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I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “God is love.” It’s one of the Bible’s best-known statements. But like so many other popular sayings, it can be so well known that it becomes cliché. So let’s stop for a moment and ask ourselves, “What exactly do the words, ‘God is love’ mean?”
What does it mean to say anything is something? For example, take this glass of distilled water. The liquid inside it is water. It doesn’t just look like water, or behave like water, or feel like water – it is water. There is nothing about it that is not water.
Twice in the fourth chapter of the First Epistle of John, we are told, “God is love.” Not just that he is loving, but that he is love.
When this was written toward the end of the first century, it was a radical statement. In fact, to many people of the ancient Roman and Greek world, the idea that the gods they worshipped were loving would not have occurred to them.
The pagan gods had certain powers, and they had to be respected, even feared. You could attract a god’s attention and hopefully their favor with acts of worship and sacrifice. But people certainly didn’t think that Jupiter or Zeus actually loved them.
The message that “God is love” was something completely new in the world. And it still is. As one theologian, Leon Morris, wrote: “This means more than that God is loving, it means that love is of the essence of his being.”
God did not create love. He did not say, “Let there be love.” Love is not a created thing; it is the essence of God himself.
To love us is not merely something God has decided to do – it is something that is natural and normal – you could even say inevitable. It is the way God is. God loves us because he is love – even though we are not always loveable. God loves us in spite of our unloveliness, and he loves us so much that he chooses to make his home with us. Because he is love, God can no more not love us than this glass of water can stop being water.
God loves us, he is with us, and he is for us. We see this in the coming of Jesus as God in the flesh. We see this in Jesus atoning for our sins. And we see this in Jesus who died for us even while we were still sinners.
Jesus gave a very simple way to identify his followers. It wasn’t by a certain set of doctrines or religious practices, although of course, sound doctrine is important. He said that, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus’ desire is that we be unified in him and have love for one another.
This is not just a religious platitude. It’s a totally different way of approaching our relationship with each other. It is the life of God himself, living in us, transforming us. It is the way of the Kingdom of God, a life that will endure forever.
I’m Joseph Tkach, speaking of LIFE.