Sunday, April 21, 2019

God is Love... and?

James and Ellie Carr
Today I was listening to a debate on the basis of spiritual salvation through Christ from two distinct viewpoints.  Both parties offered logical and informed arguments regarding their positions, and throughout the debate I was brought to consider issues that I often avoid and some that I had never considered before.  As the conversation progressed towards the theme of hell and ultimately why people would go to hell, a new focus emerged veering the conversation into a land of doubt and unknowns.  The new basis surrounding the theological debate about hell was that of God's loving nature, one that is highly emphasized in our current culture.  I've noticed that as people consider Christianity as a whole, we tend to hone in on the aspects of it that are most agreeable and relatable for us.  When we go through a rough season, Christians often focus on God as a rock or refuge where we can rest.  When we are grieving, we look to God as our comforter.  When weak and unsure, we recognize Him as our Abba, Father or leader.  But then there's the day-to-day, when we aren't feeling weak, lonely, or frightened.  How do we view God then?

I think it is easy to sum God up in one word, "Love," but what are the dangers, if any of doing so?  Referring back to the debate today, the focus of God as "Love" (assumably referring to agape love), left both sides at a loss when considering which people are separated from God for eternity in hell.  Does considering that all humans have the capacity to love boldly, deeply, and sacrificially affect their eternal outcome?  How can someone who has lived a life full of such love even exist in hell, where both parties agreed that love is unable to exist?  While the focus of this post is not to answer each of those specific questions, although I have my firm beliefs regarding them, I would like to point out the danger in focusing on only one aspect of God's character.

Throughout the debate, God was only referred to as love.  I would completely agree that God is love at its perfection, but only focusing on that aspect of his character is not only limiting, but dangerous.  Imagine if a friend or acquaintance referred to you only as creative.  You might be flattered by the complement at first.  They might marvel at your creativity, always introduce you as their creative friend, and even start imitating your creative side in their own life.  For a while that might work for your friendship, but eventually, you would hope that that person would get to know you enough to realize that you are so much more than just creative.  You would hope that they might notice your honesty, generosity, and kindness, but the friend seems so focused in on your creativity, that they end up missing so many other really important qualities that you embody.  In the end their perspective limits the depth of the relationship by placing you in a box that they refuse to let you out of.

As a culture, how many times have we done that with God?  In today's culture,

we have focused in on God as love and completely placed Him in a box, and in the end, we are the ones who are missing out.  God is love, but He is also so much more.  Since I am no theology expert, just a Christian longing to know God more, let's look at what He has revealed to us about Himself in His own Word, the Bible

Proverbs 2:6 and James 1:5 say that God is both WISE and GENEROUS-
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
 1 Samuel 2:2 and Revelation 15:4 refer to God as HOLY or set apart-
There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed. 
Psalm 9:7-8 and Revelation 20:12-13 show us that God is both RIGHTEOUS and JUST-
But the LORD abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment, And He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity.
And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.  
Deuteronomy 4:31 and Luke 6:36 leave no doubt that God is MERCIFUL-
For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Psalm 34:8 and Mark 10:18 clearly state that God is GOOD-
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
Psalmy 89:8 and 2 Timothy 2:13 tell us that God is always FAITHFUL-
Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you?
If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. 
This is definitely not a comprehensive list.  The Bible tells much more about who God is and merits being studied thoroughly.  I am not one who can reconcile each of the qualities simply into a single character (how both justice and mercy can abide perfectly in one being, for example), but I rest assured that I can continue studying and knowing God more throughout both this life, and the next as He reveals Himself and opens my eyes.  My plea for you this Easter, is lets rejoice and celebrate the lavish love that God has bestowed upon us, but let's not limit our perception, faith, and relationship with Him to just that, for He is much much more, and He is so good.

James and Ellie Carr / Author & Editor

James and Ellie Carr have been missionaries in Gautemala since 2014 and write to share their feelings and how they have experienced God's goodness and mercy on the mission field.


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