by: Jared Le Shana
God is love.
It is a phrase that we are well acquainted with, and one we like to use quite a bit. It is biblical. It is a creed that inspires us to be like God, and to seek the heart of the Father. We believe that love is at the center of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that we are to love just as he loved. But we often disagree with each other on what love looks like for us, as 21st century Christians. Is love tolerant? Is love convicting? Is love tough?
I don’t think I have the answers to all the questions of what love looks like in every situation we find ourselves in, but I would like to propose a different way of looking at ‘Christian love’ (or, in light of what I am about to say, just ‘love’).
When we think of “God is love,” we often seem to interpret it as “God is loving.” Love is one attribute of God among many. Love is a separate characteristic that God possesses, and that you or I might possess as well.
And I don’t mean that we consciously exegete parts of the Bible to come up with this idea, but that we interpret it this way de facto because this is how we talk about it and live it. We seem to believe that we can draw a line between Christian love and secular love. We support “Christian” charities quicker than non-faith-based charities, not because they are necessarily doing better work, but because they slap the name of Jesus on their product of making the donor feel good. And perhaps there is some merit to this thought, if we believe that Christian organizations tend to be more generous and compassionate, since their King was clearly a fan of these things. But often times, this is not the case. So then what is the relationship between the Christian God and love?
God is love. 1 John says, “So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”
God is not loving. God is love. Perhaps there is no dichotomy between God’s love and the world’s love. Perhaps it’s either God, or not God.
Perhaps when a Muslim woman feeds a hungry neighbor, she is showing and giving God to that person. The Christian God, Yahweh.
Perhaps when an atheist humanizes and stops to listen to the story of a gay homeless man, that person shows and experiences God with that man. The Christian God, Yahweh.
If we tell non-Christians what we believe about God, but do not show them love, how can we expect them to listen? We haven’t even shown them God/love. We could give an atheist 200 logical reasons for the existence of the Christian God, but without showing love, our efforts are fruitless. Our efforts are without God.
Perhaps when we, as Christians, extend infinite acceptance and make room at the table for all peoples of all worldviews, we give them direct access to God. The Christian God, Yahweh, who saves.