topic. Every child needs to be disciplined so that he or she will know what is right.
To understand the qualities that the Bible attributes to God you must examine them from the right side of the family fence, so to say. You must always look at everything from the perspective of what is the intended purpose. And, you must understand that it is God’s intended purpose that the Bible is talking about and not man’s. So, with this in mind consider why God destroyed the world by water, but saved Noah and his wife and their three sons along with their wives. Why did he do that? Did not the whole world abandon God and chase after self-serving goals? Did not the whole world become a nest of vipers in which Noah and his family lived? Did not God have to save his children at the expense of all those that were spiritually dead anyway? My friend, you have probably seen at least one of those ridiculous zombie movies where the people must kill a hundred zombies to save themselves and who sympathizes with the zombies? Zombies are dead anyway, and they must go or they will destroy the world. A zombie is a pretty good analogy for a spiritually dead person. God is able and willing to raise a spiritual zombie to life, but before that happens let not the zombie threaten one of the living. Not one single zombie will make it to heaven, but the place will be filled with former zombies. I am not going to explain this now, but that is what the whole thing concerning Jesus Christ dead and buried, and then resurrected to life again, is all about. The whole Bible is about raising zombies to life, (please understand that my tongue is in my cheek here. There is truth in what I am saying, but I am putting it in a humorous light. In this context zombies are pretty funny.)
As I close this paper I want to describe what Love is and what its opposite is. I love opposites because they usually make both side easier to understand. To summarize love we can say that its motivation is outward. A mother’s love is directed toward her child, that is, out from herself. Love’s opposite is self, that is, inward directed motivation. What I am telling you here is big. This is a big revelation. Sin is sin because it is not love. Sin is sin because it is a motivation that is directed in toward yourself. Satan fell from heaven because he valued himself more than he valued God. God values you more than himself! Does this surprise you?
1 John 3:16
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. (NIV)
If you can understand this, then you can understand everything.
Love by its definition can exist forever because it sustains and has no limit, but self-centeredness destroys because it drains others and also has no reasonable limit.