What God is Like (Musings on the character of God) #10

He’s a lover…

Of all the ways to describe what God is like, this is the most legendary. He loved the world enough to send his Son, he loved us while we were still sinners, he loves us in our state of paltry sanctification. How great is the vast and fearless love of God! His love endures forever. As long as God lives, God loves. Pardon the double negative, but God will never not love!

  • Greater love has no man than this… John 15:13
  • Love comes from God… 1 John 4:7
  • Perfect love drives out fear… 1 John 4:18
  • How great is love that the Father has lavished on us… 1 John 3:1
  • This is how we know what love is; Jesus Christ laid down his life for us… 1 John 3:16
  • God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:10

In my Memoir I wrote a chapter called, “God Kissed Me On The Head…” Here’s an excerpt from it:

I could tell you – man, could I tell you – about the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy, but neither you nor I would be the least bit happy about the telling. I will say this – that though it’s poison, chemo poisons bad cells, and that’s what you want it to do. Problem is, at the same time it poisons a bunch of good cells. But a while back the Lord gave me a better take on that. I began to see that when the unpleasant side effects occurred, I could celebrate this as an indicator that the chemicals were doing their thing. The assassins were hitting their targets. I could see it and feel it for myself. I didn’t need a blood test or an x-ray to tell me that cells (some bad and some good) were being gunned down by the new sheriff in town. The evil doers are being brought to justice and getting what they deserve. So now when I feel like… Anyway when I feel bad, I can somehow boost my morale by knowing something good is happening.

Yeah, the chemo took all my hair away! The interesting part of instant baldness for me is that it uncovered a surprise – a birthmark that I didn’t know I had on the top of my head. After all, I’ve never seen my scalp before. As long as I can remember, it’s been covered. My friend Mark says the birthmark looks like Africa. Dan says, Brazil. My daughter in law, Tori says it resembles a heart. I’m going with the heart and claiming that God kissed me when I was entering this, sometimes heartless, world. When my children were babies, I just couldn’t get enough of kissing them on the head. Besides killing cancer cells, maybe another good quality of chemo is that it uncovered a clue of God’s love for me!

Love is the way he is… He not only loves, he is love. This doesn’t mean that there is nothing in God but love. Once you’ve said everything about the love of God, you haven’t said everything about God. As I’ve already affirmed, “all of God does all that God does,” so none of him is more prominent than another, but if you must emphasize one aspect above another, emphasize this one.

But love is not all there is to God. Love is not God’s equal. God is love, and more than love – he’s also just and holy and faithful and… As we’ve suggested, his is a collaboration of excellencies. His qualities all work in collusion, he being the only Being of which it’s so. His wisdom is a loving wisdom, and his love is a wise love. He dispenses justice in a loving way, and administers his love justly; and so on.

God is eternally balanced, his characteristics each display an aspect of his character in an equilibrium with all the others. In his holiness he is unapproachable; in his love he approaches us. As a holy God he is transcendent, and as the God of love he is immanent. It’s in Christ that these two seemingly irreconcilable excellencies come together. What his holiness demanded his love provided.

We shouldn’t reverse the phrase and claim that “Love is God.” That would be to equate the two. It’s true that when you see love – a pure and unadulterated agape – you might suspect that God is somewhere near. If it’s the genuine article, we’d have to admit that it was inspired in some way by the God who is love. But to claim that this manifest love “is God,” would be to forget that God is a Someone rather than a Something. Love is one of the ways that he relates to his creation, but neither his creation, nor the way he relates to it is essentially him. To think otherwise is to deify love and to make it a “god” of sorts.

Love is the way God is. It’s not just how he behaves on good days. He doesn’t act loving just when it’s called for. He embodies a titanic love like no one else. His love isn’t elicited by something good in us. It flows out of him because of his nature. God’s love is an action toward us, not a reaction to us. It’s dependent not on what we’re like, but on what he’s like.

No one loves like God. Even the most unlovable of us have evidence of his kisses on our heads, his invisible benevolent “brand” on everyone who comes into this otherwise unloving world. He wants everyone to have a good beginning. Sometimes we just have to lose something (like hair or something even more important than mere hair) in order to see the heart-shaped brand.

I wonder if before God made us, all his love was sort of pent up within himself (among the Three) with no one outside of himself, with whom to share it. Though nothing from outside of the Sovereign can force him, it might be true to say that he was compelled from the inside of himself. His love demanded an outlet, somewhere to go, someone to brand with a kiss. He burst with passion and made free-willed creatures on which to lavish his bottomless ocean of love!

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