He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 john 4:8)
No one but God could have revealed that to the world, for we all see nothing but its contradiction in our own limited experience. From shattered and broken lives, from caverns of despair where fiends rather than men seem to live, comes the apparent contradiction to any such statement. No wonder the carnal mind, the merely intellectually cultured, considers us foolish, mere dreamers talking of love when murder, war, famine, lust, pestilence, and selfish cruelty are abroad in the earth.
But, oh, the beauty of the Abraham-like faith that dares to place the center of its life, confidence, action, and hope in an unseen and apparently unknown God. Such faith says, “God is love,” in spite of all appearances to the contrary; it says, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (job 13:15). Such faith is counted for righteousness.
Look back over your own history, as revealed to you by grace, and you will see one central fact growing large—God is love. No matter how often your faith in such an announcement was clouded, no matter how often the pain and suffering of the moment made you speak carelessly, this statement has carried its own evidence most persistently—God is love. In the future, when trial and difficulties await you, do not be fearful. Whatever and whoever you may lose faith in, do not let this faith slip from you—God is love. Whisper it not only to your heart in its hour of darkness, but here in your corner of God’s earth and man’s great city. Live in the belief of it; preach it by your sweetened, disciplined, happy life; sing it in consecrated moments of peaceful joy; sing until the world around you
to sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not.
(percy bysshe shelley)
The world does not encourage you to sing, but God does. Song is the sign of an unburdened heart; so sing your songs of love freely, rising ever higher and higher into a fuller understanding of the greatest, grandest fact on the stage of time—God is love.
But, precious as their influence may be for the time, words and emotions pass. So when the duller moments come and the mind requires something more certain than the memory of mere emotions and stirring sentiments, consider this revelation—the eternal fact that God is love.
God and love are synonymous. Love is not an attribute of God, it is God; whatever God is, love is. If your conception of love does not agree with justice, judgment, purity, and holiness, then your idea of love is wrong. In that case, it is not love you conceive in your mind but some vague infinite foolishness, all tears and softness and utter weakness.
God Is Love—In His Very Nature
Some exceptionally gifted people may derive their ideas of God from other sources than the Bible, but all I know of God I have learned from the Bible—and those who taught me got what they taught from the Bible. In all my dreams and visions I see God, but it is the God of the Bible I see, and I feel Him to be near me. I always see amid the mysteries of providence, grace, and creation “a face like my face” and “a hand like this hand,” and I have learned to love God who gave me such a sure way of knowing Him. He did not leave me to the useless imaginations of my own sin-warped intellect.
In Creation. The love of God gives us a new method of seeing nature. His voice is on the rolling air, we see Him in the rising sun, and in the setting He is fair. In the singing of the birds, in the love of human hearts, the voice of God is present. If only we had ears to hear the stars singing, to catch the glorious anthem of praise by the heavenly hosts!
In His Wisdom. God did not create humans as puppets to please a despotic desire of His own. He created us out of His overflowing love and goodness, and He made us able to receive all the blessedness which He had ordained for us. He “thought” us in the rapture of His own great heart, and lo, we are! Created in the image of God were we, innocent of evil, of great God-like capacities.
In His Power. The whole world moves to God’s great, inscrutable will. Animate and inanimate creation, the celestial bodies moving in their orbits, the globe with all its diverse issues and accompaniments, are all subservient to this end.
Yes, God is good, in earth and sky,
From ocean depths and spreading wood,
Ten thousand voices ever cry,
“God made us all, and God is good.”
(john h. gurney)
In His Holiness. God walked with man and talked with him. He told him His mind, and showed him the precise path in which he must walk in order to enjoy the happiness God had ordained for him. He rejoiced in the fullness of His nature over man as His child, the offspring of His love. He left nothing unrevealed to man; He loved him. Oh, the joy and rapture of God the Father over man His son!
In His Justice. God showed to man that compliance with His dictates would always mean eternal bliss and unspeakable joy, life and knowledge forever—but that failure to comply would mean the loss of life with God and eternal death.
In the world’s bright morning, the stars sang together and all creation leaped in joy. Then the wild desolation of disobedience, pride, and selfish sinfulness entered, opening a great gulf between God’s children and Himself. But, as always, love found a way—God came to us and for us. Now, with chastened hearts and quivering lips and glistening eyes, yet with love deep and strong in our hearts, we say again with deep adoration, God is love.
If God exhibits such glorious love in His nature, what shall we say of the glories of the giving of His grace? It is very likely that God would have walked this earth had sin never entered. Yet sin did not keep Him from graciously revealing himself in communion with humanity. No, He still came.
The Gift of God’s Only Begotten Son
The gift of God’s only begotten Son surely reveals His love in an amazing degree—“He who did not spare His own Son” (romans 8:32). It doesn’t matter how bad people are; if they will just lift their eyes to the cross, they will be saved. But yet so blinded and foolish have humans become by sin, they can see nothing in the life of Christ except a beautiful, good life. They see Him as the best of human beings, living misunderstood, suffering, and dying as a martyr. To meet this difficulty, love himself gave another gift—the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Gift of the Holy Spirit
When the Spirit shines on the historic Christ, all the great, gray outlines spring into glorious relief and color and beauty, and the soul calls out in amazement, “My Lord and my God!” (john 20:28).
When the Holy Spirit has begun His gracious work in your soul and heart, you see a new light on the cross—and the “martyr” becomes the Savior of the world. “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (isaiah 53:4–5).
It is too difficult—actually, impossible—to determine that God is love by mere, unaided human intellect. But it is not impossible to the intuitions of faith. Lift up your eyes and look over the whole earth. In the administration of God’s moral government, you will begin to discern that God is love, that over sin and war and death and hell He reigns supreme, that His purposes are ripening fast. We must by holy contemplation of all we have considered keep ourselves in the love of God—and then we shall not be able to despond for long.
The love of God performs a miracle of grace in graceless human hearts. Human love and lesser loves must wither into the most glorious and highest love of all—the love of God. Then we shall see not only each other’s faults but the highest possibilities in each other. We shall love each other for what God will yet make of us. Nothing is too hard for God, no sin too difficult for His love to overcome, no failure that He cannot make into a success.
God is love—one brief sentence, short enough to print on a ring. It is the gospel. A time is coming when the whole world will know that God reigns and that God is love, when hell and heaven, life and death, sin and salvation, will be correctly read and understood at last.
God is love—a puzzling text, to be solved slowly, by prayer and joy, by vision and faith, and, at last, by death.